President Joe Biden's nominee for a top post at the Environmental Protection Agency supports the movement to defund police, a position he advocated for last year in an interview with one of China's state-controlled propaganda networks.
Carlton Waterhouse, the director of the Environmental Justice Center at Howard University, told China's CGTN that he supports reallocating resources from traditional policing to fund education, health, and community services. He also joined dozens of scholars in signing an open letter organized by the #DefundThePolice Solidarity network. The scholars decried the "fundamental violence" of police and prisons and said they supported the police abolitionist movement.
Waterhouse is unlikely to have a say in the Biden administration's policies on policing, but his remarks contradict the president's claim last month that Republicans were "lying" when they say Democrats want to defund police. While Biden and many Democratic leaders say they oppose the movement, progressive Democrats, including members of the "Squad," have called for defunding the police.
Biden nominated Waterhouse to serve as deputy assistant administrator for the EPA's Office of Land and Emergency Management. The agency praised Waterhouse as an international expert on "reparations and redress for historic injustices."
Waterhouse's interview with CGTN highlights the Chinese government's efforts to capitalize on social justice unrest in the United States. NPR reported in the wake of the George Floyd protests last year that China's propagandists aired footage from the protests in part to deflect criticism of Beijing's human rights record.
CGTN interviewed Waterhouse amid the Floyd protests. Waterhouse said he "absolutely" supported the idea of shifting resources from traditional policing to community services.
"In all honesty, if you think about all of our major police forces, we have spent all of our money on a possible cure rather than putting it into education, health, and social services," Waterhouse said in the interview, which was uncovered by the American Accountability Foundation.
Waterhouse joined a group of scholars offering full-throated support for the defund movement in an open letter released in August 2020.
"The empowerment of police in this country is the empowerment of state violence against black, indigenous, and Latinx people to maintain their subordination and preserve the upwards distribution of wealth," they wrote.
The scholars said they "commit to solidarity with abolitionist organizing and movements."
Waterhouse is already facing opposition to his nomination in the Senate over his past comments on race and social justice. He has supported race-based reparations and said in 2015 that police shootings were a "symptom" of "white racial dominance," according to Fox News.
"Carlton Waterhouse is a political activist who supports fringe environmental and racist policies," Sen. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) told Fox News.
Waterhouse did not respond to a request for comment.