President Donald Trump's values should be considered separate from America's when it comes to race, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said.
Speaking on Fox News Sunday, Mr Tillerson was asked to comment on Mr Trump's seesawing response to violence at a white supremacist march in Charlottesville, Virginia, this month and the criticism that he had morally equated neo-Nazis with the individuals protesting against them.
Mr Tillerson replied that "we express America's values from the State Department" and that when it comes to Mr Trump's values, "the president speaks for himself."
He said the nation's commitment to fighting racial injustice is unquestioned, and that he doesn't "believe anyone doubts the American people's values" or the government's commitment to that goal.
Former vice president Joe Biden also added his voice to the row.
In a commentary published in The Atlantic, Mr Biden wrote: "Today we have an American president who has publicly proclaimed a moral equivalency between neo-Nazis and Klansmen and those who would oppose their venom and hate."
He said Mr Trump had "emboldened white supremacists with messages of comfort and support".
In his commentary, Mr Biden said: "This is a moment for this nation to declare what the president can't with any clarity, consistency, or conviction: There is no place for these hate groups in America."