Chertoff Defends Crony Subordinate Who Endorsed Racist Halloween Costume

Amanda Terkel: Homeland Security has destroyed at least one photo of Myers with an employee in blackface and has refused to let CNN see other pictures from the party.
This post, written by Amanda Terkel, originally appeared on Think Progres

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 the video to your right.

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."
Amanda Terkel is Deputy Research Director at the Center for American Progress and serves as Deputy Editor for The Progress Report and at the Center for American Progress.
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