Boteach today: ‘Bannon and I are not close buddies’

WASHINGTON – After President Donald Trump fired Chief White House Strategist Steve Bannon on Friday, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach took the opportunity to urge the White House advisor to distance himself from white supremacists. Boteach had previously been a vocal supporter of Bannon. In May, the Rabbi tweeted a selfie with Bannon at the White House. The photo went viral as the background revealed a whiteboard featuring Bannon’s controversial to do list. At the time, Boteach referred to Bannon as a “great, stalwart friend of the Jewish state.”

In a phone interview on Friday afternoon, Boteach told Jewish Insider, “Bannon should take the opportunity now that he is out of the administration to finally and strongly condemn the… the alt-right and neo-Nazis. He needs to get up there and say: ‘I deplore these despicable human beings. They are vile and evil.’” Bannon “should absolutely repudiate” his earlier statement calling Breitbart the platform for the alt-right, Boteach added.

Noting that the first time he met Bannon was during the transition last fall regarding Syria, Boteach claimed, “Bannon and I aren’t close buddies.” Listing Bannon’s views on immigration and a more ‘isolationist’ foreign policy, Boteach emphasized, “I have many issues where I have serious disagreements with Bannon but I have always found him — in the occasions that I have had the opportunity to speak with him — to be very open to hearing ideas that are different to his.”

Boteach did, however, praise Bannon for his strong support of Israel within the administration and gave him credit for advocating that the U.S. Embassy be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Boteach declined to speculate on how Bannon’s firing would impact the U.S.-Israel relationship. “For Israel, I think him being in the administration was a real plus. What it will mean now, I don’t know because you have a lot of other strong supporters of Israel in this administration,” Boteach explained.

Elsewhere, Jewish leaders were less praiseworthy of Bannon. Anti-Defamation League (ADL) CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said he was “glad to see” Bannon leave the administration noting he was “the man who fanned the flames of intolerance from his time at Breitbart to his tenure at the White House.”

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