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Top CFPB official regrets racist comments that caused agency uproar

Eric Blankenstein says he’s committed to his job, despite calls for his dismissal

An official at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is working hard to taper the backlash he endured last week when racially insensitive blog posts emerged from his past.  

CFPB Policy Director Eric Blankenstein sent an agency-wide email to his colleagues on Monday expressing regret for his “poor judgment” and word choice, according to an article in The Wall Street Journal.

“Do I regret some of the things I wrote when I was 25 – relatively fresh out of college and not yet even thinking about applying to law school – that I wouldn’t write today? Absolutely,” Blankenstein wrote. “I recognize that many of you had a visceral, negative reaction to reading what I wrote in some of my old blog posts. I did too.”

The saga started last week when The Washington Post published an article about Blankenstein’s 2004 blog posts expressing controversial views on hate crimes and the n-word.

Writing under an assumed name, Blankenstein questioned whether the n-word was inherently racist and claimed that the great majority of hate crimes were actually hoaxes.

In one post, Blankenstein refuted a proposal at the University of Virginia that called for harsher academic penalties for intolerant acts, calling it “racial idiocy.”

“Fine… let’s say they called him n—–,” he wrote. “Would that make them racists, or just a——-?” 

He then asserted that “hate-crime hoaxes are about three times as prevalent as actual hate crimes.”  

Blankenstein was appointed by Trump to the CFPB and, as one of the highest-paid employees in the government, is responsible for supervising lenders and enforcing laws that include protecting minorities from discriminatory practices and promoting fair lending.

Blankenstein’s posts drew the ire of his colleagues at the agency.

Patrice Ficklin, a career staffer and director of the Office of Fair Lending and Equal Opportunity, sent an email Friday to hundreds of CFPB employees condemning Blankenstein’s posts and questioning his ability to perform his job.

“The tone and framing are deeply disturbing to me as a woman, African American, advocate for LGBTQ rights, and human being,” Ficklin wrote.

“And 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,” Ficklin wrote.

Employees rallied around Fricklin, according to The Post, with dozens sending company-wide emails issuing their support for her sentiments regarding Blankenstein.

CFPB staffers are not the only ones speaking out against him.

When news of the blog posts were published last week, Sens. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., called for his termination.

“Eric Blankenstein has done everything he can to keep the CFPB from doing its job, gutting the Office of Fair Lending and failing to file a single anti-discrimination lawsuit since he arrived at the agency in December,” Warren said in a statement. “Now we know why – Blankenstein must be fired.”

In response to the backlash, Blankenstein condemned his language as “intentionally provocative” and insisted that he is “absolutely committed to carrying out the bureau’s fair lending mandate.”

“I have never used and will never use a racial epithet to describe anyone," he wrote. "Poor judgment in my choice of words back then, or how I framed my arguments, does not make me a racist or a sexist, and I have always rejected racism and sexism in the strongest terms possible.”



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