Donald Trump faced growing calls Tuesday to denounce a fringe white nationalist group that celebrated his election win with rousing Nazi salutes.
The so-called National Policy Institute held a conference Saturday around the corner from the White House. It had been scheduled before the results of the November 8 election were known.
The group describes itself as an organization dedicated to “the heritage, identity, and future of people of European descent in the United States, and around the world.” It is part of the far-right movement known as the alt-right.
One of the conference organizers, Richard Spencer, concluded a speech by shouting “Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory!” — reminiscent of the German ‘heil’.
Some of the people in the crowd clapped wildly, cheered and gave the Nazi salute. This was seen in a video excerpt posted online by the magazine The Atlantic.
Trump attacked the cast of the Broadway hit “Hamilton” over the weekend when it expressed worry that his administration might not respect America’s racial and cultural diversity.
“Mr. Trump’s itchy Twitter finger, however, fell silent when 200 or so white nationalists of the ‘alt-right’ movement gathered … to celebrate his election with a very public coming-out party filled with racist and anti-Semitic filth,” the New York Times said in an editorial Tuesday.
“Mr. Trump, who brought this group out of the shadows during the campaign, has a duty to unequivocally denounce its toxic propaganda,” the newspaper said.
The National Policy Institute says on its website that “the past 12 months might be remembered as the year of Donald Trump … the year of the Red Pill … and the year of the Alt Right.”
The pill reference comes from the 1999 movie “Matrix” and refers to the act of embracing reality.
The NPI adds: “It was a time when more people joined our movement then ever before and when our ideas began invading the mainstream.”
Spencer told the Times he does not believe Trump should be considered alt-right.
“I do think we have a psychic connection, or you can say a deeper connection, with Donald Trump in a way that we simply do not have with most Republicans,” Spencer said.
Trump has caused alarm among Democrats and other critics by naming as his chief strategist Steve Bannon, former head of the news website Breitbart, associated with white nationalism.
“If Trump doesn’t do something more forceful to disown his neo-Nazi hangers on, they will continue their brazen march into the mainstream,” Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank wrote Tuesday.
“There is room for cooperation on much of Trump’s agenda. But cooperation is difficult, if not impossible, when a president gives sanction to bigotry,” Milbank added.