John Feeley, the U.S. ambassador to Panama, is stepping down from his post, citing irreconcilable differences with the Trump administration, Reuters reports.
Feeley's resignation, widely reported on Friday, is not a response to President Trump's remarks Thursday at a noon meeting about immigration. Sources tell NPR that at that meeting, Trump referred to African nations as "shithole countries" and questioned why the U.S. admits immigrants from Haiti. Trump denies reports about his remarks, which have prompted uproar around the world.
However, the ambassador to Panama had tendered his resignation by Thursday morning, before the meeting occurred, a State Department official tells NPR's Michele Kelemen.
Feeley, a career diplomat, informed the White House, the State Department and the Panamanian government "of his decision to retire for personal reasons, as of March 9 of this year," the State Department says.
Steve Goldstein, the under secretary for public diplomacy and public Affairs, told Michele that all ambassadors and other diplomats have the right to be in the job they chose and that it is up to them if they leave for moral reasons, or any other reason.
Reuters has more detail on Feeley's stated explanation of his resignation:
"Feeley, one of the department's Latin America specialists and among its [most senior] officers, made clear that he had come to a place where he no longer felt able to serve under Trump.
" 'As a junior foreign service officer, I signed an oath to serve faithfully the president and his administration in an apolitical fashion, even when I might not agree with certain policies,' Feeley said, according to an excerpt of a resignation letter read to Reuters on Friday.
" 'My instructors made clear that if I believed I could not do that, I would be honor bound to resign. That time has come.' "
Editor's note: NPR has decided in this case to spell out the vulgar word that the president reportedly used because it meets our standard for use of offensive language: It is "absolutely integral to the meaning and spirit of the story being told."