Sen. Harry Reid spoke out on Tuesday against Donald Trump's early actions as president-elect, calling on him to "Rise to the dignity of the office...instead of hiding behind your Twitter account."
Of concern to Reid and his allies (as well as many Republicans) is the appointment of Stephen Bannon as chief White House strategist and senior advisor. The former Breitbart chief executive is known to promote white nationalist, anti-Semitic, racist and misogynist viewpoints, and many see his presence in the White House as a dangerous proposition.
"If we fail to hold Trump accountable," Reid said, "we all bear a measure of responsibility for normalizing his behavior."
Read the full transcript here:
I have been in politics for five decades, and I have not seen anything like what we are seeing today in America.
The man who lost the popular vote by two million votes is now the president-elect. Let me repeat that: the man who lost the popular vote by two million votes or more is now the president-elect.
His election sparked a wave of hate crimes across the nation. This is a simple statement of fact.
But it raises a critical question for us as a country: how do we respond to the election of Donald Trump?
Democrats want to work with Trump when we can. I understand and respect that impulse because Democrats like to get things done. It’s why many of us are in government – most of us, I think – in the first place.
For example, Democrats have been trying for decades, multiple decades, to get Republicans to invest in our deteriorated infrastructure. It’s really in bad need of repair. It’s an automatic job creator. Each time we tried to do something on infrastructure, Republicans obstructed.
If we can finally get Republicans to make the job-creating infrastructure investments we have been seeking for years, that will be a welcome development for the Senate and the country. If Trump wants to pursue policies that will help working people, Democrats will take a pragmatic approach.
Democrats have a responsibility to improve the lives of Americans. All lives. But we also have other responsibilities.
We have a responsibility to be the voice of the millions of Americans sitting at home afraid that they are not welcome anymore in Donald Trump’s America.
We have a responsibility to prevent Trump’s bullying, aggressive behavior from becoming normalized in the eyes of Americans – especially the millions of young people who are watching and wondering, for example, if sexual assault is now a laughing matter.
We have a responsibility to say that it is not normal for the KKK – the Ku Klux Klan – to celebrate the election of a president they view as their champion with a victory parade. They have one scheduled.
In other words, we have a responsibility to lead.
Outside this Senate chamber, workers can be heard hammering away on the platform for the inauguration ceremony. It will take several months to do it, but it will be done right.
In 65 days, Donald Trump will step onto that platform. For four years, he will wield the loudest and most powerful microphone in the world.
But even as those workers hammer away on Trump’s platform, and even as we as leaders accept the results of this election, we must also give voice to those who are afraid.
Because there are many who are afraid. Indeed, a majority of Americans opposed Trump. Many of my Republican colleagues in this chamber opposed Trump.
And they were not alone: Trump will be the first president to take office having lost the popular vote by two million.
Every day for the past week, a majority of American voters have awakened to a difficult reality: not only did the man who lost the popular vote win the election, but his election sparked a rise in hate crimes and threats of violence.
Since Election Day, the Southern Poverty Law Center has reported hundreds of incidents of harassment and intimidation. At last count, 315. Overwhelmingly, the hateful acts are anti-Muslim, anti-Hispanic, anti-African American, anti-woman, anti-LGBT, anti-Semitic and anti-Asian.
I have heard these stories from friends and family.
My and my wife’s Nevada physician is a Pakistani-American of Muslim faith. We think so much of him. We’ve known each other for 35 years.
The day after the election, my friend was at a restaurant in Las Vegas having dinner when a Trump supporter approached his table in a threatening manner and asked where he was from.
My friend answered, “Where are you from?” The man said, “I’m local.” My doctor friend said, “So am I.”
That same night, another friend of mine, also a Pakistani-American doctor was having dinner. A man walked up to him in the same manner and asked “Where are you from?” My friend said he was from Pakistan. The other man said, “Why don’t you go back.”
