Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, told CBS’ “Face the Nation” in a segment that aired April 18 that the United States must not “whitewash” its history of slavery if it hopes to speak authoritatively on human rights, while responding to criticism for earlier saying that the “original sin of slavery” weaved “white supremacy” into America’s founding.
“I was acknowledging what is a fact in the United States. Racism does exist in this country,” she said. “I think if we are going to be a voice around the globe for raising issues of human rights, we cannot whitewash our own issues in our own country,” she added.
Thomas-Greenfield sparked controversy when she told Al Sharpton’s National Action Network conference last week that white supremacy was to blame for to the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, and for continued discrimination against Muslims and Asian-Americans.
“I have personally experienced one of America’s greatest imperfections. I have seen for myself how the original sin of slavery weaved white supremacy into our founding documents and principles,” she told the conference.
The Wall Street Journal editorial board took issue with her comments, questioning her singular focus on the ills of slavery and racism while ignoring “American progress on race since the founding, such as the Civil War that ended slavery or the civil-rights movement.”
“Ms. Thomas-Greenfield seems to believe her job is to bring critical race theory to the world, with a special focus on criticizing her own country,” the editorial board wrote, noting that in her speech, Thomas-Greenfield worked in only a “passing reference to Burma’s treatment of the Rohingya and China’s ‘genocide’ of the Uighurs” and sought to draw a “moral equivalence” between the United States and known current human rights violators like Cuba, China, Russia, and Venezuela.
Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also weighed in on Thomas-Greenfield’s comments, saying the remarks are “reprehensible” and should disqualify her from representing American interests around the world.
“America is a noble place,” Pompeo told “The Cats Roundtable” on WABC 770 AM in an interview that aired Sunday. “I heard our ambassador to the United Nations this week talk about our founding as fundamentally corrupt and flawed and not noble and good. I couldn’t disagree more.”
Asked by “Face the Nation” host Margaret Brennan whether Thomas-Greenfield believes that America is “deluding” itself for thinking it can provide moral leadership to the world, the ambassador replied in the negative.
“No. I think we’re being tremendous leaders. Our country is not perfect, but we continue to perfect it. Those imperfections are part of our history and we have to talk about them,” Thomas-Greenfield said.
“It’s our strength that we can talk about our imperfections to the world and call out other nations for those same imperfections,” adding that her remarks were not meant as a criticism of the United States, but “an acknowledgement of our history.”
Asked whether her remarks at last week’s conference were meant to equivocate “bigotry in America to mass atrocities carried out against minorities around the world,” she replied in the negative.
“The purpose of that speech was to lay out our values, but also acknowledge our imperfections and acknowledge that we are moving forward,” Thomas-Greenfield said. “I don’t think you will see … a Chinese Uyghur getting on the national stage acknowledging China’s issues with human rights.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki was asked about Thomas-Greenfield’s comments at a press briefing Friday, with a reporter suggesting the ambassador was essentially “parroting Chinese Communist Party talking points,” and compared her remarks to a lecture given to Secretary of State Tony Blinken by CCP foreign affairs chief Yang Jiechi last month in Alaska.
Psaki defended Thomas-Greenfield’s comments, saying, “most people recognize the history of systemic racism in our country, and she was speaking to that,” while adding that President Joe Biden has no intention to remove her from her ambassadorial post.
“He is proud to have her in that position,” Psaki said. “She is not only qualified—he believes she is exactly the right person in that role at this moment in time.”