Tillerson to VMI grads: Democ­racy is in dan­ger

Richmond Times-Dispatch - - WEATHER DESK -

WASH­ING­TON — Former Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tillerson took a veiled shot at Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump on Wed­nes­day, warn­ing that a grow­ing cri­sis has put democ­racy at risk.

In re­marks to grad­u­ates of Vir­ginia Mil­i­tary In­sti­tute, Tillerson lamented as­saults on facts that he said would lead to a loss of free­dom if not coun­tered. And he said that only so­ci­eties able to pur­sue the truth and chal­lenge al­ter­nate re­al­i­ties can be truly free.

“When we ... go wob­bly on the truth, even on what may seem to be the most triv­ial of mat­ters, we go wob­bly on Amer­ica,” Tillerson said. “If we do not as Amer­i­cans con­front the cri­sis of ethics and in­tegrity in our so­ci­ety among our lead­ers in both pub­lic and pri­vate sec­tor ... then Amer­i­can democ­racy as we know it is en­ter­ing its twi­light years.”

Tillerson did not men­tion Trump by name Wed­nes­day but al­luded to some poli­cies of the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion by de­cry­ing those who ne­glect or ig­nore long­stand­ing al­lies or deny that free trade is an engine of global growth.

Tillerson was asked to be VMI’s commencement speaker be­fore Trump fired him in mid-March af­ter months of ten­sion be­tween the men. Trump later said he didn’t see eye to eye with Tillerson, the former ExxonMo­bil CEO, and had more in com­mon with CIA chief Mike Pom­peo, who took over as sec­re­tary of state.

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