Homeland Security chair: 'Obvious' DHS employee wore dark make-up
More than six weeks after Julie Myers was confirmed as the country's top immigration official, the Department of Homeland Security finally released pictures of her smiling and posing with a DHS employee outfitted in what many perceived as a racially insensitive Halloween costume.
Myers ordered the photos to be deleted and apologized to DHS employees after she and others at an official Halloween party awarded "best original costume" to the employee, who was wearing prison stripes, dreadlocks and makeup to darken his skin.
Although she denied noticing that the white employee was wearing makeup that made him appear African American, the photo clearly shows a difference in pigmentation around his neckline, where the make-up stops. DHS technicians recovered the photos and handed over redacted versions to CNN in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.
House Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson told the Washington Post it was "obvious to the naked eye" that the worker was wearing makeup. In an interview with CNN, he called the photos "absolutely shocking."
"It stereotypically portrays a person of color as a criminal," he told the network, adding that there was "no question" the employee was wearing makeup.
The employee also is holding a brown paper bag that appears to have the words "Bag Nasty" written on it in black marker. "Bag nasty" is a slang term meaning sack lunch and has been used to specifically refer to military rations. It also apparently can be used as a general derogative to describe places or people.
Even before her role in misjudging the appropriateness of the Halloween costume emerged, Myers was much maligned for her inexperience, and accusations of "cronyism" were leveled at President Bush. Although she was not officially confirmed until Dec. 20, Myers was acting as assistant DHS secretary in charge of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement for nearly a year before that after receiving a controversial recess appointment.
Myers is married to a US Attorney who formerly served as chief of staff DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff and her uncle is Gen. Richard Myers, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. She had virtually no law enforcement or management experience before taking over at ICE, an agency with 15,000 employees and a budget of $4 billion.
Her inexperience was clear from her first public appearance overseeing ICE. At her introductory press conference in February 2006 she "struggle[d] to pronounce Nuevo Laredo, and she had to call on a DHS employee who was intermixed with legitimate reporters in the audience, as RAW STORY previously reported.
Sen. Claire McCaskill, who was among Myers fiercest critics, eventually lifted a hold she had placed on the nomination. This week, the Missouri Democrat accused Myers of misleading the committee by not turning over the recovered photographs before her confirmation hearing, and she said the photos may have provoked more Senators to vote against her.
"At a minimum, she was being disingenuous," McCaskill, a member of the Senate homeland security committee, told the Post. "You would not think the committee would have to resort to a FOIA request from the media to get these photographs."
This video is CNN's American Morning, broadcast February 7, 2008.