In an email letter to her staff, reportedly obtained by the Associated Press (AP), U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos condemned the “views of white nationalists, neo-Nazis and other racist bigots” during the Charlottesville protest as “totally abhorrent to the American ideal.”
AP reports DeVos sent an email letter to her staff Thursday after “facing criticism over her muted response to the violence in Charlottesville” on Saturday.
DeVos had tweeted she was “disgusted” by the hateful rhetoric demonstrated during the violent clash between white supremacists and radical leftwing protesters.
I'm disgusted by the behavior and hate-filled rhetoric displayed near the University of Virginia in #Charlottesville (1/2)
— Betsy DeVos (@BetsyDeVosED) August 12, 2017
It is every American's right to speak their mind, but there is no room for violence or hatred. (2/2)
— Betsy DeVos (@BetsyDeVosED) August 12, 2017
“President Donald Trump has also faced widespread criticism for blaming ‘both sides’ for the violence,” reports AP, which quotes from DeVos’s reported email:
“The views of white nationalists, neo-Nazis and other racist bigots are totally abhorrent to the American ideal. We all have a role to play in rejecting views that pit one group of people against another.”
“Such views are cowardly, hateful and just plain wrong,” she added.
DeVos stressed that the department’s mission was to “ensure all students have equal access to a safe, nurturing, quality learning environment free from discrimination or intimidation.”
“Violence and hate will never be the answer,” DeVos said. “We must engage, debate and educate.”
Politico reports that in her email letter to her staff, DeVos “distanced” herself “from the president – at least on the issue of race”:
In the memo, she condemned the views of white nationalists, neo-Nazis “and other racist bigots” as “totally abhorrent to the American ideal.” Colleges and universities have been ground zero in the emotional fights playing out around the country over issues of race, history and free speech. As those institutions and K-12 schools ramp up for the fall semester, many have been watching her response closely.
Others reportedly remarked as well that DeVos was providing “moral clarity,” when Trump did not.
“The moral clarity of her statement stands in stark contrast to the disheartening comments of the President, and I appreciate and applaud the obvious passion with which she has addressed the events of last weekend,” said Barmak Nassirian, director of federal relations and policy analysis with the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.
Kristen Amundson, president of the National Association of State Boards of Education, said DeVos struck the right tone, reports Politico. “It’s a clear and absolutely unambiguous statement.”
Similarly, Vanita Gupta, who headed the Obama-era education department’s Office for Civil Rights, said:
We call on DeVos to nominate a qualified individual to lead the Office for Civil Rights, robustly and systematically enforce our civil rights laws, and preserve guidance and regulations clarifying schools’ obligations and students’ right to be free from discrimination based on race, ethnicity, language status, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, and disability status.
According to AP, education department spokeswoman Liz Hill said DeVos’s email was an open letter, “but Hill would not directly address the question of why no separate public statement was issued.”
The Department of Education did not respond to Breitbart News’ request for comment about DeVos’s email to her staff.
During an interview with AP last week, DeVos said she regrets she did not more vehemently condemn racism in the country when dealing with issues concerning the nation’s historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) earlier this year.
“When I talked about it being a pioneer in choice it was because I acknowledge that racism was rampant and there were no choices,” DeVos said. “These HBCUs provided choices for black students that they didn’t have.”
The secretary’s comments come several months after she referred to HBCUs as “real pioneers when it comes to school choice,” a statement that led to a deluge of criticism from leftwing groups.
After her statement, these groups circulated an online petition demanding that HBCU Bethune-Cookman University (B-CU) rescind its invitation to DeVos to give its commencement address.
“Betsy DeVos doesn’t understand that HBCUs were created in response to the exclusion of African Americans from mainstream institutions,” said the petition. “Secretary DeVos has no understanding of the importance, contributions, and significance of HBCUs.”
“My intention was to say they were pioneering on behalf of students that didn’t have another choice. This was their only choice,” DeVos said during the AP interview. “At the same time I should have decried much more forcefully the ravages of racism in this country.”