Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared that the American way of life is “under attack” and accused the New York Times of promoting “Marxist” ideology with its controversial "1619 Project" in a speech on Thursday.
Pompeo made the remarks as he unveiled a new draft report by the Commission on Unalienable Rights. He said that while America had sometimes strayed from its founding principles, those very principles gave it a standard to judge its failings and a political framework to move towards equality. He cited examples such as Brown vs Board of Education and the leadership of Martin Luther King Jr.
“Yet today the very core of what it means to be an American, indeed the American way of life itself, under attack,” Pompeo said. “Instead of seeking to improve America, too many leading voices promulgate hatred of our founding principles.”
Pompeo was referring to some of the protests and riots that have taken place since the death of George Floyd. Those protests have led to a number of groups calling for statues and monuments of figures in America’s history -- including Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson and others -- to be removed.
He also called out the New York Times’ “1619 Project.” According to the Times, it “aims to reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of our national narrative.”
“The New York Times’ 1619 project, so named for the year the first slaves were transported to America, wants you to believe that our county was founded for human bondage, they want you to believe that America’s institutions continue to reflect the country’s acceptance of slavery at our founding, they want you to believe the Marxist ideology that America is only the oppressors and the oppressed,” he said.
“The Chinese Communist Party must be gleeful when they see the New York Times spout this ideology,” he said.
He went on to say that those who are pulling down statues and desecrating monuments have a “dark vision of America’s birth.”
“I reject it, it's a disturbed reading of America’s history, it is a slander of our great people, nothing could be further from the truth of our finding,” he said.
He spoke at the issuing of the report by the Commission on Unalienable Rights -- set up last year and composed of academics, philosophers, activists, Republicans, Democrats and independents.
The commission is chaired by Harvard Law School professor and former U.S. ambassador to the Holy See Mary Ann Glendon. It was set up to review the role of human rights in American foreign policy.
The State Department said last year that the commission was not created to outline new principles or to make policy, but to ground policy in existing principles. The commission came amid concerns from some conservatives that talk of rights has focused less on fundamental rights, like those set out in the Declaration of Independence, and more about certain economic or social rights.
This, in turn, has been taken advantage of by countries like Russia, Iran and China who some claim have used that to lead bodies like the U.N. astray. The U.S. left the U.N. Human Rights Council in 2018 over concerns about its membership -- which includes a number of countries with abysmal human rights records.
“Some countries, while not rejecting those principles outright, dispute that internationally recognized human rights are “universal, indivisible and interdependent and international institutions and overuse of rights language with a dampening effect on compromise and democratic decision-making,” the report says.
It also notes that there have been efforts in the past by foreign actors with poor human rights records to use discord within the U.S. to undermine the cause of unalienable rights.
“Just as the Soviet Union did in 1948, China, Iran, and Russia have been quick to charge that our country’s domestic failures destroy its standing to defend universal human rights today,” the report says. “There can be no moral equivalence, however, between rights-respecting countries that fall short in progress toward their ideals, and countries that regularly and massively trample on their citizens’ human rights.”
But certain human rights groups have accused the commission of undermining international efforts for human rights and expressed concern that a focus on religious liberty could be used “as a cloak” to attack human rights.
“From day one, the Trump-Pence administration has been retreating from and undermining the global framework for human rights established in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948,” Human Rights Campaign Government Affairs Director David Stacy said in a statement. “As was clear from the start, Secretary Pompeo’s Commission on Unalienable Rights was designed to challenge the international consensus with a narrow view of human rights, that among other things would leave LGBTQ people even more vulnerable to violence and discrimination.”
Fox News’ Rich Edson contributed to this report.