President-elect Donald Trump has finally disavowed the legitimately terrifying band of white supremacists identifying themselves as the “alt-right“.

In a cancelled, then rescheduled, interview with the New York Times – attended by 23 reporters, editors and columnists, four members of Trump’s campaign team, and the president-elect himself – Trump was quoted as saying, “I disavow and condemn them.”

“I don’t want to energise the group, and I disavow them,” he said, in response to a question from the paper’s executive editor Dean Baquet. “And if they are energised I want to look into it and find out why.”

White nationalist publication Breitbart – a.k.a. the digital breeding ground of hate-based ideologies – might have been around since 2007, but the terrifying legitimacy of the white supremacy movement has gained ground since Trump’s election win.

On Saturday, the ‘Alt-Right’ founder Richard B. Spencer literally saluted an audience of over 200 people at a conference in Washington, D.C., with the words, “Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory!”

He also referred to the mainstream media as “Lügenpresse“, a word he described as being from “the original German” and was once used by Nazis to attack their critics.

Footage of the meeting – the annual conference of white nationalist think tank the National Policy Institute – showed audience members responding to Spencer with the Nazi salute.

CNN is also facing extreme criticism for running an interview with a chyron that read: “Alt-RIght Founder Questions If Jews Are People”.

(Note: CNN are referring to Spencer, and were discussing his quote, “One wonders is these people are people at all, or instead soulless golem.” He was asking whether media figures denouncing Trump are people, or instead soulless golems – a creature created by a rabbi in a Jewish folktale meant to protect Jews from anti-Semites – created by the Jews. So while he wasn’t directly asking if Jews were people, the quote and sentiment behind it is still absolutely fucked.)

However, in practically the same breath as denouncing the alt-right, Trump also defended the hiring of Steve Bannon as White House chief strategist. Bannon, FYI, has been called an actual Nazi by Democratic political leaders, and prompted 9,000 attorneys to sign a letter opposing his appointment to this powerful position.

“I’ve known Steve Bannon a long time,” Trump told the NY Times. “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.”

He also downplayed the role Breitbart plays in fanning white nationalism.

“Breitbart is just a publication. They cover stories like you cover stories. They are certainly a much more conservative paper, to put it mildly, than the New York Times. But Brietbart really is a news organisation that has become quite successful. It’s got readers, and it does cover subjects on the right, but it covers subjects on the left also. It’s a pretty big thing.”

You can read the entire NY Times interview here.

Photo: Getty / CBS Photo Archive.