Top Consumer Financial Protection Bureau official Eric Blankenstein apologized Monday for the “poor conduct” he’d shown by writing a series of controversial and racially tinged blog posts in 2004.
Written under a pseudonym, Blankenstein’s posts questioned the legitimacy of anti-hate policies and pondered whether use of the ‘n-word’ constitutes racism.
Despite some outrage from the left, Blankenstein has refused to resign, saying he’s “absolutely committed to carry out the bureau’s fair lending mandate.”
The posts garnered additional attention considering Blankenstein’s role within the CFPB. Tasked with overseeing the bureau’s enforcement taskforce, Blankenstein oversees complaints related to racial discrimination in lending and loans disbursement.
“Do I regret some of the things I wrote when I was 25…? Absolutely,” Blankenstein said in an e-mail. “The tone and framing of my statements reflected my poor judgment.”
“I have always rejected racism and sexism in the strongest terms possible,” he added.
While some of Blankenstein’s colleagues within the CFPB have called his character into question, the agency’s acting head, Mick Mulvaney, has refused to comment.
On Tuesday, the union for Consumer Financial Protection Bureau employees demanded that Blankenstein resign. A petition from the group, referencing his 2004 posts, called him “unfit for any leadership position in the federal government.”
The New York Times notes that other accounts have been tied back to Blankenstein. Racially-charged comments authored by an account bearing similarities to Blankenstein’s Twitter handle were found on a conservative blog ‘as recently as 2016.’
In those posts, Blankenstein opined that there was nothing ‘racist’ about conspiracy theories positing that former President Barack Obama was born in Kenya.
“There should be zero tolerance for comments that Blankenstein has admitted authoring and nothing else than swift and decisive action is called for,” National Treasury Employees Union President Anthony Reardon.
“The frontlines employees of the Bureau have always displayed dedication to America’s consumers and they deserve to have leadership that reflects and supports their work.”
Reardon also rejected Blankenstein’s defense, charging that what he wrote in 2004 runs “counter to the nation’s civil service principles” and is “particularly offensive for someone charged with leading the fair lending program.”
Blankenstein, reports The Hill, only joined the bureau in December. Within two months, Mulvaney placed him into a senior position—a position which The Hill says is intended to limit the CFPB’s ‘historically aggressive financial sector oversight,’ undercutting the influence of Obama-era employees.
Dismantling the CFPB has been an aim of the Trump administration. The president has called the bureau an unnecessary and burdensome bureaucracy, stifling economic growth and foisting a mess of regulations upon American industry.
“That someone with a history of racially derogatory and offensive comments has a leadership position at CFPB reflects poorly on CFPB management and your commitment to fulfilling the mandate of the agency,” wrote Reardon.