Consumer bureau official says he regrets blog posts dismissing racism

Consumer bureau official says he regrets blog posts dismissing racism
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A top Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) official under fire for inflammatory blog posts he wrote in 2004 told colleagues Monday that he regrets those writings and has matured since he dismissed most hate crimes as hoaxes and questioned if using the “n-word” was racist.

CFPB policy director for supervision, enforcement and fair lending Eric Blankenstein addressed the growing controversy over his 14-year-old anonymous screeds in a Monday email to bureau employees obtained by The Hill.

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Blankenstein, who oversees the CFPB’s efforts to combat racial discrimination, asked bureau colleagues to judge him for his work enforcing fair lending laws at the agency, not blog posts he wrote as a 25-year-old college student.

“The tone and framing of my statements reflected poor judgement,” Blankenstein wrote. “But poor judgement in my choice of words back then, or how I framed my arguments, does not make me a racist or a sexist.”

Blankenstein joined the bureau in December and took on his current position in February, hired by the agency's acting Director Mick MulvaneyMick MulvaneySupreme Court ruling could unleash new legal challenges to consumer bureau Bottom line White House goes through dizzying change in staff MORE to help rein in the agency’s historically aggressive oversight of the financial sector. He was among several officials hired by Mulvaney, who is also the White House budget director, meant to curb the influence of Obama-era CFPB veterans.

The Washington Post on Wednesday reported that Blankenstein co-authored an anonymous blog with a college friend in which he questioned whether every use of the “n-word” was inherently racist and the legitimacy of reported hate crimes.

The report set off a firestorm within the CFPB, pitting the bureau’s veterans against Trump-era hires who’ve feuded over the agency’s mission.

Patrice Ficklin, director of the CFPB’s fair lending office, wrote in an email to agency employees Friday that she has asked Mulvaney to halt a reorganization of her office due to the posts. The revamp would give Blankenstein sole control over racial discrimination cases and strip the fair lending office of its enforcement power.

Blankstein on Monday said that he was committed to the CFPB’s mandate to enforce fair lending laws and touted several legal actions he initiated as proof. He said that while his “25 year old self was not ready to have a leadership position at the bureau,”  he hoped the 14 years since “have better prepared me for this role.”

“If anyone has doubts or concerns about my ability to lead” the bureau’s supervision, enforcement and fair lending division, “I hope they would afford me the opportunity to address those directly.”

The email from Ficklin, a senior Obama-era CFPB official, spurred a chorus of opposition to the reorganization and Blankenstein’s oversight of the bureau’s racial discrimination cases.

Blankenstein’s Monday email was sent almost simultaneously with a message from Kirsten Sutton, chief of staff to Mulvaney, touting the bureau’s respect for “diversity in viewpoints, backgrounds, and walks of life.”

“I want to remind everyone that we have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to discrimination, harassment and retaliation,” Sutton wrote. The email did not name Blankenstein or address specifics about the controversy over blog posts.