September 12, 2018 In The News, Media

WTVA: House Democrats blast State Department for silence on racism

House Democrats issued a scathing letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo Wednesday, expressing concern about the “Trump Administration’s policy of remaining silent in international fora about racism and xenophobia and declining to condemn hate speech and incitement.”

The letter, signed by the ranking member of the House Foreign Relations Committee and the chairs of the Congressional Black Caucus, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, references a move by a member of the Trump administration to strike language condemning hate speech and incitement from standard UN documents.

CNN reported exclusively in June that Andrew Veprek, the deputy assistant secretary for refugees and migration, suggested extensive changes to those documents condemning racism and xenophobia as threats to democracy. Veprek disputed the idea that leaders had a “duty” to condemn hate speech and incitement.

Veprek also appeared to have struck out an entire section that linked fighting racism with building a diverse democracy and instead made a case against multiculturalism.

“Some commentators assert that a unifying culture (as opposed to multiculturalism) is the best way to promote social trust and combat racism,” Veprek wrote in his comments.

‘A dangerous policy’

In their letter, the House Democrats — Reps. Eliot Engel, Judy Chu, Karen Bass, Marc Veasey, Cedric Richmond and Michelle Lujan Grisham — slammed the moves as “a dangerous policy.”

“The United States Holocaust Museum notes that genocide is often preceded and accompanied by widespread hate speech. Condemning hate speech is not just basic decency — it’s also a tool for preventing atrocities,” they wrote.

The State Department has not returned CNN’s requests for comment.

The letter also raised alarm at the broader implications of such a move and accused President Donald Trump of instituting “racist and xenophobic policies.”

“The Trump administration’s retreat from the world has directly undermined our long held global leadership role. His racist and xenophobic policies have slammed America’s door on some of the world’s most desperate people,” the Democrats write. “Ultimately, this latest blunder amplifies the increasingly widespread perception that some officials in the Trump administration are racist and support an anti-foreigner, anti-Muslim discriminatory agenda and further erodes our credibility on the world stage.”

The Democrats “demand an explanation” for Veprek’s changes and ask that he meet with their staffs to explain them.

Veprek’s appointment to his position of deputy assistant secretary raised eyebrows because of his low rank. The career foreign service officer was named to his role in April. He is one of three deputy assistant secretaries at the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration.

Senate Democrats wrote to Pompeo on May 1 to say the appointment was “the equivalent of placing a lieutenant colonel into a one-star general position.”