WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump’s top economic adviser Gary Cohn said in an interview published on Friday that the administration needs to be more unequivocal in condemning hate groups, but added he was “reluctant” to quit over its response to a recent protest.
White supremacist and neo-Nazi activists clashed with anti-racism protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, earlier this month over a plan to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee, a Confederate general in the U.S. Civil War. A man thought to have neo-Nazi sympathies drove a car into a crowd of counterprotesters, killing one woman and injuring more than a dozen others.
Following the clashes, Trump said there had been violence on “both sides,” remarks that spurred condemnation by both Republican and Democratic politicians.
Cohn considered resigning over Trump’s response, the Financial Times newspaper reported, citing friends of the former Goldman Sachs president.
“I believe this administration can and must do better in consistently and unequivocally condemning these groups and do everything we can to heal the deep divisions that exist in our communities,” Cohn told the paper in his first public comments on the controversy.
Cohn, who is Jewish, said he felt “compelled to voice my distress over the events of the last two weeks” and had come under intense pressure to quit over Trump’s reaction to the incident but decided against it.
“As a patriotic American, I am reluctant to leave my post as director of the National Economic Council because I feel a duty to fulfill my commitment to work on behalf of the American people,” Cohn said.
Editing by David Alexander and Bernadette Baum