White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders has been slammed for claiming Democrats who support women’s empowerment should also support Gina Haspel’s nomination to the CIA, despite her record in torture.
Sanders said “any Democrat who claims to support women’s empowerment and our national security but opposes her nomination is a total hypocrite” in a tweet on Saturday, sparking a swift backlash across social media.
There is no one more qualified to be the first woman to lead the CIA than 30+ year CIA veteran Gina Haspel. Any Democrat who claims to support women’s empowerment and our national security but opposes her nomination is a total hypocrite
— Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) May 5, 2018
Many were quick to point out that Haspel being a woman has nothing to do with whether she is suitable to lead the CIA, and that what’s more important is her record.
“It’s probably possible to simultaneously ‘support women’s empowerment’ and oppose the empowerment of torturers (male or female),” journalist Glenn Greenwald responded.
It’s probably possible to simultaneously “support women’s empowerment” and oppose the empowerment of torturers (male or female), making this tweet grotesquely cynical & manipulative. That said, it’s just the application of the mentality that’s been endorsed in many precincts: https://t.co/zm4PNTUUgI
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) May 5, 2018
No, Democrats are entirely legitimately asking about her running a Thai black site allegedly to torture people. Her gender is completely irrelevant to that particular question. https://t.co/uCG0fEjF8X
— Tom Coates (@tomcoates) May 5, 2018
What if you just oppose torture?
— Elise Jordan (@Elise_Jordan) May 5, 2018
Currently the deputy head of the CIA, Haspel once oversaw a clandestine CIA blacksite in Thailand where suspected terrorists were taken to be tortured after being captured overseas. CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou revealed Haspel was given the nickname ‘Bloody Gina’ because she allegedly “enjoyed using force.”
Haspel, who worked in counterterrorism at the time, is also accused of being involved in the order to destroy 92 tapes of evidence of the CIA’s use of torture on detainees. Her name appeared on the 2005 cable ordering the destruction of the tapes. In response to recent outrage over Haspel’s role in the destruction of evidence, the CIA declassified a 2011 memo which cleared Haspel of any fault and appointed blame on the head of the CIA’s clandestine service at the time.
Haspel’s role in the George W. Bush-era extraordinary rendition and torture program caused a number of Democrats, and Republican Rand Paul, to protest her nomination to the head of the CIA. Over 100 retired military leaders penned a letter to the Senate voicing their concerns about her nomination, as did more than 60 rights groups.
Sanders’ tweet backing Haspel’s nomination for CIA chief was reminiscent of former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s ominous warning that there was “a special place in hell” for women who didn’t vote for Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election.
I mean wtf Sarah. Can u not see the hypocrisy of ur argument here? HRC was also “the most qualified candidate”. Didn’t see you backing HER for POTUS, based on some BS female empowerment theory.
— JenniLynn (@JenniLynn2017) May 5, 2018
While some Democrats remained loyal to their candidate at least in part because of the possibility of her becoming the first female president of the US, others felt affronted by the idea they should cast their vote for a candidate simply because of her gender rather than her record.
Sanders herself received criticism for calling Democrats hypocrites, given the fact that her gender didn’t compel her to vote for Clinton in 2016, and in light of her own position as spokesperson for a man accused of sexual assault and sexism.
Dear Sarah. No woman is obliged to support another woman just because she has a vagina. It’s not “hypocrisy to support empowerment of all people & oppose the nomination of Haspel, it’s just good sense – she is an obvious security risk, stop playing games with people’s lives
— feral (@shuboogie) May 6, 2018
You lost the authority to speak about women’s empowerment when you started lying for a guy who values women based on their looks, if at all. Seriously, give us a break!
— Kim D (@KimDHello) May 6, 2018
Sanders’ ill-received statements echo the administration’s efforts to paint Haspel’s career as one filled with glass ceiling-shattering moments, as suggested in a glowing statement published on the White House website this week.
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