Mulvaney’s Handpicked CFPB Fair Lending Chief Said Just Last Week His Only Misstep Appeared to Be “Governing While Conservative,” an Apparent Appropriation of the Phrase “Driving While Black”
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Following reports that Mick Mulvaney’s handpicked CFPB fair lending division chief Eric Blankenstein has apologized for “the tone and framing” of his racist, sexist, and politically toxic blog posts, Allied Progress released the following reality check and statement.
“Eric Blankenstein’s apology is about survival, not remorse. There is no better ‘tone’ for racism. There is no way to better ‘frame’ for racism. Just last week he defended his abhorrent views saying he was being attacked for ‘governing while conservative,’ an apparent appropriation of the phrase ‘driving while black,’ which has been used to describe the fear many African Americans feel when they are pulled over by police. He also used a black woman with a distinguished career at the CFPB for political cover without telling her exactly what he had written. This is not a man that deserves a second chance. It is long past time for Mick Mulvaney to show him the door,” said Karl Frisch, executive director of Allied Progress.
RHETORIC: Eric Blankenstein Says He’s Sorry For “The Tone And Framing” Of His Racist and Sexist Blog Posts, Blaming Immaturity And “Poor Judgment.”
- Eric Blankenstein Emailed CFPB Staff To Apologize For “The Tone And Framing” Of His Racist and Sexist blog posts, Saying He’d Exercised “Poor Judgment In [His] Choice Of Words. On Monday, October 1, 2018 Eric Blankenstein “addressed the growing controversy over his 14-year-old anonymous screeds in a Monday email to bureau employees obtained by The Hill. Blankenstein, who oversees the CFPB’s efforts to combat racial discrimination, asked bureau colleagues to judge him for his work enforcing fair lending laws at the agency, not blog posts he wrote as a 25-year-old college student. ‘The tone and framing of my statements reflected poor judgement,’ Blankenstein wrote. ‘But poor judgement in my choice of words back then, or how I framed my arguments, does not make me a racist or a sexist.’” [Sylvan Lane, “Consumer bureau official says he regrets blog posts dismissing racism,” The Hill, 10/01/18]
- Blankenstein Said That While His “25 Year Old Self” May Not Have Been Ready To Lead; He Felt Better About His Current Abilities. Blankenstein “said that he was committed to the CFPB’s mandate to enforce fair lending laws and touted several legal actions he initiated as proof. He said that while his ’25 year old self was not ready to have a leadership position at the bureau,’ he hoped the 14 years since ‘have better prepared me for this role.’ ‘If anyone has doubts or concerns about my ability to lead’ the bureau’s supervision, enforcement and fair lending division, ‘I hope they would afford me the opportunity to address those directly.'” [Sylvan Lane, “Consumer bureau official says he regrets blog posts dismissing racism,”The Hill, 10/01/18]
REALITY: Just Last Week Blankenstein Said His Only Misstep Appeared To Be “Governing While Conservative,” an Apparent Appropriation of the Phrase “Driving While Black”
- Last Week Blankenstein Refused To Apologize For His Rhetoric And Said His Only Misstep Appeared To Be “Governing While Conservative.” “In a statement, Blankenstein acknowledged that he had written the posts but said they have no bearing on his work today. ‘The insight to be gained about how I perform my job today – by reading snippets of 14 year old blog posts that have nothing to do with consumer protection law — is exactly zero,’ he said. ‘Any attempt to do so is a naked exercise in bad faith, and represents another nail in the coffin of civil discourse and the ability to reasonably disagree over questions of law and policy,’ he said. ‘The need to dig up statements I wrote as a 25 year old shows that in the eyes of my critics I am not guilty of a legal infraction or neglect of my duties, but rather just governing while conservative.’” [Robert O’Harrow, Shawn Boburg, and Renae Merle, “Trump anti-discrimination official once called most hate crimes hoaxes,” The Washington Post, 09/26/18]
- ESPN’s The Undefeated covered “Wrenching stories of humiliation and even death for ‘driving while black.’” In March, the ESPN digital property “teamed up with National Geographic to ask people across the U.S. what it’s like to be racially profiled during a traffic stop, and the ripple effect such incidents can have on families and communities.” [The Undefeated, “The Stop: Wrenching stories of humiliation and even death for ‘driving while black,’” 03/28/18]
REALITY: Another Top CFPB Fair Lending Official Said She’d Had Experiences With Blankenstein That She Found “Alarming In Light Of The Content Of His Blog Posts.”
- Patrice Ficklin, Director of the CFPB’s Office Of Fair Lending, Says She’s Had “Experiences That Have Raised Concerns That Are Now Quite Alarming In Light Of The Content Of [Blankenstein’s] Blog Posts.” “‘…while he has been collegial, thoughtful and meticulous, I have had experiences that have raised concerns that are now quite alarming in light of the content of his blog posts — experiences that call into question Eric’s ability and intent to carry out his and his Acting Director’s repeated yet unsubstantiated commitment to a continued strong fair lending program under governing legal precedent,’ [CFPB Office of Fair Lending Director Patrice Ficklin] wrote.” [Robert O’Harrow Jr., Renae Merle, and Shawn Boburg, “Trump anti-discrimination official faces rebellion at agency over racially tinged blog posts,” The Washington Post, 09/28/18]
REALITY: Mulvaney’s CFPB Has Been Hostile To Fair Lending Since Day One.
- Mulvaney Stripped The CFPB’s Office Of Fair Lending And Equal Opportunity Of Its Enforcement Power. In February 2018, Mulvaney stripped enforcement powers from the CFPB’s Office of Fair Lending and Equal Opportunity, which consumer advocates argued will weaken or even dismantle the office responsible for lending discrimination issues. The office is now more directly under Mulvaney’s supervision. [Renae Merle, “Trump administration strips consumer watchdog office of enforcement powers in lending discrimination cases,” The Washington Post, 02/01/18; Makada Henry-Nickie, “On fair lending, Mulvaney’s actions at CFPB speak louder than his words,” Brookings Institution, 04/12/18; Hannah Levintova, “The Trump Administration Just Made it Easier for Banks to Screw Over Minority Borrowers,” Mother Jones, 02/02/18]
- Mulvaney Proposed Reviewing The CFPB’s Use Of Disparate Impact Theory, Undermining CFPB Enforcement. In May 2018, Mulvaney proposed that the CFPB review enforcement of fair lending law under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act. Mulvaney proposed reviewing its use of disparate impact theory in fair lending cases, which would threaten one of the CFPB’s most powerful enforcement tools.[Evan Weinberger, “CFPB to Review Use of Disparate Impact in Fair Lending Cases,” Bloomberg BNA, 05/21/18]
- Mulvaney’s CFPB Reconsidered A Rule On Home Mortgages, Making Discrimination Easier In Home Lending. In December 2017, Mulvaney’s CFPB announced it would “reconsider various aspects” of new Home Mortgage Disclosure data reporting requirements designed to “identify… potential discriminatory lending practices in the marketplace.” Critics cautioned this could “make it more difficult to identify discrimination in home lending.” [Kate Berry, “CFPB’s Mulvaney plots HMDA rollback, but it may not matter,” American Banker, 05/25/18; “Home Mortgage Disclosure Act,” Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council, accessed 02/01/17; Final Rule, Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (Regulation C), Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, accessed 02/01/18; “Statement with respect to HMDA implementation,” Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, 12/21/17]
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