Tillerson Says Trump 'Speaks For Himself' On Charlottesville Comments

President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson
U.S. President Donald Trump (right) looks toward Secretary of State Rex Tillerson during China's visit to Mar-a-Lago, Florida, on April 7. Carlos Barria/Reuters

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has distanced himself from Donald Trump’s comments on the violence at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, refusing to say whether the president’s comments represent American values.

Speaking in an interview on Fox News Sunday, Tillerson appeared unwilling to wade into the furor surrounding Trump’s comments, which were widely criticized after he suggested “both sides” were to blame for the violence and that not all attendees of the white supremacist rally were white supremacists.

Tillerson told Fox News Sunday the American people wanted equality, and that those were the American values shared by the State Department.

“We express America’s values from the State Department. We represent the American people, we represent America’s values, our commitment to freedom, our commitment to equal treatment of people the world over and that message has never changed,” Tillerson said.

“I don't believe anyone doubts the American people's values or the commitment of the American government or the government’s agencies to advancing those values and defending those values,” he added.

Asked by Fox News host Chris Wallace about the president’s values, Tillerson replied: “The president speaks for himself, Chris.”

“Are you separating yourself from that, sir?” Wallace asked Tillerson.

“I’ve spoken. I’ve made my own comments as to our values as well in a speech I gave to the State Department this past week,” Tillerson replied.

The secretary of state also addressed the criticism Trump’s comments garnered in a talk to staff at the state department, in which he appeared to err on the side of those uncomfortable with the president’s remarks.

Tillerson told his staff in comments carried by The New York Times: “We do not honor, nor do we promote or accept, hate speech in any form. Those who embrace it poison our public discourse, and they damage the very country that they claim to love.”