Gary Cohn, who leads the White House’s National Economic Council, finally spoke out publicly about President Donald Trump’s failure to fully condemn white nationalists in the wake of the Charlottesville attack, urging the Trump administration Thursday to do more to denounce hate groups.
Trump’s comments pandering to white nationalists had sparked speculation that Cohn, who is Jewish, could resign from his post over the matter. However, despite Cohn’s friends’ comments to the media that he was deeply upset by Trump’s response to the violence in Charlottesville, Cohn has not quit and is just now publicly criticizing the President.
“Citizens standing up for equality and freedom can never be equated with white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and the KKK. I believe this administration can and must do better in consistently and unequivocally condemning these groups and do everything we can to heal the deep divisions that exist in our communities,” Cohn told the Financial Times on Thursday.
“As a Jewish American, I will not allow neo-Nazis ranting ‘Jews will not replace us’ to cause this Jew to leave his job,” he added. “I feel deep empathy for all who have been targeted by these hate groups. We must all unite together against them.”
Cohn said that he faced pressure both to resign and to remain in his post, but said that he ultimately decided he needed to stay on in the Trump administration.
“I have come under enormous pressure both to resign and to remain in my current position,” he told the Financial Times. “As a patriotic American, I am reluctant to leave my post as director of the National Economic Council because I feel a duty to fulfill my commitment to work on behalf of the American people. But I also feel compelled to voice my distress over the events of the last two weeks.”
Cohn told the Financial Times that he has had several conversations with Trump about the need to condemn white nationalists. He also drafted a resignation letter last week, but never followed through, the New York Times reported Friday morning, citing two unnamed people familiar with the draft letter.
Asked about Cohn’s comments to the Financial Times during the White House press briefing on Friday, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders downplayed Cohn’s criticism of Trump and noted that his comments about Trump’s Charlottesville response were a “very small portion” of the interview.
“Gary has not held back on how he feels, I don’t think anyone was surprised by the comments,” Sanders said.
This post has been updated.