WASHINGTON (JTA) — David Shulkin, the secretary of veterans affairs, became the first Jewish member of the Trump administration after President Donald Trump’s daughter to speak out about the white supremacists and neo-Nazis who marched in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Shulkin, speaking Wednesday at Trump’s golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey, told reporters that he was “giving my personal opinions as an American and as a Jewish American,” according to The New York Times. “And for me in particular, I think in learning history, that we know that staying silent on these issues is simply not acceptable.”
The Washington Post quoted Shulkin as saying it is “a dishonor to our country’s veterans for the Nazis and the white supremacists to go unchallenged, and that we all have to speak up about this as Americans.”
Shulkin did not condemn the president, who on Tuesday said there were “very fine people on both sides” in Charlottesville, where white supremacists and counterprotesters clashed on Saturday. An alleged white supremacist plowed his car into a crowd of counterprotesters, killing a 32-year-old woman, Heather Heyer, and injuring at least 19.
The Post quoted Shulkin as saying that Trump had done a “good job” of denouncing bigotry in the wake of the Charlottesville events.
Trump has repeatedly said that the protesters and the counterprotesters were both to blame for violence during the events last Friday and Saturday. During Friday nights torchlit march and Saturday’s aborted rally, several marchers carried Nazi flags, and at times shouted anti-Semitic and racist slogans.
Trump’s daughter Ivanka, an unpaid senior adviser to her father, condemned the march on Sunday, tweeting, “There should be no place in society for racism, white supremacy and neo-nazis.”
Two Jewish members of the administration who shared the stage with the president during the Tuesday news conference have not publicly expressed their views about Trump’s remarks.
Gary Cohn, the director of the president’s National Economic Council, was said to be “disgusted” and “deeply upset” by the remarks, sources told The New York Times, but has not commented publicly.
Steven Mnuchin, the secretary of the Treasury, has not said anything publicly about the president’s remarks. Nor has Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, who also is Jewish.
Shulkin’s remarks come as virtually entire the senior U.S. military brass, in extraordinary statements, condemned the white supremacists in Charlottesville. The latest to do so was the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joe Dunford.
“I have been traveling, so I’ve been following in bits and pieces what’s been happening in Charlottesville and very saddened by the events there and the loss of life of the young lady who was hit by a vehicle,” he said, according to Department of Defense News. “I can absolutely and unambiguously tell you there is no place — no place — for racism and bigotry in the U.S. military or in the United States as a whole.”
Dunford spoke after chiefs of the Army, the Air Force, the Navy, the Marines and the National Guard Bureau posted similar statements on social media.
“They were speaking directly to the force and to the American people: to the force to make clear that that kind of racism and bigotry is not going to stand inside the force,” Dunford said. “And to the American people, to remind them of the values for which we stand in the U.S. military, which are reflective of the values of the United States.”