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Trump anti-discrimination official once called most hate crimes hoaxes

A senior Trump appointee responsible for enforcing laws against financial discrimination once questioned in blog posts written under a pen name if using the n-word was inherently racist and claimed that the great majority of hate crimes were hoaxes.

Eric Blankenstein, a policy director at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, expressed those and other controversial views more than a decade ago on a political blog he co-authored with two other anonymous contributors. 

In a 2004 post, Blankenstein wrote that a proposal at the University of Virginia to impose harsher academic penalties for acts of intolerance was “racial idiocy.” He questioned how authorities could know the motivation of someone using a racial slur.

“Fine . . . let’s say they called him n----- ,” he wrote, spelling out the slur. “. . . would that make them racists, or just a-------?” 

Blankenstein also wrote that “hate-crime hoaxes are about three times as prevalent as actual hate crimes.”  

The details about Blankenstein’s blog have not been previously reported. He wrote under the name “egb3r,” an alias built from his initials. The Washington Post verified the writer is Blankenstein by examining biographical details in the blog that include his age, his graduation from the University of Virginia, the date of his marriage and a reference to his father, a lawyer.

In a statement, Blankenstein acknowledged that he had written the posts but said they have no bearing on his work today. “The insight to be gained about how I perform my job today - by reading snippets of 14 year old blog posts that have nothing to do with consumer protection law — is exactly zero,” he said.

“Any attempt to do so is a naked exercise in bad faith, and represents another nail in the coffin of civil discourse and the ability to reasonably disagree over questions of law and policy,” he said. “The need to dig up statements I wrote as a 25 year old shows that in the eyes of my critics I am not guilty of a legal infraction or neglect of my duties, but rather just governing while conservative.”

Blankenstein, 39, is one of several Trump appointees at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, an agency created by President Barack Obama following the 2008 financial meltdown. He is among the highest paid employees in the government, earning $259,500, records show.

He is responsible for supervising lenders and enforcing an array of consumer protection laws, including the four-decade-old Equal Credit Opportunity Act, landmark civil rights legislation aimed at protecting blacks and other minorities from discriminatory practices and promoting “fair lending.”

Blankenstein previously worked as a private-sector lawyer and represented banks involved in regulatory investigations launched by the agency he now helps lead. Since joining the agency in December, he has helped fulfill a campaign promise by President Trump to sharply curb the bureau’s role as a watchdog of the nation’s financial services industry. 

In February, Mick Mulvaney, the bureau’s acting director, moved to strip enforcement powers from the Office of Fair Lending and Equal Opportunity — potentially reversing years of aggressive enforcement that resulted in dozens of cases. 

In an interview, Makada Henry-Nickie, a former financial analyst in the bureau’s fair lending office, questioned how someone who wrote the blog posts could be counted on to pursue complex discrimination cases.

“It sends chills up my spine to hear that kind of thinking,” said Henry-Nickie, who left the bureau in August 2017 and is now a fellow at the Brookings Institution.

Patrice Ficklin, a career official who serves as assistant director of the Fair Lending Office, said in a statement provided by the agency that she disagrees with Blankenstein on some fair-lending issues and enforcement decisions but described him as “collegial, thoughtful and meticulous.”

“Eric has told me repeatedly that he is committed to enforcing the fair-lending laws,” she said. “Under his tenure he has allowed us to continue to advance our fair-lending supervisory and enforcement work and approved proposed new matters as well.”

Allied Progress, a nonprofit organization that advocates for strong enforcement of consumer laws and tracks the bureau closely, called for Blankenstein’s removal after reviewing the blog posts.

“With such abhorrent views, Eric Blankenstein shouldn’t be let anywhere near the CFPB’s fair lending office, let alone running it,” said Karl Frisch, executive director of the left-leaning watchdog group.

Blankenstein and a friend started Two Guys Chatting in July 2004, not long after Blankenstein graduated from the University of Virginia. They fashioned it as a forum for hot-button issues.

“WARNING: This website is not for the faint of heart,” egb3r cautioned in an early post. “The politically correct read on at their peril. We are blunt. We will call stupidity stupid. We will call ignorance ignorant. We will give praise when it is earned and criticism when it is due. But what may be most scary for some is that we will be honest.”

In one post, Blankenstein described abortion as the “state sponsored destruction of life.”

“So, in essence you are saying that if a woman makes a mistake and f---- someone she shouldn’t have, she can get rid of the problem with an abortion without the consent of the father, but the man who makes the very same mistake has no such right?”

Blankenstein published a lengthy post on Sept. 30, 2004, after someone wrote the n-word on the hood of a black student’s car at the University of Virginia. The episode created an uproar on campus and triggered a move to make racial intolerance an honor code violation and grounds for expulsion.

“So, there is more racial idiocy at UVa.,” egb3r wrote.

“So what’s your issue with this? actually, I think it’s pretty sensible to make such a form of intolerance an honor violation,” wrote blog co-author DCD AEPi, who declined to comment when reached by The Post.

“Because, as with hate crime legislation, they are making it illegal to have a thought,” egb3r wrote.

He added: “Until a hood wearing KKK member is caught, why should the honor system be changed?”

That blog entry added up to 3,000 words in all, with Blankenstein repeatedly questioning the need for special enforcement of race-related crime. “Shouldn’t we be more concerned that the crime happened period?” he wrote. “Does it matter that someone got beat up because they were black, or does it matter that someone got beat up?”

Blankenstein’s debate partner, who described himself in the blog as black, pushed back against his views on race. 

“I have no reason to believe racist actions don’t take place at UVa . . . I myself have never been a victim, but who am I to say it doesn't happen?”

Blankenstein responded: “There are a------- everywhere you go . . . but should being an a------- be illegal?”

Andrew Ba Tran, Alice Crites and Julie Tate contributed to this report.