New Bush nominee found to have race-baiting past
President George W. Bush's pick for a top position at the State Department may have failed to follow through on a commitment she made to African-American and Latino lawmakers to address diversity issues in America's diplomatic corps.
Henrietta Holsman Fore, the current Undersecretary of State for Management, was nominated Monday to serve as Deputy Secretary of State and Administrator of the US Agency for International Development. But one Congressman was concerned that racially insensitive remarks she reportedly made 20 years ago could call her fitness to serve into question.
"I still think that a person that has a background of this nature puts her at a disadvantage, and when you get into something as sensitive as USAID, where you're dealing with developing countries, and people of color, I 'm not so sure how she will be perceived by the leadership of countries she has to work with," Rep. Donald Payne (D-NJ), a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, told RAW STORY in a Wednesday interview.
He added, "If you start off on your left foot, it takes time to prove to people that you really didn't mean a stupid statement that you made, and time is lost where people are still suspicious of you."
Fore's nomination almost blocked in '05 for race remarks
The Congressman, who serves as the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health in the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, was referring to a 1987 New York Times article that showed Fore had stepped down from the Wellesley College Board of Trustees after she made racially suspect remarks.
The Times reported that Fore, then known by her maiden name of Henrietta Holsman and owner at the time of a manufacturing facility in Los Angeles, remarked in a lecture that "she had trouble keeping black assembly-line workers from going 'back to the street to earn more money' selling drugs."
Furthermore, the Times reported that Fore had also said "she had found Hispanic workers to be lazy, white workers resentful of having to work with machines, and Asians, while very productive, likely to move on to professional or management jobs."
In 2005, when Fore left the US Mint to serve as the Undersecretary of State for Management, where she is responsible for human resources decision-making and other issues, Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) threatened to block her nomination.
"I'm troubled by these statements," the Chicago Tribune's Jeff Zeleny reported Obama as saying in a June 10, 2005 article. "I'm troubled by the lack of clarity."
But the Associated Press reported on July 19, 2005 that Obama's concerns had been eased after Fore wrote him a letter promising to make diversity at the State Department a priority.
"Fore, in a letter to Obama dated July 13, said she would work with the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus in identifying the best practices that can be used to strengthen diversity in the State Department," the AP report noted.
Senator Obama promised to fully scrutinize her record in the Bush administration as the Senate takes up her nomination.
"When Ms. Fore was nominated to a State Department position two years ago, Senator Obama was concerned about racially insensitive comments that she had made as a Wellesley College trustee," said Ben LaBolt, an Obama spokesman, in a Tuesday e-mail to RAW STORY. "Ms. Fore expressed her regret about the comments, and Senator Obama agreed to support her nomination for that position. Given the important role played by the Director of USAID, Senator Obama will carefully scrutinize Ms. Fore's record over the past two years at the State Department and will withhold judgment about her qualifications for this new position until after her confirmation hearing."
No meetings with CBC, and diversity at State unchanged
Obama may find an ample record to review.
RAW STORY contacted the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus to see if they had been granted an opportunity to meet with Fore on diversity issues in the State Department's workforce.
The Congressional Black Caucus said it had no official comment on Fore, and did not confirm meeting with the State Department official. Rep. Payne also was unaware of any meetings between Fore and the CBC.
"I wasn't an officer during the past two years, although I attended meetings each week, but I don't recall anything specific or any report back from her to the CBC," he said.
A spokesman for Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-IL), who sits on the subcommittee that oversees the State Department's budget, agreed with Payne that no contact occurred between Fore and the CBC.
"We have had no contact, and no meetings with Henrietta Fore, and to our knowledge, she has not met with the CBC either," said Ken Edmonds in Jackson's office.
A spokesman for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus told RAW STORY that Fore had met with the group of Latino legislators twice, but could not speak to the content of the meetings.
Additionally, the State Department's own accountability reports show little change in the make up of the workforce since Fore took over in 2005.
"Racial and ethnic diversity is only one aspect of a more diverse workforce. 20 percent of Foreign Service Generalists and 22 percent of Foreign Service Specialists hired in 2006 were minorities. 32 percent of student program participants were minorities," the State Department reported for Fiscal Year 2006.
In contrast, 19% and 22% of Generalists and Specialists were minorities in Fiscal Year 2005, and the student program's population had been 35.7% minorities, suggesting a decline in the subsequent year.
Moreover, the State Department acknowledged that it was having increasing difficulties keeping track of the share of minorities in its workforce.
"New hires are asked to self-identify their minority status. The number of participants declining to answer has been increasing," the FY 2006 report noted. "In FY2003, 11 percent of student program participants chose not to respond when asked to identify their race/ethnicity, whereas in FY2006, 22 percent chose not to respond."
RAW STORY was told by State Department spokesman Curtis Cooper that Fiscal Year 2007 data could not be made available. At press time, he had not provided a response on whether Fore had met with the CBC or CHC or made any particular efforts to reach out to them during her tenure as Undersecretary of State for Management.
Rep. Payne said he remained concerned about the ability of African-Americans to succeed within the ranks of America's foreign service.
"I don't think there's been much progress in diversity... this has always been a problem historically," he explained. "There's something that happens on way to top, and larger numbers of blacks tend not to get favorable evaluations, and they never get out of the lower or lower-middle tier, they get washed out of the service."
Fore has already been appointed acting Director for Foreign Assistance. She is set to replace Randall Tobias, the Deputy Secretary of State who resigned April 27 after it was revealed that he had been a client of "DC Madam" Deborah Jean Palfrey.
RAW STORY showed on Tuesday that Fore had donated thousands of dollars to a pro-choice Republican group that opposes the Bush administration's anti-abortion "Mexico City Policy," also known as the "Global Gag Rule," which she will be responsible for enforcing at USAID.