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Rex Tillerson draws a line between American values and Trump’s values

The Secretary of State didn't leap to defend the president.


Chris Tognotti


Posted on Aug 27, 2017   Updated on May 22, 2021, 7:15 pm CDT

Just a couple days after National Economic Director Gary Cohn publicly voiced discomfort with President Donald Trump’s response to the Charlottesville white supremacist demonstrations and admitted he felt pressure to resign, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has made some cryptic statements of his own about the commander-in-chief, implying that Trump’s personal values are at-odds with those of the U.S.

Tillerson, appearing on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace, was asked whether the kinds of controversies Trump embroils himself in leaves the international community (the United Nations in particular) doubting that America is living up to its stated values. Tillerson denied this, but he drew a distinct rhetorical line between American values and those of Trump himself.

“I don’t believe anyone doubts the American people’s values or the commitment of the American government or the government’s agencies to advancing those values and defending those values,” Tillerson said.

When Wallace then asked about the president’s values, Tillerson gave a suggestive response.

“The president speaks for himself, Chris,” he said.

In the immediate aftermath of the events in Charlottesville, where several anti-racist counter-demonstrators were injured and one was killed, the U.S. became the subject of widespread international scrutiny and drew criticism from the U.N.’s Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

On Friday, Cohn made news by acknowledging that he’s felt “enormous pressure” to resign in the aftermath of Charlottesville. Trump’s initial response to the white supremacist protests was to denounce violence and hatred “on many sides,” which eventually gave way to a prepared statement specifically denouncing neo-Nazis. Mere days later, however, he swung back to his original tact, blaming “both sides” and attacking what he called the “alt-left” in a tense press conference.

The equivocating reaction, drawing lines of comparison between white supremacists and activists demonstrating against racial hatred, plunged the administration into controversy and criticism. Thus far, there have been no resignations from cabinet secretaries like Tillerson.

While the 65-year-old former Exxon CEO didn’t give Wallace any specific indication he was considering resignation, it was reported in July that he’s unhappy with the job and might opt for an early departure from the administration.

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*First Published: Aug 27, 2017, 1:18 pm CDT