Richard Spencer giving a speech at the annual conference of the National Policy Institute in Washington, D.C. (Screen shot via YouTube)

President-elect Donald Trump was forced to repeatedly assure the nation that he condemns neo-Nazi sentiments after video surfaced of white nationalists chanting “Hail Trump!” at a Washington conference last weekend.

Richard Spencer, the neo-Nazi leader of the “alt-right” movement (a term coined by Spencer himself) gave a speech at the annual conference of the “National Policy Institute” in Washington. His speech, captured on video, was widely regarded as extremely anti-Semitic. The Atlantic reports:

For most of the day, a parade of speakers discussed their ideology in relatively anodyne terms, putting a presentable face on their agenda. But after dinner, when most journalists had already departed, Spencer rose and delivered a speech to his followers dripping with anti-Semitism, and leaving no doubt as to what he actually seeks. He referred to the mainstream media as “Lügenpresse,” a term he said he was borrowing from “the original German”; the Nazis used the word to attack their critics in the press.

“America was until this past generation a white country designed for ourselves and our posterity,” Spencer said. “It is our creation, it is our inheritance, and it belongs to us.”

The audience offered cheers, applause, and enthusiastic Nazi salutes.

As the video began to go viral, Trump met with The New York Times for an exclusive interview, during which he was repeatedly asked about the group’s support.

“I don’t want to energize the group, and I disavow the group,” Trump said. “It’s not a group I want to energize, and if they are energized, I want to look into it and find out why.”

Politico adds, however, that Times editors continued to press Trump on the issue. He “did chide them for continuing to ask about the topic though, telling one questioner: ‘Boy, you are really into [this issue].’ ”

Trump’s connections to the “alt-right” movement go beyond the weekend’s disturbing video. Earlier this year, Stephen Bannon joined Trump’s campaign, despite public outcry over the Breitbart executive chairman’s alleged anti-Semitic views; on Nov. 13, Trump made Bannon his senior counselor and chief strategist.

“We are the platform for the alt-right,” Bannon said of Breitbart during July’s Republican National Convention. And yet, in his Times interview, Trump argued, “I’ve known Steve Bannon a long time. If I thought he was a racist, or alt-right, or any of the things that we can, you know, the terms we can use, I wouldn’t even think about hiring him.”

Trump went on to argue that while the Breitbart website may “cover things” that are alt-right, that “Breitbart, first of all, is just a publication.”

“[Y]ou know, they cover stories like you cover stories,” he said to the Times staff. “Now, they are certainly a much more conservative paper, to put it mildly, than The New York Times. But Breitbart really is a news organization that’s become quite successful, and it’s got readers and it does cover subjects that are on the right, but it covers subjects on the left also.”

While Trump may think the issue has been settled, Spencer is likely to continue to try rousing support for his “alt-right” movement. He has been invited to speak at Texas A&M University in December, despite opposition from school officials. In the meantime, he continues to share his white nationalist sentiments, although his Twitter page was suspended earlier this month because of its inflammatory rhetoric.

—Posted by Emma Niles

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