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Trump election: Controversial strategist Bannon defended

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Reince Priebus (L) and Stephen Bannon (composite image)

US President-elect Donald Trump’s new chief of staff has defended the choice of right-wing media man Stephen Bannon as chief strategist, calling him a “force for good”.

A number of critics have denounced Mr Bannon as supporting white supremacism.

But Reince Priebus said this was “not the Steve Bannon that I know”, adding he was a “very, very smart
person”.

The appointment of Mr Priebus is seen as an attempt by Mr Trump to improve links to the Republican establishment.

Mr Trump himself said he fought the election as the “ultimate outsider”, and it would fall to Mr Priebus, the current chairman of the Republican National Committee (RNC), to act as a conduit both to the party and to Congress.

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One of Mr Priebus’s first tasks was to defend the appointment of Mr Bannon, who had stepped aside from his role as chief executive of the Breitbart News Network – a combative conservative site with an anti-establishment agenda – to act as Mr Trump’s election campaign chief.

Adam Jentleson, a spokesman for Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid, said of Mr Bannon: “It is easy to see why the KKK views Trump as their champion when Trump appoints one of the foremost peddlers of White Supremacist themes and rhetoric as his top aide.”

Jonathan Greenblat, of the Anti-Defamation League civil rights group, said: “It is a sad day when a man who presided over the premier website of the ‘alt-right’ – a loose-knit group of white nationalists and unabashed anti-Semites and racists – is slated to be a senior staff member in the ‘people’s house’.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center group said: “Stephen Bannon was the main driver behind Breitbart becoming a white ethno-nationalist propaganda mill… Bannon should go.”

But Mr Priebus told Good Morning America: “I don’t know where they’re coming from… that’s not the Steve Bannon that I know.”

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