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“Martin Luther King ... he would be proud of what Donald Trump has done for [the] black and Hispanic working class, OK?” Bannon told ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl in an exclusive interview on “This Week” Sunday.
Karl pushed back on Bannon's claim that Martin Luther King, Jr. would be proud of the effects of Trump's policies on minorities.
“I think there are a lot of, a lot of civil rights leaders that would adamantly disagree with you on that,” Karl said.
Bannon was responding to Karl's asking him about comments he made in March at an event with far-right French politicians.
“Let them call you racist," Bannon said at that event. "Let them call you xenophobes. Let them call you nativists. Wear it as a badge of honor. Because every day, we get stronger and they get weaker.”
Bannon told Karl his quote was taken out of context. “The lead-in to that was saying, 'When they can't fight you on the facts, they're going to call you racist,'” he said.
“I was talking specifically about Donald Trump and his policies,” Bannon said Sunday. “His economic nationalism doesn't care about your race, your religion, your gender, your sexual preference. Here's what it cares about, that you're citizens of the United States of America. We have all-time low unemployment among blacks in this country and 20-year low among Hispanics. The black working class and Hispanic working class are now getting the benefits of border security and economic nationalism.”
Bannon was previously CEO of the Trump campaign and is a former executive chairman of Breitbart, a far-right online media outlet.
Earlier in the "This Week" interview, when discussing the Trump administration's immigration policies, Bannon said, “This illegal immigration, the people that [are] hurt the most are the Hispanic and black working class. It suppresses their wages; it destroys their healthcare; it destroys their school systems.”
Bannon said something similar to the BBC at the end of May. "Martin Luther King would be proud of [Trump], of what he's done for the black and Hispanic community," Bannon said.
When the BBC reporter pushed back, Bannon said, "It's the lowest unemployment in recorded history. You don't think Martin Luther King wouldn't be proud? Look at the unemployment we had in the black community five years ago. You don't think Martin Luther King would sit there and go, 'Yes, you're putting young black men and women to work.'"
He also said in that interview, “Mass illegal immigration is a scam by the globalists. It’s there to suppress the wages of the black and Hispanic working class by giving unlimited competition on labor.”
King's daughter, Bernice A King, responded to Bannon in a thread on Twitter.
#SteveBannon has dangerously and erroneously co-opted my father’s name, work and words.— Be A King (@BerniceKing) May 24, 2018
Bannon’s assertion that my father, #MLK, would be proud of Donald Trump wholly ignores Daddy’s commitment to people of all races, nationalities, etc. being treated with dignity and respect.
King said that her father "was an activist for the civil rights of Black people in America, but he was also an activist for human rights."
He wouldn't use the term "illegal aliens" to refer to undocumented immigrants, she said, and he wouldn't "pit one group against one another in the struggle for justice."
"Bannon’s comments are like feeding someone empty calories, in that they don’t convey a comprehensive view of #MLK as a global humanitarian who cared about the well-being of all people," she continued.
King said her father "would be extremely disturbed by the climate created by leaders" as it has "emboldened people to easily express and demonstrate cruelty, predominantly toward people of color and immigrants."