A Trump administration appointee reportedly blasted standard United Nations (U.N.) documents that denounce racism, calling them a threat to democracy.
Andrew Veprek, the State Department's deputy assistant secretary for refugees and migration, questioned the notion that state leaders have a "duty" to condemn hate speech while rejecting terms like nationalism, xenophobia and populism, CNN reports.
"The drafters say 'populism and nationalism' as if these are dirty words," Veprek wrote in documents obtained by the network. "There are millions of Americans who likely would describe themselves as adhering to these concepts. (Maybe even the President.). So are we looking to here condemn our fellow-citizens, those who pay our salaries?"
In proposed amendments to a U.N. Human Rights Council resolution, Veprek, who was a foreign service officer before his appointment to a senior position, pushed for scaling back resolution language condemning racism, CNN reported.
The resolution, "The Incompatibility between Democracy and Racism," is generally not controversial and is adopted every several years without a vote.
" 'Duty to condemn' goes too far. Our public figures can't be obliged to police every intolerant thought out their [sic] at the risk of being condemned for intolerance themselves," he wrote in response to a section saying that leaders have a duty to speak out against hate speech.
At other points in the document, Veprek critiques the term “xenophobia” because of "the malleability of the term now and in the future."
"[W]hat real or perceived offense is next to be considered 'xenophobic?' " he wrote. "How does that square with our historic respect for the right of free expression? The drafters need to focus on behavior and actions - which states can control - rather than attitudes and states of mind."
CNN reported that it was unclear if the official had authority within the department to make changes to the document. Shortly after Veprek proposed the changes, the Trump administration announced that it was leaving the Human Rights Council.
A State Department spokesperson told CNN that the agency doesn't comment on "leaked, alleged documents or internal deliberative material" but the network noted that the department did not deny that the documents existed.
Democrats had expressed concern about Veprek’s appointment, sending a letter to Secretary of State Mike PompeoMike PompeoSunday shows preview: US reaffirms support for Ukraine amid threat of Russian invasion Pence to deliver keynote at fundraising banquet for South Carolina-based pregnancy center Russia suggests military deployments to Cuba, Venezuela an option MORE in May. In their letter, they wrote that Veprek’s appointment was "the equivalent of placing a lieutenant colonel into a one-star general position."