Anti-Defamation League Chief Talks Trump, Steve Bannon, the Next Four Years (Q&A)

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CEO Jonathan A. Greenblatt tells THR, "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.'"

In the wake of Donald Trump's presidential election, The Hollywood Reporter spoke with Jonathan A. Greenblatt, the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, about the events of the past two weeks — and the ADL's game plan for the next four years.

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What is your personal reaction to the election of Donald Trump?

I’m the head of a nonprofit and nonpartisan institution, and I don’t have the luxury of personal reactions.

What is the ADL's reaction to Trump's election?

We congratulate President-elect Donald Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence on their election victory. This is American democracy at work. The voters have spoken and the civil transition of power is underway. But democracy is more than simply what occurs at the ballot box or during a particular election. Democracy encompasses the full collection of our laws, our norms and institutions that enshrine and protect our freedoms. That work begins now — to reinvigorate the idealism of e Pluribus Unum and to ensure that America remains a land of economic opportunity and personal freedom for all people, regardless of their gender, race, class, faith, ethnicity, sexual orientation or political preference.

What is the ADL's position on the appointment of Stephen Bannon, the executive chairman of Breitbart News, which has made anti-Semitic comments in the past, and the fact that no high-profile Republicans have spoken out against his appointment?

ADL strongly opposes the appointment of Steve Bannon as senior adviser and chief strategist in the White House. 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." We call on President-elect Trump to appoint and nominate Americans committed to the well-being of all our country's people and who exemplify the values of pluralism and tolerance that make our country great. We would like to see more high-profile Republicans and others speak out about this. Bannon essentially has established himself as the chief curator for the alt-right. Under his stewardship, Breitbart has emerged as the leading source for the extreme views of a vocal minority who peddle bigotry and promote hate.

What would the ADL say to the people who belong to groups that Trump said he would target during the campaign?

We have called on Mr. Trump to do everything he can to alleviate the fears his statements during the campaign have generated among a number of minority groups. He ought to meet with representatives of such minority groups, hear them out and reassure them that his presidency truly will follow his acceptance words after the election that he will be a president for all Americans.

What is the ADL's position about the ongoing protests in the streets over Trump's election?

People have the right to peaceably protest, and clearly there are significant groups of people who are feeling anxious. While protests take place quite naturally in our democratic political system, here, too, reassurances by the president-elect could begin to alleviate some of the fears that led to the protests.

What would you say in response to those who compare Trump with Hitler? Are such comparisons appropriate?

This is not appropriate for a whole host of reasons, and is destructive to a useful discussion of the challenges we face going forward.

What, in your view, would constitute a best-case scenario for the next four years?

Partisan politics aside, what the whole country needs is a healing of the wounds already inflicted and, as noted earlier, reassurances that the future will be far more respectful than what we experienced during the campaign. Among the priorities for ADL is to work toward a cessation of the kind of outrageous anti-Semitic expressions that surfaced toward journalists and others during the 2016 campaign.