“The president speaks for himself”—the US Secretary of State doesn’t think Trump speaks for America

Will the president be laughing, too?
Will the president be laughing, too?
Image: AP Photo/Susan Walsh
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Considering US president Donald Trump’s budget cuts to the State Department, and his continuous disregard for the rules of diplomacy—Twitter threats of nuclear apocalypse and all—it’s not surprising that he and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson don’t always see eye to eye when it comes to America’s foreign policy. Notably, Tillerson was quick to put Trump’s threats of “fire and fury” against North Korea into perspective, reassuring Americans that there was no imminent threat of a nuclear war.

For weeks now, commentators have been noting that “where Trump zigs, Tillerson zags” (paywall), which according to many has put him next in line to be added to the growing list of key Trump hires to have been kicked out of the White House already.

It seems Tillerson is not much worried about that. While until recently he continued to defend the president in words if not in actions (as he did after the North Korea threats), in an interview with Fox on Sunday morning (Aug. 27) he discussed the president’s handling of the violence in Charlottesville, making no attempt to hide his disagreement with Trump’s stand.

The Secretary of State had been asked by host Chris Wallace to comment on the United Nation’s critique of the president’s response to Charlottesville, and his reluctancy to openly condemn racism and white supremacy by blaming violence “on many sides.”

“I don’t believe anyone doubts America’s values,” Tillerson said in response to whether the UN critiques might suggest the world is starting to believe the president’s position on neo-Nazis may reflect that of the country. Tillerson specifically mentioned “the government’s agencies” as holding up America’s values, but when asked whether Trump does, too, he replied “the president speaks for himself, Chris.”

This is along the lines of what Tillerson said the week after the Charlottsville attack, on Aug. 18,  when he alluded to the president’s words in an address to the State Department’s staff, saying: “we do not honor, nor do we promote or accept, hate speech in any form,” and that “those who embrace it poison our public discourse, and they damage the very country that they claim to love.”

Considering they were spoken on Trump’s favorite news source, it likely won’t be too long before POTUS will address Tillerson’s latest comments.