Chao comes under fire after Trump’s Charlottesville response

Transportation Secretary Elaine ChaoElaine Lan ChaoTom Price's resignation shows importance of strong Cabinet Transportation Dept. grants Puerto Rico M for road, bridge repair Treasury probing K Mnuchin flight from New York to DC MORE is under fire after President Trump’s controversial response to the violence at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., last weekend.

A group of Asian-American organizations are criticizing Chao in a new petition saying she “stood by President Trump as he blamed both sides for the racist acts that took place in Charlottesville.”

The petition, which was spearheaded by the National Korean American Service and Education Consortium, urged Chao to be more vocally supportive of policies benefiting immigrant communities.

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“As Asian Americans, we call on Secretary Elaine Chao, an immigrant from Taiwan and woman of color, to be silent no more and stand by us as we fight to protect the [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals] and [Temporary Protected Status] programs,” reads the petition, referring to programs that shield undocumented immigrants from deportation.

“We believe Secretary Chao should make a public statement supporting fellow immigrants who rely on DACA and TPS to work, study, and dream of a better future, or that she resign from office," it continues.

Earlier in the week, the nonprofit Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect slammed Chao and Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinDeficit hawks voice worry over direction of tax plan GOP eyes limits on investor tax break Overnight Finance: White House requests B for disaster relief | Ex-Equifax chief grilled over stock sales | House panel approves B for border wall | Tax plan puts swing-state Republicans in tough spot MORE, who were both on hand for an infrastructure announcement at Trump Tower on Tuesday.

Trump gave an impromptu, wild press conference directly after his infrastructure remarks there. During the event, he defended his initial response to the events in Charlottesville and suggested that not all people attending the white supremacist rally that turned violent were bad.

A group of Mnuchin’s former Yale classmates called on him to resign from the job following the controversy.

“How could you stand there and listen to his hate?” the Anne Frank Center tweeted at Chao and Mnuchin. “Have the humanity to quit.”

The group, which is not officially associated with Anne Frank's relatives, is critical of Trump and has called for multiple White House dismissals. 

But a number of other groups — including the International Leadership Foundation and Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs — have rushed to defend Chao’s record on immigration issues and expressed their “complete and unequivocal support” for the veteran political player.

“Secretary Chao’s life and career are an inspiration to Asian-Americans throughout our country … Secretary Chao has fought for all immigrants, ” the groups said in a statement. “We proudly support Secretary Chao because she has always supported us and, through the years, served as a role model to all communities of color both here and throughout the world.”

And Chao herself explicitly condemned the racial violence during a press conference with reporters that followed Trump’s remarks.

“We are a country of tolerance," she said. "It is hateful behavior and it is not who we are as Americans."

This isn’t the first White House controversy to put Chao in a potentially uncomfortable position.

Last week, Trump publicly bashed her husband, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGun proposal picks up GOP support Children’s health-care bill faces new obstacles Dems see Trump as potential ally on gun reform MORE (R-Ky.), and even suggested that the senator should step down if he doesn’t pass major legislative agenda items.

But Chao has so far remained supportive of both Trump and McConnell amid the ongoing feud.

"I stand by my man — both of them,” Chao told reporters in New York City on Tuesday.