Outgoing Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid said President-elect Donald Trump has only “deepened” the country’s divisions since his electoral victory and called on the Republican to immediately rescind Steve Bannon's appointment to a top White House role.
“President-elect Trump must act immediately to make Americans...feel like they are welcomed in his America,” Reid said Tuesday on the Senate floor. “Healing the wounds he inflicted will take more than words, talk is cheap and tweets are cheaper.”
“But so far, Mr. President, rather than healing these wounds, Trump’s actions have deepened them,” he added.
The Nevada Democrat listed off a number of hate crimes that have taken place since last Tuesday’s election and accused the president-elect of choosing a “champion of white supremacists” to have the most powerful position in Trump's administration.
Bannon's appointment as "chief strategist and senior counselor" sparked outrage among Democrats and left some Republicans struggling to defend the decision to give the former head of Breitbart News a top post in the new White House. The site has been a hub for the "alt-right" movement that has been associated with white nationalism and anti-Semitism.
“If Trump is serious about seeking unity, the first thing he should do is rescind his appointment of Steve Bannon...As long as a champion of racial division is a step away from the Oval Office it will be impossible to take Trump’s efforts to heal the nation seriously,” Reid said
Bannon served as chief executive of Trump’s successful presidential campaign and, over the weekend, was given his new role alongside Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus, who will serve as White House chief of staff.
The move resulted in immediate backlash from the Anti-Defamation League and Council on American-Islamic Relations, as well as a slew of Democratic lawmakers.
Ahead of Reid’s speech, a group of Democratic senators held a press conference Tuesday afternoon alongside a blue "FIRE BANNON" sign calling on Trump to reverse his decision in order to sooth fears that his election will unleash a wave of hate against ethnic and religious minorities.
"Quite frankly it's sad that we are having a debate about whether a white supremacist should serve as a senior counselor to the president elect," Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) said.
Several participants noted that Trump had an opportunity to work with Democrats on issues like infrastructure, but stressed that they would not back down on issues related to civil rights and equality.
"President-elect Trump will forever poison the well with Congress and the American people by appointing figures like Steve Bannon, whose stock and trade is hate and violence against the American people," Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) said.
Members of Trump’s campaign have dismissed criticism of Bannon’s appointment by pointing to his Harvard business degree and surprise success helping to defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton.
“The guy I know is a guy that isn't any of those [controversial] things," Priebus said on TODAY on Monday. "Here's a guy who's Harvard Business School… He's a guy who is very, very smart."