One of my staffers has a daughter in middle school. I’ve known that little girl since she was a little baby. The day after the election, the principal addressed the entire student body on the school’s PA system because of two incidents that had occurred.
In one instance, a boy yelled at a Latina student, telling her that that he was glad she was going to be deported now that Trump was president.
Then, in another instance, a boy was sent home for yelling the most derogatory, hateful term at an African-American student. The boy justified himself by saying he could use that language now that Trump was president.
In Spokane, Washington, the Martin Luther King, Jr., Center was defaced with the same hateful word.
Those are only a few examples of what people close to me have related. But these kind of disturbing accounts have been heard across America.
I have here a compilation of these incidents. I also have an article here from NBC News which is headline: “Hundreds of Hate Crimes Reported Since Election.” I ask consent to enter them both into the record.
Those references made are awful. They are hateful. They’re frightening. They’re scary.
I invite any of my colleagues to read these horrible acts. I invite any senator – Democrat of Republican – to come to the floor of the Senate and defend any one of these examples of hate and prejudice.
I don’t believe anyone in this chamber wants to defend the hateful acts that are being committed in President-Elect Trump’s name.
They lead to one unavoidable conclusion: many of our fellow Americans believe that Trump’s election validates the kind of bullying, aggressive behavior Trump modeled on a daily basis.
How can we teach our children that bragging about sexual assault is abhorrent if we rush into the arms of the man who dismissed it as “locker room talk?”
If we fail to hold Trump accountable, we all bear a measure of responsibility for normalizing his behavior.
Let me read you a letter. This was written by a seventh-grade student in Rhode Island, the day after the election:
“I’m extremely scared especially being a woman of color that the president of the country that I was born and live in, is making me feel unsafe when I usually don’t feel unsafe. It even scarier because this man who is now the president of the United States of America has said such rude, ignorant and disrespectful things about women and all different types of people and is now in charge of our country. I want to feel safe in my country but I no longer can feel safe with someone like Donald Trump leading this country.”
Our president is supposed to make our children feel safe. But on Wednesday, a seventh-grade girl awoke feeling frightened to be a woman of color in America because Donald Trump was president-elect.
If we ignore her voice and other voices, this seventh grader will be left to conclude that we, as a nation, find her fear acceptable. How do we show her that she does not have to be afraid?
The first step is facing reality.
No matter how hard the rest of us work, the main responsibility lies with the man who inspired the fear. President-elect Trump must act immediately to make Americans – like that seventh-grade girl – feel that they are welcome in his America.
Healing the wounds he inflicted will take more than words. Talk is cheap and Tweets are cheaper. Healing the wounds is going to take action. But so far, rather than healing these wounds, Trump’s actions have deepened them.
In his first official act, Trump appointed a man who is seen as a champion of white supremacy as the #1 strategist in his White House. Number one – everybody else is under him.
According to CNN: “white nationalist leaders are praising Donald Trump’s decision to name [Stephen Bannon] as his chief strategist.”
In the same article, white nationalist leaders say they see Bannon: “as an advocate for policies they favor.”
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Bannon: “was the main driver behind Breitbart becoming a white ethno-nationalist propaganda mill.”
When asked to comment on Bannon’s hiring, KKK leader David Duke told CNN, quote: “I think that’s excellent.”
A court filing stated that Bannon said: “that he doesn’t like Jews and that he doesn’t like the way they raise their kids to be ‘whiny brats’ and that he didn’t want [his] girls to go to school with Jews.”
By placing a champion of white supremacists a step away from the Oval Office, what message does Trump send to the young girl who woke up Wednesday afraid to be a woman of color in America?
It is not a message of healing.
If Trump is serious about seeking unity, the first thing he should do is rescind his appointment of Steve Bannon. Rescind it. Don’t do it. Think about this. Don’t do it. 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.
So I say to Donald Trump: take responsibility. Rise to the dignity of the office – president of the United States – instead of hiding behind your Twitter account.
And show America that racism, bullying and bigotry have no place in the White House or in America.