Trump diversity council in spotlight after Charlottesville remarks

Trump diversity council in spotlight after Charlottesville remarks
© Greg Nash

President Trump’s diversity council is sticking with him, despite criticism over his response to white nationalist protests in Charlottesville, Va.

Trump disbanded two business and manufacturing councils Wednesday after a slew of resignations of business leaders critical of the president's response, which looked to put blame for fatal violence on both white nationalists and counterprotesters. 

But Javier Palomarez, president of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC) and an advisor to the National Diversity Coalition for Trump, told MSNBC on Wednesday that he would stay on the diversity council. 

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"I will be staying on the council as of right now. This is not about serving a president, this is about serving the 4.2 million Hispanic-owned firms that collectively contribute over $668 billion to our American economy," said Palomarez.

Palomarez is among the most prominent participants in the diversity council, along with Coalition co-founders Pastor Darrell Scott and Trump lawyer Michael Cohen. 

Scott came to Trump's defense Tuesday in an MSNBC interview. 

"We have Ku Klux Klan rallies for the last umpteen years in different American states, every year, that don't get attention. They get this attention now because Trump is the president," said Scott.

But Palomarez has heavily criticized Trump and called for the firing of White House advisers Stephen Bannon and Stephen Miller, while arguing that he could better represent his constituents by engaging with the White House directly.

"A clear, unequivocal denunciation of white supremacy was the order of the day. The moment was upon the president — he failed it miserably," said Palomarez.  

The decision to stay turned up the heat on Palomarez, who took flak from Hispanic groups for agreeing to serve on the council in March. 

Luis Miranda, a former Democratic National Committee communications director, said "there is no moral justification" for remaining on the council "unless you side with Trump and believe there were good people marching alongside Nazis in Charlottesville." 

"In fact, the idea of Trump having a diversity council after spewing white supremacist ideology this week is absolutely ludicrous," he said.

A Republican political analyst who asked for anonymity in order to speak frankly said the diversity council was short on substance.

"The concept looks good on paper, but I haven't seen any results," the analyst said.

Critics on the left were more blunt.

"I honestly don't think they've done a damned thing, that's the problem," said Cristobal Alex, president of Latino Victory, a progressive advocacy organization that promotes Latino political participation 

"I don't know if they even meet. They're basically just doing window dressing and defending Trump, which is absurd," he said. 

Neither the White House nor the Diversity Coalition responded to multiple requests for comment on the group's activities.

Before they were disbanded, the business councils had also come gotten criticism over their lack of a clear purpose or results.

“They had a few meetings with a bunch of fanfare, but it was more symbolic than anything else,” Anat R. Admati, a professor of finance and economics at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, told The New York Times.

And news coverage of the Diversity Coalition has mostly centered around Palomarez's participation in it.

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That's partly because Palomarez was a staunch supporter of Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonRetired lieutenant general tears into Trump over attacks against Navy SEAL: 'Disgusting' Retired admiral who oversaw bin Laden raid doubles down on Trump criticism Trump dismisses criticism from Navy SEAL who led Osama bin Laden mission MORE in the 2016 campaign, going so far as to publicly call Trump a "payaso" — Spanish for “clown.”

In May, Latino Victory’s Alex penned an op-ed in the Huffington Post critical of Palomarez's appointment titled, "Who is the Payaso (Clown) now?"

"Time to act (pretend?) like you are a real leader, Javier. Resign. This is getting embarrassing," Alex wrote on Facebook on Wednesday.

Palomarez, who has long said minority groups are best served by dealing with the Trump administration, has started to show signs of doubt.

Asked if there had been internal debate as the USHCC about leaving the advisory role, Palomarez replied, "I'm debating it right now." 

"At some point, we may decide to step off. But right now, the focus is on getting back to business. Once again, business has taken a backseat to bigotry within this administration. We need to focus on the job at hand," he said.

Alex questioned how much Palomarez could accomplish within the Diversity Coalition, given the business councils' lack of success. 

"That's like the kids table. The adult table was the leading CEO’s in the country, and that's disbanded," said Alex.