President-elect Donald Trump is again distancing himself from the alt-right movement as its white supremacist members claim his election as a boon for their agenda.
“I disavow and condemn them,” Trump said Tuesday during a wide-ranging interview with staff members of The New York Times.
It’s the latest attempt from Trump to separate himself from groups and individuals widely condemned for their advocacy of white supremacy in American culture.
The Republican president-elect added that he does not want to “energize” the groups, one of which garnered viral headlines this weekend with a gathering in Washington, where organizers and attendees evoked Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich with cries of “Heil Trump” and reprisals of the Nazi salute.
The Times has not yet released a full transcript or video of the meeting, but participants used Twitter to share his remarks throughout the exchange.
Richard Spencer, an alt-right leader who convened the weekend gathering sponsored by his National Policy Institute, told the Associated Press he was “disappointed” in Trump’s comments. But Spencer said he understands “where he’s coming from politically and practically,” adding that he will “wait and see” how the real estate mogul’s administration takes shape.
Still, Spencer argued Trump needs the alt-right movement and should be wary of shunning it because of a few news cycles of bad publicity “that do not define what we’re doing.” Spencer said Trump needs people like him “to actualize the populism that fueled his campaign.”
Trump’s denunciation also comes amid continued criticism over Trump tapping Steve Bannon, who managed the final months of the billionaire businessman’s presidential campaign, as chief White House strategist. Bannon was previously the leader of Breitbart News, an unapologetically conservative outlet that Bannon has described as a “platform for the alt-right.”
At the Times, Trump said Breitbart “is just a publication” that “covers subjects on the right” and is “certainly a much more conservative paper, to put it mildly, than The New York Times.”
Before Trump’s latest denunciations, Spencer told AP earlier Tuesday that he doesn’t see either Trump or Bannon as members of his movement, though “there is some common ground.”
This is a step in the right direction and something that was a year-and-a-half overdue, but actions speak louder than words and Trump has yet prove he disavows the racist, sexist, and white-nationalist campaign promises that made him a darling of the alt-right .
Once Trump reverses course on the policies of mass deportations of immigrants, blocking all entry to immigrants from certain countries, and singling out minority communities for heavier policing, only then can he honestly disavow the anti-Semitic and white supremacist alt-right movement.