New White House Officials Face Backlash From Leaders and Civil Rights Groups
By: Alena Khan/Arab America Contributing Writer
Recently it has been confirmed that there are two new additions to the Trump Administration. First, the National Security Council made an official announcement introducing former CIA analyst Fred Fleitz as the new Chief of Staff for the National Security Council. Then just this past week, a divided Senate voted to confirm President Trump’s nomination, Kenneth Marcus as the Assistant Secretary of Civil Rights for Education. Since the confirmations, both appointees have faced some criticism. Fleitz, for some anti-Muslim comments that have been made public, while Marcus faces criticism for his more controversial and conservative views. Several civil rights groups and leaders have voiced their concerns about the new additions to the Trump Administration.
Why should we be concerned?
Well, first off, Fleitz was appointed by National Security Advisor John Bolton, who along with State Department Secretary Mike Pompeo has also drawn criticism for their anti-Muslim views. Fleitz was also a leader of the “anti-Muslim and conspiracy-obsessed hate group” Center for Security Policy. Fleitz has made his concerns about Muslims clear in an interview with Breitbart News last year. “…I will tell you that there are enclaves of Muslim communities in Michigan and Minnesota that concern me,” Fleitz says. “The problem with these Muslim communities is that it is making them susceptible to this radical worldview that wants to destroy modern society, create a global caliphate, and impose sharia law on everyone on Earth.”
Marcus, however, has raised concerns ever since his nomination was announced earlier this year. He fails to meet the standard of showing an equal application of civil rights protections without any bias towards people of different race, gender, or sex. Marcus is known to have consistently opposed affirmative action, weakened the protections of equal education, and undermined the protection of LGBTQ individuals in schools. According to Palestine Legal, there is a record of Marcus’ anti-free speech and anti-civil rights actions. He has a history of targeting our protected right of free speech and has even harassed those who disagree with him. He’s pushed for the defunding of Middle East Studies programs, dismantled any action towards anti-racial discrimination, made baseless Title VI complaints, and limited groups rights to the political expression on college campuses. His actions show that his positions have “repeatedly been fundamentally anti-civil rights.”
Fleitz’s anti-Muslim remarks and Marcus’ anti-civil rights actions have become more concerning as they are now in top government positions. As part of the National Security Council, and the Department of Education, Fleitz and Marcus will be part of the White House and will be in the position to act as Trump’s forum for advisement on anything foreign affairs, security, civil rights and education related.
Many groups including the Arab American Institute, Muslim Advocates, Southern Poverty Law Center, and Jewish Voice for Peace have released their own statements in response to Fleitz and Marcus’ confirmation.
Scott Simpson writer for Muslim Advocates expresses his thoughts towards Fleitz saying that “The appointment of Fred Fleitz speaks volumes about the administration’s prioritization of fear-mongering and racism over actual national security issues.” He adds that “The administration’s policies continue to discriminate against Muslims, immigrants, people of color, women, people with disabilities, and the LGBTQ community. The Fleitz appointment will only make matters worse for all.”
Leaders from Michigan have voiced their concerns as well. US Congresswoman Debbie Dingell released a statement slamming Fleitz’s anti-Muslim comments:
“I am deeply concerned about comments reported to have been made by the newly appointed Chief of Staff to the White House National Security Council…In Michigan and across the country, Muslim-Americans are doctors, lawyers, teachers, community leaders and some of the most patriotic Americans I know…Racism and bigotry have no place in our politics, and especially not in the White House. We must not allow fear and hatred to divide us, and irresponsible statements like this to make us less safe. Freedom of religion is a fundamental pillar of our democracy and we must stand together as Americans to protect the values and ideals that make this nation great.”
In addition, Maya Berry, executive director of the Arab American Institute issued statements on both additions to the administration. Berry says that she is “tremendously concerned” about Fleitz’s new and powerful position. “It’s hate and its bigotry and it has real consequences. These are people who are going to make decisions…we pay their salaries as taxpayers.”
In response to Marcus’ confirmation, Berry voices her concerns for having someone who so openly opposes basic civil rights issues, as head of the Office of Civil Rights at the Department of Education. “Both Marcus’ track record and testimony betray a history that places politics over civil rights at the expense of America’s students,” Berry says. “The Senate vote confirming Mr. Marcus means the very office that must uphold civil rights will take a backseat in protecting the rights of some students…including LGBTQ students, victims of hate, supporters of Palestinian rights…instead of protecting them, Marcus’ record suggests he is more likely to violate their civil rights.”
Jewish Voice for Peace has also issued a statement about Marcus’ confirmation, saying that he is “vastly unqualified” for this position. Manager of Government Affairs at JVP, Rabbi Joseph Berman adds that “Marcus is ideologically aligned with President Trump, on issues of sexual assault, racial justice, and Palestinian rights.”
Kenneth Marcus has yet to make any sort of statement upon his confirmation, or in response to the criticism he faces. On the other hand, Fred Fleitz he has announced on his website that he is “not doing any media interviews at this time.” However, a spokesman for the National Security Council made a comment in Fleitz’s defense, stating that attacking Fred Fleitz as an “Islamophobe” is another attempt to paint the Trump Administration as anti-Muslim. “Fleitz does not believe that Muslims are trying to take over the US or infiltrate the US government. He views prejudice and discrimination against any religion as deeply offensive.”
As our political environment has seen a dramatic increase in discrimination against Muslims, Arabs, Semitics, women, the LGBTQ community and more, it’s imperative that our government is run by people who without any bias are able to equally serve all people. With officials like John Bolton, Mike Pompeo, and now the additions of Fred Fleitz and Kenneth Marcus, who all have a history of some sort of discrimination, it really puts the Trump Administration in question. We must ask, are these the kind of people we want making major decisions and advising the President?