Carl Higbie, appointed by President Donald Trump to direct external affairs for the federal government’s volunteer service organizations, resigned from his post on Thursday after a number of racist, sexist, anti-LGBTQ, and other offensive statements made in the last five years were brought to public attention.
Higbie worked as a Trump surrogate during the 2016 presidential campaign, and often spoke on behalf of a pro-Trump political action committee in the conservative press. He had been appointed to lead external affairs for the Corporation for National and Community Service last summer. According to its website, the agency “helps millions of Americans improve the lives of their fellow citizens through service” by overseeing programs like AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, and the Social Innovation Fund.
On Thursday, CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski reported that Higbie made a series of offensive statements during various radio appearances since 2013, with many of his comments squarely aimed at African Americans, women, military vets with PTSD, Muslims, immigrants, and those who have used public assistance. In a 2015 appearance on “Where’s Obama’s Birth Certificate” radio, Higbie openly questioned the authenticity of former President Barack Obama’s birth certificate, picking up on the birther arguments seeded by Donald Trump years before his presidential campaign.
During the December 2013 episode of his Internet talk show, Sound of Freedom, Higbie argued that “the black race” had “lax” morals while recounting an experience giving away firewood.
“Only one person was actually cordial to me,” Higbie said, according to CNN. “Every other black person was rude. They wanted me to either load the wood, completely split it for them or some sort of you know assistance in labor. Now, mind you the ad was for free firewood, come take it all you want. And I believe that this translates directly into the culture that is breeding this welfare and the high percentage of people on welfare in the black race. It’s a lax of morality.”
During that same episode, Higbie proclaimed that black women think “breeding is a form of government employment.”
Higbie used his appearances on other shows to share racist views, including his dislike of Muslims. “I was called an Islamophobe and I was like, ‘no, no, no, no, no, I’m not afraid of them. I don’t like them. Big difference.’ And they were like, ‘well, you’re racist,’” Higbie said on Warrior Talk Radio in August 2014, according to CNN. “I was like, fine if that’s the definition of it, then I guess I am.’”
During a different appearance on his own show, Higbie, who served in Iraq as a Navy SEAL, took aim at military veterans with PTSD, saying that they had “a weak mind” and that majority were “milking something for a little extra money in disability or they’re just, they honestly are just lying.”
Higbie’s attitudes on racial matters were already viewed with skepticism even before these comments came to light. As NPR notes, he faced criticism from members of Congress well before his appointment. During an appearance on Fox News shortly after Trump’s election, he cited the US’s use of Japanese internment camps during World War II as sound precedent for an immigration registry. California Rep. Doris Matsui, a Democrat, called Higbie’s comments “outrageous, unacceptable, and reckless.”
On Friday, Higbie tweeted an apology for the comments. “I’m sorry. I’m not sorry that my words were published, I am sorry that I said them in 2013,” he wrote. “Those words do not reflect who I am or what I stand for, I regret saying them. Last night I informed the WH that I was resigning so as not to distract from POTUS’ many success.”
The public attention on Higbie’s comments come at a difficult time for the Trump White House, which is still attempting to recover from the president’s own racist statements about immigrants that were revealed in a Washington Post article last week.
Higbie’s comments tapped into a current of racism that has ran through the Trump administration. Prominent figures within the Trump White House, such as former chief strategist Steve Bannon, senior policy adviser Stephen Miller, and yes, President Trump, often attract attention for their embrace of racist viewpoints. But the problem is not limited to them.
Several Trump appointees have resigned from their posts after racist comments came to public attention
In resigning from his position with the CNCS, Higbie joins a growing group of Trump appointees to resign after racist comments or posts were revealed to the public.
In November, the Rev. Jamie Johnson, who was appointed the head of the DHS’s Center for Faith-Based & Neighborhood Partnerships last spring, abruptly resigned from his post after CNN reported that he had made offensive statements about black people and Muslims on conservative talk radio.
As CNN reported at the time:
In 2008, during a discussion on “The Right Balance” on Accent Radio Network, Johnson said he believed black people were anti-Semitic out of jealousy of the success of Jewish people.
”I think one of the reasons why is because Jewish people from their coming to America in great waves in the early part of the 1800’s immediately rolled up their sleeves and began to work so hard and applied themselves to education and other means of improvement and other means of climbing the, I hate this phrase, but the social ladder if you will,” Johnson said. “And they have done exceptionally well for themselves. For only representing about 1.4% of America’s population, they make up 12% of America’s millionaires. Why? Because they work.
”And it’s an indictment of America’s black community that has turned America’s major cities into slums because of laziness, drug use and sexual promiscuity.”
Johnson then agreed with another guest who said the success of Jewish-Americans “removes the argument of victimization from the black community.”
In comments about Islam, Johnson said that he agreed with conservative political commentator Dinesh D’Souza’s argument that “all that Islam has ever given us is oil and dead bodies over the last millennia and a half.”
Johnson later apologized for the comments, which CNN noted had been made as recently as 2016, saying that the comments “do not represent my views personally or professionally.”
In August, William Bradford, an appointee to the Energy Department’s Office of Indian Energy, resigned after comments made online, some of which questioned Obama’s birth certificate, were attributed to his account. Bradford said that the comments were the result of his accounts being hacked.
Even before those comments came to light, the Washington Post had reported that Bradford called Obama a “Kenyan creampuff” on Twitter and said the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II was necessary. Bradford’s resignation would come just weeks after the president himself became embroiled in controversy for saying that there were “very fine people on both sides” of white supremacist fueled violence in Charlottesville.
These aren’t isolated incidents. Even as Trump appointees resign for their comments, other appointees with dubious or controversial records are awaiting confirmation to a number of positions in the federal government.
In some cases, such as nominees to the courts, the effects on the government could potentially last decades. Racial controversies extend far outside the White House in the Trump administration.