Secretary of State Rex Tillerson addressed department staff on the issue of sexual harassment on Friday, highlighting throughout his remarks that “values matter.”
Tillerson’s remarks focused on his commitment to preventing and addressing sexual harassment in the State Department, CNN reports. Sexual harassment complaints at the State Department nearly tripled under the Obama administration.
The Secretary of State said American values “form the foundations of trust” between employees at the department and “our lives are enriched when we recognize the diversity in the nation.”
“No form of sexual harassment is more demeaning than sexual harassment,” Tillerson said. “Harassment and abuse have no place in a nation founded on the ideals of individual liberty and pursuit of happiness, and it can have no place at this organization, our State Department — not here in Washington, not at posts abroad, nowhere.”
The speech was planned earlier this week, but CNN pointed out its theme contrasted strongly with President Trump’s alleged Thursday “s—hole” comment. The president denied has denied referring to Haiti, El Salvador and some African nations as “s—hole countries.”
Tillerson’s remarks follow numerous women–including diplomats, civil servants, members of the military, staffers, contractors or development workers–speaking out about sexual harassment they have experience.
Two hundred and twenty-three women signed an open letter in late November in which they wrote that they had experienced some form of abuse or harassment during their time working in national security, CBS News reported. The open letter was titled “#metoonatsec.”
The letter criticized the government’s national security institutions for having “weak” and “under-enforced” sexual harassment policies.
Tillerson’s speech was met with applause after he stressed his commitment to fighting sexual harassment.
“I cannot tolerate it, and I will not tolerate it,” he said.