It would be nice to believe that Steve Bannon’s departure from the White House will end, or least diminish, Donald Trump’s flirtations with bigotry. Alas, that’s almost certainly not the case.
As Trump himself likes to note, Bannon joined his campaign late, in August 2016. By that time, Trump had already called Mexican immigrants “rapists,” falsely accused American Muslims in New Jersey of celebrating the 9/11 attacks, said “Islam hates us,” and declared that Judge Gonzalo Curiel could not fairly judge the case against Trump University because was Mexican American. Bannon’s hiring was not a cause of the Trump campaign’s dalliance with Islamophobia, nativism, and white nationalism. It was a result.
In fact, Trump has been exploiting bigotry since before he hired Bannon, before he ran for President, before he even entered public life. In 1973, at the age of 27, Donald Trump—then President of Trump Management—was sued along with his father for discrimination against African Americans by the Justice Department. In 1989, when four African American and one Hispanic teenagers (the “Central Park Five”) were arrested for rape, Trump took out newspaper ads declaring that the accused should be executed and “forced to suffer.” When DNA evidence exonerated the young men in 2012, Trump denounced New York City’s decision to compensate them, saying “I think people are tired of politically correct.” As late as 2013, he still tweeted, “Tell me, what were they doing in the Park, playing checkers?”