Tumblr Icon RSS Icon

Chertoff Claims ‘Zero Tolerance’ For Discriminatory Halloween Costume, Excuses Julie Myers’ Role

By Amanda Terkel on November 6, 2007 at 4:50 pm

"Chertoff Claims ‘Zero Tolerance’ For Discriminatory Halloween Costume, Excuses Julie Myers’ Role"

Share:

google plus icon

Julie Myers, head of Homeland Security’s immigration division, has come under intense criticism for awarding “Most Original Costume” to an employee “who dressed in prison stripes, dreadlocks and dark makeup for a Halloween gathering at the agency.” Myers was part of a three-judge panel that awarded the prize.

Today, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff appeared on MSNBC and said that he had put the employee who wore the costume on “administrative leave.” He added that he has “zero tolerance” for discriminatory acts. But when it came to Myers, Chertoff refused to condemn her and indicated that she would face no punitive action:

CHERTOFF: First of all, I’ve directed that the individual who came up with this idea be put on administrative leave and we take some kind of disciplinary action. [...]

We have to make it clear to our own employees and to the public at large that we are totally neutral when we enforce the law and we don’t tolerate any ethnic discrimination.

So that’s a very strong message I’ve reinforced. Assistant Secretary Myers apologized for the fact that the incident occurred and has contacted both people inside the department and outside the department to make amends.

Watch it:

[flv http://video.thinkprogress.org/2007/11/chertoffice3.320.240.flv]

Speaking to the AP, Chertoff also excused Myers’s actions, stating that she “was kind of caught by surprise by this.” “I know she’s mortified,” he added, “but I think she’s doing what she needs to do at the moment.”

Myers is married to Chertoff’s former chief of staff, John F. Wood, who is currently a U.S. attorney in Missouri. She is also the niece of former Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Gen. Richard B. Myers.

The agency has destroyed at least one photo of Myers with the costumed employee and has refused to let CNN see other pictures from the party. If Chertoff is serious about his “zero tolerance” policy, he should also discipline Myers for rewarding the employee’s discriminatory behavior.

Transcript:

MORALES: All right. Secretary Chertoff, I want to ask you about the controversy there at the Department of Homeland Security about a Halloween costume that an employee wore, wearing dark makeup, dreadlocks, and in a prison uniform to a costume party.

An assistant secretary voted that the costume was most original.

Are you concerned about the reaction to this and the response or the — I guess the image that this costume sends?

CHERTOFF: Well, I am, Natalie. Let me make a couple points clear.

First of all, I’ve directed that the individual who came up with this idea be put on administrative leave and we take some kind of disciplinary action.

Second, I’ve made it very clear that we have zero tolerance for intentional or unintentional acts that appear to be racist or discriminatory.

We have to make it clear to our own employees and to the public at large that we are totally neutral when we enforce the law and we don’t tolerate any ethnic discrimination.

So that’s a very strong message I’ve reinforced. Assistant Secretary Myers apologized for the fact that the incident occurred and has contacted both people inside the department and outside the department to make amends.

‹ PREVIOUS
Cheney impeachment measure advances.

NEXT ›
Tourist’s guide to the Green Zone.

By clicking and submitting a comment I acknowledge the ThinkProgress Privacy Policy and agree to the ThinkProgress Terms of Use. I understand that my comments are also being governed by Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, or Hotmail’s Terms of Use and Privacy Policies as applicable, which can be found here.