President Donald Trump on Friday night banned federal agencies from conducting racial sensitivity training related to “white privilege” and “critical race theory” that his administration says amounts to “divisive, anti-American propaganda,” the latest overture to his political base two months before the presidential election.
Citing “press reports,” Russell Vought, director of the Office of Management and Budget, decried the “millions of taxpayer dollars” spent on such programs “across the Executive Branch” in a two-page memo.
Vought directed federal agencies to identify contracts and agency spending related to training programs that suggest the US “is an inherently racist or evil country” or “that any race or ethnicity is inherently racist or evil.” He urged agencies to seek out legal courses of action “to cancel any such contracts and/or to divert Federal dollars away from these unAmerican propaganda training sessions.”
It’s unclear to what extent such trainings exist, or if, as the memo purports, they instruct participants that “virtually all White people contribute to racism.” But, like Trump’s threat this week to yank federal funding from cities in blue states that he says are permitting unrest in the streets, Friday’s memo provides another talking point for his reelection campaign as it seeks to highlight culture war issues.
Trump eagerly promoted the move Saturday, retweeting posts praising the memo that went to federal agencies demanding they alter racial sensitivity training programs for federal workers.
“This is a sickness that cannot be allowed to continue,” Trump told his Twitter followers. “Please report any sightings so we can quickly extinguish!”
Such trainings “not only run counter to the fundamental beliefs for which our Nation has stood since its inception, but they also engender division and resentment within the Federal workforce,” Vought wrote, adding that “we cannot accept our employees receiving training that seeks to undercut our core values as Americans and drive division within our workforce.”
Vought pointed to an order from Trump as the source for directing federal agency heads to stop using federal funds for such training, promising additional details to come.
As Trump has lagged in the polls behind Democratic nominee Joe Biden, he has sought to draw a contrast with his opponent on a host of sensitive issues. In recent weeks, Trump has vowed to protect monuments, including those dedicated to Confederate figures, declared himself “your President of law and order” in response to unrest following police killings of Black Americans and called the phrase “Black Lives Matter” a “symbol of hate.”
Trump earlier this week said he doesn’t believe that systemic racism exists in the United States.
This story has been updated with additional background information and Trump’s Saturday morning tweets.
CNN’s Kevin Liptak and Veronica Stracqualursi contributed to this report.