In Congress

‘Not Acceptable’: Rep. Stefanik Asks Defense Official To Read Diversity Chief’s Racist Tweet Aloud, Condem It

Republican New York Rep. Elise Stefanik asked the Pentagon’s top official for personnel to read aloud and condemn a statement from a Department of Defense (DOD) Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) administrator in 2022 that was widely described as racist at a hearing Thursday.

Stefanik asked Gil Cisneros, Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, whether he could identify a 2022 tweet from DOD diversity administrator Kelisa Wing at a House Armed Services Committee hearing on the effects of DEI in the military. Wing, who accepted a position as the diversity chief for the Department of Defense Education Authority, or DODEA, in December 2021, has a history of making derogatory statements toward white people, triggering outrage from Republican legislators for allegedly tolerating racism.

“I’m so exhausted at these white folx in these PD sessions this lady actually had the CAUdacity to ask if black people can be racist too,” Cisneros, who also serves as the department’s chief diversity officer, read aloud, pausing before some of the unconventional words.

Cisneros condemned the tweets: “I do agree, that that is not acceptable,” he said.

When pressed later in the hearing whether he agreed with the statement that black people can’t be racist, he added, “I do not agree with that statement.”

House Republican had pressed DOD to conduct an inquiry into the tweets and take appropriate action in a letter, Stefanik said at the hearing. The Pentagon said the matter would be taken to Cisneros after a 30-day initial review that began on Sep. 19, according to Fox News.

However, congressmembers did not receive a response before the deadline, while a DOD spokesperson told Fox News in November the final inquiry was being presented to the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness — Cisneros.

Wing’s tweets were produced on a personal basis, Cisneros said. He denied responsibility for her continuing employment multiple times, as Wing is a GS (federal) employee.

Her tweets have since been removed, while YouTube videos featuring similar content have been taken down and her Twitter account was changed to private, according to Fox News.

“No, I did not make disparaging comments against white people. I would never categorize an entire group of people to disparage them. I’m speaking now as a private individual, about my private free speech from July of 2020,” Wing told Military Times in February.

The Pentagon has doubled down on long-running DEI initiatives in recent years and plans to further “inculcate” diversity programming into the military, amid controversy whether the trend contributes to or worsens recruitment and readiness.

However, when pressed by Democrat Rep. Jill Tokuda of Hawaii on instances of discrimination against Asian American and Pacific Islander demographics, Cisneros said he had “not come across a situation where people have been discriminated against.”

The four witnesses agreed that DEI produced a positive effect on recruiting, retention and command selection. That’s in part through providing the services with a “larger pool” of potential recruits, Cisneros explained.

An Army study conducted with an unnamed third party advertising agency found that “wokeness,” an ideological term that includes DEI principles, did not dissuade prospective recruits from joining the military.

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Micaela Burrow

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Micaela Burrow

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