Jul 22, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Dems on House Foreign Affairs committee call on USAID to fire aide with anti-LGBTQ past

House Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel, D-N.Y.

House Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.). Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

Democrats on the House Foreign Affairs committee sent a letter on Wednesday to the acting administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) — 15 hours before he is set to testify before the committee — demanding he fire Merritt Corrigan, an aide with a history of making homophobic comments.

Why it matters: The letter escalates pressure on acting administrator John Barsa to address criticism — including from several of his employees — that the agency's recent hires have created a hostile work environment.

  • The letter also suggests that Democratic committee members will use Thursday's routine budget hearing to press Barsa on the controversy over USAID's internal affairs.
  • USAID did not respond to a request for comment.

Context: The White House initially rejected hiring Corrigan because of her history of inflammatory statements. But John McEntee, a 30-year-old former body man who now runs the administration's hiring process, installed her at USAID anyway, sparking intense internal backlash.

Details: The letter says Corrigan's "record of public remarks, including disparaging LGBTQ people and those who express support for them, women in positions of leadership, and immigrants, is appalling, and has no place in a federal agency."

  • The letter cites several of Corrigan's most inflammatory comments, adding that they are "left wondering how Ms. Corrigan is able to effectively serve an agency whose principles are so clearly antithetical to her own."
  • It ends by stating: "For the sake of USAID’s employees, the beneficiaries it supports around the world, and the core values of the agency, we urge you to immediately condemn this speech, and demand Ms. Corrigan’s resignation."

Read a copy of the letter.

Go deeper