Tillerson says Trump 'speaks for himself' on Charlottesville protests

Geneva Matthews
August 28, 2017

Questioned about Donald Trump's controversial response to terrorism by a neo-Nazi sympathizer in CharlottesvilleĜŒ VirginiaĜŒ US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says the president "speaks for himself".

Trump's response earned a condemnation from almost everyone who is not an outright white supremacist, including the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which stated that Trump's refusal to lay the blame exclusively at the feet of the self-identified white nationalists was a "failure at the highest political level".

Tillerson responded diplomatically, at first: "We express America's values from the State Department".

"And the president's values?"

TILLERSON: The president speaks for himself, Chris.

"We all know hate is not an American value". Trump initially condemned "hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides" before being forced to specifically call out the KKK, neo-Nazis, and white supremacists, only to then go back the next day and ask about the "alt-left" and note there were "very fine people" on both sides.

Tillerson's remarks followed harsh criticism of Trump from National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn, who said in an interview Friday that he almost quit over the president's handling of the events in Charlottesville.

Mr Trump has repeatedly complained that China is not helping the United States rein in North Korea, and Mr Tillerson has said "China and Russian Federation bear unique and special responsibility" for North Korea's "growing threat to regional and global stability".

Tillerson replied: "The president speaks for himself". He affirmed that the State Department represents U.S. citizens, the values of the country, commitment to freedom, and the equal treatment of every person in the world.

While the United States prefers a diplomatic approach, the country and its allies are prepared to respond to a North Korean threat with military force, Mr Tillerson said at a news conference in August.

Tillerson had told a group of State Department interns on August 18 that "we do not honor, nor do we promote or accept, hate speech in any form".

Prominent political figures in the United States have also voiced their displeasure at Trump.

Tillerson has been widely criticized as an ineffective leader at the State Department. "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.

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