Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon speaks at the Royal Society of Arts in London, Monday, Oct. 15, 2018. Sturgeon plans to set out an alternative to the Brexit choices outlined by Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May. (Stefan Rousseau/Pool Photo via AP)

Scottish leader pulls out of media event featuring Bannon

October 21, 2018 - 5:45 am

LONDON (AP) — Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has pulled out of an Edinburgh conference because former White House strategist Steve Bannon is scheduled to speak at the event.

In a tweet Saturday, Sturgeon said she believes "passionately in free speech" but declares she "would not be part of any process that risks legitimizing or normalizing far-right, racist views."

Bannon is to be interviewed by a BBC journalist and answer questions at News Xchange, a media conference in Edinburgh on Nov. 14-15. BBC News is a host partner.

"The email the BBC sent to my office justifying Bannon's inclusion described him as a 'powerful and influential figure ... promoting an anti-elite movement.' This kind of language to describe views that many would describe as fascist does seem to me to run the risk of normalization," Sturgeon said.

In a statement defending its decision to invite Bannon, seen Sunday on its website, Edinburgh conference organizers said Bannon is "a key influencer in the rise of populism — one of the dominant political trends of our times."

Bannon, who played a central role in the 2016 campaign of U.S. President Donald Trump, has been making the rounds in Europe as part of his plans for a foundation, called The Movement, to boost far-right parties in Europe.

He appeared at a rally in Rome in September organized by a small far-right Italian opposition party, Brothers of Italy, where he heaped praise on Italy's populist government. He was also in Rome for the March 4 election that brought the populists to power.

Bannon spent seven months working in Trump's administration, leaving in August 2017.

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