Gary Cohn has ended his silence on the violent rally in Charlottesville.
In his first public comments since the events, Cohn told the Financial Times that the administration of President Donald Trump “must do better” to condemn hate groups and indicated that he’d considered resigning from his post due to the Charlottesville fallout.
Trump’s chief economic advisor, who is Jewish, stood beside the president at a press conference when Trump blamed “many sides” for the violence in Charlottesville and argued that “very fine people” existed among neo-Nazi protesters. Cohn told the FT that he disagrees with those views.
“Citizens standing up for equality and freedom can never be equated with white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and the KKK,” he said.
He also admitted that he’d considered stepping down from his post following President Trump’s controversial statements, telling the FT that he’d faced “enormous pressure both to resign and to remain in my current position.” He said:
“As a patriotic American, I am reluctant to leave my post as director of the National Economic Council because I feel a duty to fulfil my commitment to work on behalf of the American people. But I also feel compelled to voice my distress over the events of the last two weeks.”
Cohn, a former president of Goldman Sachs, indicated that his resignation would have satisfied those who’d marched in Charlottesville brandishing Confederate flags and swastikas.
“As a Jewish American, I will not allow neo-Nazis ranting ‘Jews will not replace us’ to cause this Jew to leave his job,” he said. “I feel deep empathy for all who have been targeted by these hate groups. We must all unite together against them.”
His response contrasts that of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who is also Jewish. Mnuchin responded to calls to resign by defending Trump, saying that “the president in no way, shape or form, believes that neo-Nazi and other hate groups who endorse violence are equivalent to groups that demonstrate in peaceful and lawful ways.”
Cohn went a step further, calling for the administration to do more to condemn these groups and foster unity to “heal the deep divisions that exist.” The Washington Post notes that Cohn’s comments are particularly noteworthy, since senior White House officials rarely publicly condemn a president’s actions—let alone admit that they’d considered resigning in response.