U.N. Human Rights Chief Criticizes Trump Over Trans, Media Comments

by Michael K. Lavers, Washington Blade

The United Nations' human rights chief on Wednesday criticized President Trump over his statements against transgender people and other minority groups.

The New York Times reported U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein told reporters during a press conference in Geneva that Trump's comments about Muslims and trans people, among others, are "grossly irresponsible."

"It emboldens those who think similarly to sharpen their assaults on these communities," said al-Hussein.

Al-Hussein spoke to reporters less than a week after Trump directed the Pentagon to implement a ban on trans servicemembers that he announced last month.

Australia, Bolivia, Canada and New Zealand are among the 18 countries that allow trans people to serve in their respective armed forces. Capt. Shachar Erez, who is the first trans officer in the Israel Defense Force, last month described Trump's decision to ban trans people from the U.S. military as "simply pure transphobic discrimination."

The New York Times on Wednesday reported al-Hussein also criticized Trump for his continued attacks against the U.S. media, referring specifically to comments that he made earlier this month at a Phoenix rally.

"It's really quite amazing when you think that freedom of the press, not only a cornerstone of the Constitution but very much something the United States defended over the years, is now itself under attack from the president himself," said al-Hussein, according to the New York Times. "It's a stunning turnaround."

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders in an email to the New York Times defended Trump's comments, while noting the administration believes "in a free press and think it is an important part of our democracy."

The president continues to face criticism over his response to a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., on Aug. 12 that left Heather Heyer dead and more than a dozen others injured.

The U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in an Aug. 16 press release condemned the rally. The panel of U.N. human rights experts later called upon the Trump administration and "high-level politicians and public officials to unequivocally and unconditionally reject and condemn racist hate speech in Charlottesville and throughout the country."

This article originally appeared in the Washington Blade and is made available in partnership with the National Gay Media Association.
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