President Trump “speaks for himself” on his values, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Sunday.
The U.S. commitment to tolerance and equality is unchanged, Tillerson said, in the wake of controversy over Trump’s response to racially tinged violence.
“We express America’s values from the State Department — our commitment to freedom, our commitment to equal treatment of people the world over,” Tillerson said on “Fox News Sunday,” adding: “And that message has never changed.”
A United Nations committee last week criticized Trump for what it deemed his failure to fully condemn hatred and bigotry in the wake of deadly violence at a white supremacist march in Charlottesville earlier this month.
“I don’t believe anyone doubts the American people’s values,” or the U.S. government’s willingness to defend them, Tillerson said.
Asked whether Trump’s reaction, which included a statement that there was blame on “many sides” for the violence in Charlottesville, reflects American values, Tillerson answered evenly.
“The president speaks for himself,” he said.
When host Chris Wallace asked whether Tillerson was “separating himself” from Trump’s remarks, Tillerson answered, “I’ve made my own comment as to our values.”
Tillerson’s remarks followed pointed criticism of Trump’s reaction from economic adviser Gary Cohn last week.
On North Korea, Tillerson said the missile tests don’t necessarily mean that Kim Jong Un’s regime is thumbing its nose at the offer of negotiations with the United States.
“Clearly, they are still messaging us, as well, that they are not prepared to completely back away from their positions,” Tillerson said. “We continue to want the Kim regime to understand there is a different path that he can choose.”
The launch of three short-range missiles Friday followed statements from Trump and Tillerson last week that took note of what Tillerson called recent “restraint” on the part of Pyongyang.
Until Friday, North Korea had not launched any missiles since the unanimous approval of new United Nations Security Council sanctions three weeks ago. That caused Trump to say that North Korea was finally “starting to respect us.”
“I don’t know that we’re wrong,” Tillerson said. “It’s going to take some time to tell.”