In a letter to the editor of the New York Times published on Friday, 650 female Harvard Business School (HBS) graduates and current students came together to “unequivocally disavow” the appointment of Steve Bannon, a fellow HBS alumnus, to serve as chief strategist and senior counselor to President-elect Donald Trump.
Though they represent a wide-ranging group of religions, ethnicities and professions—as well as politics from both sides of the aisle—the women share one common belief: “Hatred for women—hatred for anyone—has no place in the White House,” they wrote.
Bannon is considered one of the primary proponents of the “alt-right” movement, described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as “a set of far-right ideologies, groups and individuals whose core belief is that ‘white identity’ is under attack by multicultural forces using ‘political correctness’ and ‘social justice’ to undermine white people and ‘their’ civilization.”
Among other things, Bannon himself has repeatedly spewed hateful rhetoric against women, the HBS women pointed out, including a radio interview in which he referred to progressive, educated women as “a bunch of dykes.” Serving until recently as executive chairman of Breitbart News, an alt-right media company, Bannon has also overseen the publication of articles disparaging and discrediting women and women leaders, the letter continued, in articles bearing titles such as “Would You Rather Your Child Had Feminism or Cancer?” and “REVEALED: Sheryl Sandberg’s Wacky 1991 Feminist Thesis.”
“The inclusion of Steve Bannon in the White House legitimizes and emboldens these voices,” the HBS women wrote.
The women expressed support for some of Trump’s potential policies—such as paid maternity leave—but called on the President-elect to appoint “unifying figures after a contentious election rather than people with divisive records and agendas.” In closing, they further sought to distance themselves from the alt-right Bannon. “Our institution has had the honor of being associated with great American politicians and leaders,” they wrote. “Steve Bannon does not deserve a place alongside them on the mantle of Harvard Business School’s legacy.”
The letter was signed by 2015 HBS graduates Lauren Rourke and Ali Huberelie, along with 648 others representing 35 different class years at HBS. The heads of seven northeastern women’s colleges—known as the Seven Sisters—also assailed Bannon’s appointment in an open letter published yesterday. The Council on American-Islamic Relations has said that Bannon’s selection “sends the disturbing message that anti-Muslim conspiracy theories and white nationalist ideology will become welcome in the White House,” and the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, has urged Trump to “rescind this hire,” according to the New York Times.