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Pompeo attacks multiculturalism, saying it is 'not who America is'

Posted January 19, 2021 4:04 p.m. EST

— With one day left in his tenure, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo took to his taxpayer-funded Twitter account and denounced multiculturalism, saying it is "not who America is."

"Woke-ism, multiculturalism, all the -isms — they're not who America is. They distort our glorious founding and what this country is all about. Our enemies stoke these divisions because they know they make us weaker," he wrote Tuesday.

But Pompeo himself, who is widely believed to have 2024 presidential ambitions, has stoked those very divisions with loaded rhetoric and dog whistles decrying "wokeness" and an American way of life "under attack" during protests against racial injustice and police brutality.

The secretary of state's assertion that "multiculturalism" is not part of the American ethos was swiftly denounced as a shocking and racist affront to the workforce he leads, the agency he represents and the values it is meant to espouse.

"Unconscionable," one diplomat said.

Another diplomat asked how this is supposed to make diplomats of color, or those of non-Christian backgrounds, feel.

Career diplomat Conrad Tribble said on Twitter that multiculturalism "is one of our greatest strengths as a country, and I go to that well often as an American diplomat. It's hard to overstate the global soft power impact of America's cultural diversity."

"We need to do a better job of representing that, not reject it," he said.

"This is a truly unfortunate and disturbing statement for the secretary of state to make at a time when the task ahead for this country it to pull all of the diverse sectors of our country together and become the 'United' States once more," said retired Amb. Charles Ray, who served 30 years in the foreign service and 20 in the US Army. "It also sends a troubling message to those countries struggling with interethnic strife and dictators who exploit the ethnic and cultural divisions within their societies."

The Association of Black American Ambassadors, where Ray serves as communications director, said in a statement Tuesday that "while it was disheartening to read outgoing Secretary of State Pompeo's tweet, we are pleased to note that Secretary-designate Blinken, in his statement for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has expressed his 'commitment to having a diplomatic corps that fully represents America in all our diversity ... who look like the country we represent.'"

'He is very clearly positioning himself'

Political strategists view Pompeo's tweet as part of a push in his final days to appeal to the Trump faction of the GOP, with the outgoing top US diplomat speaking to a very specific group of Republicans who still support President Donald Trump, his anti-immigrant policies and his attacks on the so-called "politically correct."

"He is very clearly positioning himself to be an inheritor of the Trump base. This is a message that precisely goes along with the things that the President has said," said GOP strategist Douglas Heye. "When I saw this tweet I thought, well, a lot of us hoped that this administration would have stood for conservatism, but that was all thrown out the window in favor of all things Trump."

The State Department did not respond when asked for an explanation of the tweet.

Pompeo has maintained close ties to Trump throughout a tenure marred by racist and anti-democratic actions and rhetoric. From Charlottesville to the "Muslim ban" to the siege on the Capitol, where rioters displayed White supremacist and anti-Semitic imagery, Pompeo has never accused the President of fanning the flames of dangerous division. Pompeo denounced the January 6 insurrection itself in a series of tweets, but did not acknowledge the ties between protesters' violent actions and Trump's incitement.

In one of his last public speeches as secretary of state, delivered to the Voice of America news service, he claimed that "censorship, wokeness, political correctness, it all points in one direction -- authoritarianism, cloaked as moral righteousness."

He has repeatedly attacked the "The 1619 Project," a Pulitzer Prize-winning initiative from The New York Times Magazine "that aims to reframe the country's history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of our national narrative."

Nikole Hannah-Jones, the creator of The 1619 Project, said Pompeo's tweet proved the thesis of the project.

"When you say that multiculturalism is 'not who America is' and 'distorts our glorious founding' you unwittingly confirm the argument of the 1619 Project: That though we were ... a multiracial nation from our founding, our founders set forth a government of white rule. Cool," she wrote on Twitter, also pointing out that the Trump administration tried to censor The 1619 Project. The Trump administration's racist rebuttal to The 1619 Project from the "1776 Commission" was released on Monday, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

In a July 2020 unveiling of a report from his "Commission on Unalienable Rights" that purported that "more rights does not necessarily mean more justice," Pompeo fanned flames of division stoked by Trump, warning that "the very core of what it means to be an American, indeed the American way of life itself, is under attack" amid nationwide protests for racial justice and against police brutality.

'His silence is deafening'

But on the underlying issue motivating those protests, Pompeo remained largely silent. Although he called the police killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, "abhorrent," he initially rebuffed suggestions from his staff that he address the department on the issue of racial inequality in the US or send messages of support and empathy to the department writ large.

"His silence is deafening," one diplomat told CNN at the time.

Nor did he condemn Trump's use of force to disperse peaceful protesters outside of the White House and when asked about the message it projected to the world, particularly to repressive regimes, Pompeo scoffed at the question.

"I think the question is so troubling, right," he said, claiming that the journalist had asked "the question assuming there is a moral equivalency between what takes place in these countries" and the United States. He also said the incident -- which current and former diplomats called "scary" and "heartbreaking" -- was an "incredible opportunity to tell this important story about how America confronts challenges inside its own country in a way that reflects the finest of what our founders would have hoped America could achieve."

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