AILSA CHANG, HOST:
After the violence in Charlottesville, a member of President Trump's National Diversity Council says the White House should purge itself of those who disparage diversity, starting with the president's chief strategist, Steve Bannon. Javier Palomarez is president and CEO of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. He says Bannon's resignation is needed to maintain any credibility with minority communities after what he calls Trump's shallow, belated and feckless response to white supremacism and bigotry. Javier Palomarez joins us now. Thank you for being with us.
JAVIER PALOMAREZ: Thanks for having me, Ailsa.
CHANG: Now, during the presidential campaign, you were actually quite critical of Donald Trump, but you vowed you would work with the White House. Let's listen to what you said back then.
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PALOMAREZ: This man is now the president of the United States of America. And as an American, you got to shoulder the burden. And I did not anticipate being called upon, but I was. And so I'm going to do everything I can to help.
CHANG: Doing everything you can to help - so given the past few days, do you think you will stay on the president's National Diversity Council?
PALOMAREZ: You know, I think at this point, my role and the people that I serve are focused on where we go from here in terms of immigration reform, health care reform, tax reform. You know, this isn't about serving a president. It's about serving the American people. It's about serving my constituency of American job creators and taxpayers.
CHANG: So you will indeed stay? But how can you stay with a president who you seem to think is just exacerbating racial tensions?
PALOMAREZ: Well, I think...
CHANG: How can you work with him?
PALOMAREZ: Well, I think one of the things that needs to happen immediately is the termination of Steve Bannon. You know, Steve Bannon is anti everything my association stands for. He is anti-globalization, not realizing that 95 percent of the global market exists outside of the U.S., and our businesses must compete on the global marketplace. He is anti-immigrant, not realizing that 42 percent of the Fortune 500 companies were started by immigrants, and immigrants are part - an integral part of the backbone of the American economy.
Right now, 1 in 10 American workers is employed by an immigrant-owned company. He is anti-free-trade, not realizing that 98 percent of the U.S. companies that actually engage in free trade are actually small and medium-sized companies. This guy is anti everything my association stands for.
CHANG: But what is...
PALOMAREZ: This guy's got to go.
CHANG: But what if Steve Bannon does not go? What if President Trump refuses to let him go?
PALOMAREZ: Well, it shows, once again, where President Trump's head and heart is if he doesn't recognize that the nexus of this kind of rhetoric, this kind of ideology, is literally right down the hall from him. You know, a sure sign that he gets it, that he is remorseful, that he understands the criticality of his situation is getting rid of Steve Bannon.
CHANG: You place a lot of blame on Bannon. But what about the president? Why not lay the blame squarely on President Trump?
PALOMAREZ: You know, bottom line, the president is responsible for what has transpired here. He is the commander in chief. He needs to denounce white supremacy without equivocation and without reservation. You know, a forced and feckless, you know, condemnation didn't fool anybody. This is his issue. And these are the moments that define a presidency and that will define this president.
At times like this, our nation calls for an immediate and heartfelt response. There is no ambiguity here. You know, maintaining the moral authority of the presidency has got to be his top priority.
CHANG: And what does that mean - maintaining the moral authority? If - beyond dismissing Steve Bannon, what else do you want to see President Trump do to win back your confidence?
PALOMAREZ: I think he needs to start getting back on the trail and focusing on what, you know, the American people put him there to do. I had at least one hope, that as a businessman, he might be able to help the business community - the American small business community...
PALOMAREZ: ...That's paying the tax bill, that's creating, you know, 66 percent of the new jobs in this country. It's time for him to focus on the job at hand...
CHANG: All right.
PALOMAREZ: ...And quit pandering to bigotry.
CHANG: Javier Palomarez is the president and CEO of the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Thanks for speaking with us.
PALOMAREZ: Thanks for having me.
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