Trump: I don't want to 'energize' alt-right movement

President-elect Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump nominates ambassador to Turkey Trump heads to Mar-a-Lago after signing bill to avert shutdown CNN, MSNBC to air ad turned down by Fox over Nazi imagery MORE on Tuesday said he did not want to “energize” the alt-right movement and denounced the conference held over the weekend where white nationalists cheered his election and used Nazi-era terms and salutes.

“I disavow and condemn them,” Trump said at an on-the-record session with New York Times reporters and columnists when asked directly about the meeting.

ADVERTISEMENT

He also said he didn’t believe that he had energized such groups.

“It's not a group I want to energize,” Trump said. “And if they are energized I want to look into it and find out why.”

White supremacist and Nazi groups have latched on to Trump’s campaign and victory, arguing at times that it represents a victory for their own cause.

At its annual conference in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, National Policy Institute leader Richard Spencer addressed the crowd with “Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory!,” according to The Atlantic.

Spencer, according to a separate report in the Times, suggested at the conference that the news media had been critical of Trump to protect Jewish interests.

“One wonders if these people are people at all, or instead soulless golem,” he said, according to the Times.

The Trump team at times has sought to distance itself from such groups. Eric Trump at one point said former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke should get “a bullet.”

But the remarks to the Times represent the first time that Trump has outright condemned last week’s event, news of which has circulated heavily on social media in recent days.

In a Monday night statement, a spokesman for Trump’s transition team said that Trump continues to denounce all racism, but didn’t directly acknowledge the conference.

“President-elect Trump has continued to denounce racism of any kind and he elected because he will be a leader for every American,” spokesman Bryan Lanza said in the Monday statement.

Trump’s decision to appoint Breitbart News executive Steve Bannon as his White House strategist has also been condemned by Democrats who say Breitbart is an alt-right news site that includes news articles meant to incite white nationalists.

Bannon and Trump’s transition team have pushed back at that narrative, and Trump defended his former campaign chairman to the Times.

Trump dismissed any notion that Bannon is a racist or is associated with the “alt-right” movement.

“If I thought he was a racist or alt-right or any of the things, the terms we could use, I wouldn't even think about hiring him,” Trump reportedly said.

This story was updated at 2:27 p.m.