Tri-Caucus Leaders Demand Answers From State Department Over Positions on Hate Speech and Racism
Leaders of the Black, Hispanic, and AAPI Congressional Caucuses are sounding the alarm on some disturbing language coming out of the State Department on race and hate speech. Asian Pacific American Caucus Chair Congresswoman Judy Chu (D-CA), Black Caucus Chair Congressman Cedric Richmond (D-LA), and Hispanic Caucus Chair Congresswoman Michelle Luján Grisham (D-NM) were joined by members Karen Bass (D-CA) and Marc Veasey (D-TX), Co-Chairs of the CBC Foreign Affairs and National Security Task Force, and Eliot Engel (D-NY), Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, in demanding a meeting to get answers on some positions taken by the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Refugees and Migration at the State Department Andrew Veprek -- a foreign service officer promoted by the White House to an unusually senior position for his rank. He tore into standard UN documents that condemn racism as a threat to democracy and disputed the idea that leaders have a "duty" to condemn hate speech and incitement, and repeatedly rejected use of the words nationalism, populism, and xenophobia. "The drafters say 'populism and nationalism' as if these are dirty words," Veprek wrote. "There are millions of Americans who likely would describe themselves as adhering to these concepts. (Maybe even the President.). So are we looking to here condemn our fellow-citizens, those who pay our salaries?" Donald Trump has described himself as a nationalist. Veprek also pushed to soften language about fighting racism and about racism in politics in his proposed amendments to a UN Human Rights Council resolution. In a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the members expressed outrage and demanded an explanation of this position. “We are extremely alarmed by the Trump Administration’s policy of remaining silent in international fora about racism and xenophobia and declining to condemn hate speech and incitement. It’s outrageous that any administration, regardless of political ideology, would refuse to stand for these basic American ideals,” the members wrote. “We demand an explanation and expect that DAS Veprek will be made available to meet with our staffs to explain these baffling actions and the policies behind them.” See the full letter here.