Donald Trump disavows 'alt-right' supporters

Trump reacts to a crowd gathered in the lobby of the New York Times building after a meeting in New York, Nov 22, 2016.
Trump reacts to a crowd gathered in the lobby of the New York Times building after a meeting in New York, Nov 22, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS

Donald Trump has repudiated the fringe "alt-right" group that celebrated his election win with Nazi salutes.

"I don't want to energise the group, and I disavow the group," Mr Trump told a group of New York Times reporters and columnists during a meeting at the newspaper's headquarters in New York on Tuesday (Nov 22).

"It's not a group I want to energise, and if they are energised, I want to look into it and find out why," he added.

Alt-right supporters were filmed on Saturday in Washington, DC cheering, said the BBC, as a speaker shouted: "Hail Trump."

In the video, Mr Richard Spencer, a leader of the "alt-right" movement, told a conference of members that America belongs to white people, whom he described as "children of the sun".

He denounced the movement's critics as "the most despicable creatures who ever walked the planet".

"Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory!" Mr Spencer shouts at one point as some members of the audience raise their arms in the Nazi salute.

Mr Trump offered up the condemnation of the alt-right, a far-right political movement rife with white nationalist, anti-Semitic and racist ideologies, after New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet asked Mr Trump whether he felt he did things to energise the alt-right, reported CNN.

White supremacists consistently expressed their support for Mr Trump during the presidential campaign - pointing in part to his hardline positions on immigration - and critics contended that Mr Trump was too slow to reject the support of those groups during his campaign.

Mr Trump also took flak recently after he tapped his campaign chief executive Steve Bannon to be one of his top two advisers in the White House. Mr Bannon, the former executive chairman of Breitbart News, touted the website as "the platform for the alt-right".

Mr Bannon rejected the anti-Semitic and racist elements of the alt-right in an interview with the Wall Street Journal this week and declared himself an "economic nationalist".

Mr Trump defended Mr Bannon in his New York Times meeting, saying that he's known him for "a long time" and that the allegations of anti-Semitism and connections to the alt-right are "not him".

"If I thought he was racist, or 'alt-right'... I wouldn't even think about hiring him," CNN reported Mr Trump as saying on Tuesday.

The gathering on Saturday drew protesters who blocked traffic around the Ronald Reagan Building, a federally owned conference centre in the nation's capital.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed concern on Tuesday that Mr Trump's election victory could give succour to white supremacists.

A senior official close to her described the "Hail Trump" video as "repulsive and worrying", the BBC said.

In Mr Trump's interview with the New York Times he addressed a range of topics:

- Son-in-law Jared Kushner, a Jewish real estate heir who has no experience in diplomacy, could help forge peace between Israel and Palestinians, he suggested;

- The US should not be a "nation-builder" in the world, he argued;

- Republican leaders Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell "love" him again, he asserted;

- He could run his business and the country both "perfectly" with no conflict of interest;

- There is some "connectivity" between human activity and climate change.

Earlier on Tuesday,  Mr Trump's spokesman said he would not follow up on a campaign pledge to pursue a further inquiry into Mrs Hillary Clinton's e-mails.

His adviser said the President-elect would not appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the former secretary of state, and dropping the matter would help her "heal".

Later, Mr Trump was quoted as telling the New York Times: "I don't want to hurt the Clintons, I really don't. She went through a lot and suffered greatly in many different ways."