African-American Clergy to Trump: Bannon Appointment Makes 'Reconciliation and Unity Extremely Difficult' | Sojourners

African-American Clergy to Trump: Bannon Appointment Makes 'Reconciliation and Unity Extremely Difficult'

Steve Bannon. Photo by Don Irvine, via

A group of African-American clergy have issued an open letter to President-elect Donald Trump concerning his appointment of former Breitbart News head Stephen Bannon to senior adviser, urging Trump to "reconsider this appointment especially as you step into your role as President in a nation struggling to move past a deeply divisive campaign.”

The letter, organized by National African American Clergy Network co-chairs Rev. Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner, Rev. Dr. T. DeWitt Jr., and Rev. Dr. Otis Moss Jr., was released before the announcements today of Sen. Jeff Sessions to attorney general, retired Army lieutenant general Michael Flynn to national security adviser, and Kansas Republican Rep. Michael Pompeo to CIA director. 

Dr. Williams-Skinner told Sojourners Friday afternoon that she finds the additional announcements troubling. 

"We see a pattern emerging of a possible cabinet of bigots starting with Stephen Bannon, and now with Michael Flynn, Mike Pompeo, and particularly Senator Sessions that should be troubling Americans concerned about our nation's growing divide," Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner said.

Flynn formerly served as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency under President Obama before being forced out in 2014 for what reports described as clashes over leadership style. Flynn gave an impassioned speech in support of Trump at the Republican National Convention in July, pushing for increasing the size of the military, saying that America needs a commander-in-chief who will do "whatever it takes" and that "our adversaries must never again mock American willpower and we must never give them a reason to doubt our ... resolve to win."

On Twitter, Flynn has propagated anti-Muslim rhetoric, saying "Fear of Muslims is RATIONAL" earlier this year.

Pompeo, Trump's CIA pick, has been blasted by some groups for anti-Muslim sentiments, pointing to his statements accusing Muslim leaders of not speaking out following the Boston marathon bombing. Pompeo, a Harvard Law graduate, was elected during the 2010 Tea Party wave and has served on the House Select Benghazi Committee and currently serves on the House Intelligence Committee and Energy and Commerce committee. 

The clergy letter — whose signatories included Dr. Raphael Warnock, senior pastor at the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Bishop Caroll A. Baltimore, president of the Global Alliance Interfaith Network, and about a dozen others — went on to say about Bannon, “It is alarming that a man who provides a home to a movement that in turn is a home to white supremacists will have a senior position in the White House.”

Mr. Bannon's website, Breitbart, also has a section on "black violence" where there are quotes such as “Again, white supremacy is not to blame for this carnage. Nor is it over-policing or a lack of gun laws. Hello! It’s the black-on-black violence, stupid!” We are troubled by this deeply misguided, unnuanced and divisive perspective and believe this a difficult starting point for conversations on race with a Trump White House.

Read the full letter here.