Secretary of State Rex Tillerson declined to say if President Trump embodied American values when asked Sunday about the implications of his rhetoric following the recent violence in Charlottesville, Va.
“We express America’s values from the State Department. We represent the American people, America’s values, our commitment to freedom, our commitment to equal treatment of people the world over and that message has never changed,” Tillerson said during an interview with Fox News’ Chris Wallace.
“And when the president gets into the kind of controversy he does, and the U.N. committee responds the way it does, they begin to doubt whether we are living those values,” Wallace said, referring to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination’s criticism of the United States government’s failure to adequately condemn white supremacists and the events in Charlottesville.
Tillerson insisted that was not the case. “I don’t believe anyone doubts the American people’s values or the commitment of the government and government agencies to advancing those values and defending those values.” Tillerson said.
But Tillerson changed his tune when he was asked about Trump’s values and the president’s reaction to Charlottesville following his repeated decision to blame “both sides” for the violence and equate white supremacists with leftist protesters.
“The president speaks for himself, Chris,” Tillerson replied.
When Wallace asked if the Secretary of State was essentially disassociating himself from his boss in this matter, Tillerson reiterated that he had made his own perspective clear in his Aug. 18 speech at the State Department. “It’s simply important to say […] hat we all know hate is not an American value,” Tillerson said at the time. “…Those who embrace it poison our public discourse and they damage the very country that they claim to love. So we condemn racism, bigotry in all its forms. Racism is evil; it is antithetical to America’s values.”
Tillerson’s comment to Wallace come just two days after Gary Cohn, the president’s chief economic adviser, criticized Trump for his controversial response to the attacks in Charlottesville.
“Citizens standing up for equality and freedom can never be equated with white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and the KKK. I believe this administration can and must do better in consistently and unequivocally condemning these groups and do everything we can to heal the deep divisions that exist in our communities,” Cohn told the Financial Times earlier this week.