It was all too much for Javier Palomarez. He had stood by and watched as Donald Trump’s administration showed off in word and deed its disregard or outright hostility towards Muslims, immigrants, and non-white Americans. But its decision to rescind the DACA program, which protects the children of undocumented immigrants from being deported, was the final straw. On Sept. 5, Palomarez, the president and CEO of the US Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC), announced live on television that he was resigning from the White House National Diversity Council, making him the latest in a long line of business and intellectual leaders to abandon one of Trump’s advisory bodies.
Palomarez followed this up with an op-ed published in the New York Times (paywall). “An American president who does not believe there’s a place for young people whose passion and values exemplify the best of our tradition is simply not a president that I can continue to support,” he wrote. “I have chosen to resign from the President’s National Diversity Coalition, effective immediately.” He went on to say that the body “never formally met—a stark sign of the president’s lack of interest in our work.” His resignation garnered widespread media coverage.
The only problem: it’s not clear that such a body as the White House National Diversity Council or the President’s National Diversity Coalition has ever existed, or that Palomarez belonged to it if it did.
There is a group called the National Diversity Coalition for Trump. It was started during the election campaign by Trump supporters of various ethnic minorities with the goal of making their communities’ voices heard by the campaign, and it has remained active since his inauguration. But it has no affiliation with the White House, officials there told Quartz.
More to the point, the NDC has rather forcefully denied any association with Palomarez. In a statement on Aug. 15, it said, “Mr Palomarez was invited to join the Coalition earlier this year but did not accept the invitation and has never been an active member of the Advisor panel.” The same note said that the CEO and co-founder of the coalition had met administration officials “several times in recent months.” On Sept. 4, the NDC repeated its disavowal of Palomarez, this time in plaintive all-caps:
So what is the body Palomarez claims to have resigned from in protest?
In January, Buzzfeed published an article about why Palomarez had accepted a position on the “National Diversity Coalition” despite having been very critical of Trump during the presidential campaign. Palomarez said he was “very enthused and encouraged by the progress thus far” made by the then-incoming administration to “move this country forward.”
At the time, Michael Cohen, Trump’s longtime lawyer and current White House advisor, confirmed to Buzzfeed that he had invited Palomarez to serve on the coalition. The group was set up in part, he said, to help “dispel the notion that Mr. Trump is one of the many things that the liberal mainstream media tried to label him as—that he is anti-Hispanic.” Cohen went on to say that the council had various other Latino members but that none had the same “outreach” as Palomarez, whose USHCC is the largest Latino business group in the country.
Cohen is listed as a board member of the National Diversity Coalition for Trump, the one formed during the campaign. So it seems most plausible that this is the body to which he invited Palomarez—and which now says Palomarez never accepted the invitation.
We were unable to find a web page about the existence or membership of any national diversity council, commission, coalition, or similarly-named body other than the aforementioned NDC. We found no news stories that mention Palomarez belonging to such a body other than the January Buzzfeed article about Cohen inviting him to join it, and another on CNN in March; a series of stories in August reporting that Palomarez, as a member of the coalition, had called on Trump strategist Steve Bannon to resign; and the stories this week reporting that Palomarez was quitting the coalition. (By contrast, other business advisory councils that Trump formed and which have since disbanded, such as the Strategy and Policy Forum and the American Manufacturing Council, have large online footprints, with lists of members, news articles, and official announcements.)
Palomarez did not reply to Quartz’s repeated requests for clarification, and his press contact would not provide any further details on the diversity coalition to which he said he belonged. Michael Cohen and the USHCC have also not responded to requests for information.