WASHINGTON (CNN) - The Department of Housing and Urban Development is looking to remove anti-discrimination language from its mission statement, The Washington Post reported Wednesday.
The department announced that it was considering changing the mission statement in an open letter to employees from Secretary Ben Carson on Thursday. But Carson's letter denied the changes "signal some sort of retreat from our legal and rightful role in protecting Americans from housing discrimination."
"The Department's mission statement has changed from time to time to capture the dynamic nature of our work. ..." Carson added. "But the notion that any new mission statement would reflect a lack of commitment to fair housing is nonsense."
A HUD spokesman told CNN on Wednesday that "no new statement has been decided upon," and said the past two administrations had changed the department's mission statement.
The mission statement as currently written says the department's mission includes building "inclusive and sustainable communities free from discrimination."
A memo obtained by Huffington Post that HUD reportedly verified to The Washington Post has language that would shorten the statement significantly, including the words "free from discrimination," and insert a focus on ensuring "opportunities to achieve self-sufficiency."
According to the reports, HUD official Amy Thompson wrote in the memo that the statement included input from HUD Secretary Ben Carson, who recently came under fire for lavish spending.
In a statement on Wednesday, HUD acknowledged that it is seeking to make "modest changes to the department's mission statement" and said it would nevertheless continue to try to oppose discrimination in housing.
The statement continued, "Any mission statement for this department will embody the principle of fairness as a central element of everything we do. HUD has been, is now, and always will be committed to ensuring inclusive housing, free from discrimination for all Americans."
The Post report included a defense from Lynne Patton, a former Trump family employee who is now a key HUD official, who said department leadership wanted a motto that "better reflects" the administration's desire to give people "the tools to ascend the economic ladder to self-sufficiency."
The move from HUD under the Trump administration to change its mission statement follows the US Citizenship and Immigration Services' update to its mission statement, reported in February, which eliminated the phrase "nation of immigrants."
This story has been updated.
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