Tillerson Breaks With Trump

By Kevin Bailey

United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson appeared to distance himself from Donald Trump’s recent comments, saying that Trump “speaks for himself” and his values, during Tillerson’s appearance on Chris Wallace’s Fox News Sunday. Tillerson insisted that the United States’ commitment to diversity, equality, and tolerance remains, despite the uproar caused by Trump’s equivocation regarding racist violence perpetrated by Nazis and white supremacists at Charlottesville.

“We express America’s values from the State Department—our commitment to freedom, our commitment to equal treatment of people the world over…and that message has never changed.”

Nevertheless, just this past week, a United Nations committee excoriated Trump for failing to unequivocally condemn the bigotry and violence perpetrated during a white supremacist march (called, ironically, “Unite the Right”) in Charlottesville earlier in August. One counter-protester Heather Heyer, 32, was killed, and many others were injured—some critically—when a white supremacist terrorist rammed his car into a crowd of counter-protesters. Trump’s initial silence, and then his moral relativism when he did finally choose to speak on the matter, caused outrage across America and around the world.

In the interview with Wallace, Tillerson claimed that no one “doubts the American people’s values.” He also asserted that no one doubts the U.S. government’s willingness to defend those values, which seems like a dubious assertion, as international polls show that in nearly every nation around the globe, respect for America has plunged dramatically. Wallace asked Tillerson whether Trump’s response to the violence perpetrated by white supremacists and Nazis in Charlottesville, in which he laid blame on “many sides … on many sides” for the violence, is indicative of a change in American values. Tillerson’s answer was measured, calm, and quite stunning.

“The president speaks for himself.”

Wallace then asked Tillerson whether he was distancing himself from what Trump had said, and Tillerson replied, “I’ve made my own comment as to our values.”

Tillerson’s thinly-veiled critique of Trump’s response came on the heels of a far more blunt criticism of Trump’s reaction from one of his economic adviser’s Gary Cohn. Meanwhile, white supremacist groups, the alt-right, neo-Nazis, and various other far-right groups have been heartened by Trump’s equivocating, noting that he rarely criticizes them directly, and when he does, he always seems to find ways to walk it back, or to find ways to equally blame those being targeted by their bigotry.

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