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Top Democrat questions aid agency's culture as nominee faces hearing

Citing a bizarre speech on diversity from one of Millennium Challenge Corporation's leaders, a top Democrat raised co...

Posted: Feb 27, 2018 9:20 AM
Updated: Feb 27, 2018 9:20 AM

Citing a bizarre speech on diversity from one of Millennium Challenge Corporation's leaders, a top Democrat raised concerns over the federal aid agency's culture as the Trump administration's nominee prepares for a hearing Tuesday afternoon.

New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, highlighted these issues in a letter dated February 23 to the acting leader of the Millennium Challenge Corporation, a small federal government aid agency established 2004.

The letter said that these concerns came up as Menendez was reviewing the nomination of Sean Cairncross to lead the organization as CEO.

"As part of this review process, it has come to my attention that a current member of Millennium Challenge Corporation's senior political leadership has made a number of concerning statements and remarks to staff that call into question the MCC's commitment to an open and diverse workplace and an acceptable code of conduct," Menendez wrote.

Menendez's letter singles out Robert Blau, the organization's vice president of compact operations, for statements at a company town hall last June. Blau made "a number of troubling comments that raise questions about his approach to and treatment of employees based on their political leanings, sexual orientation, and national origin," Menendez wrote.

According to an audio copy of the speech obtained by Foreign Policy, Blau reportedly told his co-workers that he is "not someone who celebrates diversity or engineers it. To me," he said, "diversity just happens."

"My first wife was an African immigrant," he said, according to Foreign Policy. "So, actually, on an anthropologic level, I'm like President Obama's mother. In the sense that my spouse was an African immigrant and my sons are mixed race, like President Obama and his siblings. And my stepmother, my father's second wife, is from Colombia. My sister-in-law is also from Colombia. They're not related, it's a coincidence. I despise one and love the other one, so you can't generalize about Colombians."

He also said, presumably to a Millennium Challenge Corporation employee, according to the report: "Your demographic is Asian. Are Asians all in one box?" he asked. "The big three in her area is Koreans, Japanese and Chinese. Would they want to be in the same box? I don't think so."

Menendez said he was "deeply troubled" by Blau's comments and added that he plans to ask Cairncross for his "commitment to address any workplace issues as part of his nomination process."

Millennium Challenge Corporation responded with a statement, saying that it is "proud of its long track record of fostering a positive workplace culture that prioritizes respect, openness, and inclusion." The agency is "committed to these principles now and moving forward," press secretary Laura Allen said in a statement.

"The comments cited in the letter from Senator Menendez do not reflect MCC's values, or the agency's respect for diversity and inclusion," Allen said. "MCC is working to respond to the letter from Senator Menendez."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 261167

Reported Deaths: 5713
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto17561191
Hinds16687329
Harrison14050202
Rankin11102217
Jackson10729188
Lee9014143
Madison8495168
Jones6607114
Forrest6135122
Lauderdale6067192
Lowndes5490120
Lafayette511794
Lamar499865
Washington4904125
Bolivar4087109
Oktibbeha403581
Panola380981
Pontotoc374757
Monroe3651106
Warren3649103
Union353263
Marshall352069
Neshoba3464154
Pearl River3422105
Leflore3090109
Lincoln304287
Sunflower290373
Hancock288461
Tate279062
Alcorn270754
Pike268180
Itawamba266662
Scott256048
Yazoo253756
Prentiss251153
Copiah247649
Tippah247550
Coahoma245954
Simpson241471
Leake236167
Grenada222471
Marion220273
Covington219072
Adams212370
Wayne208432
Winston205870
George203539
Newton197346
Attala196461
Tishomingo193861
Chickasaw188444
Jasper177838
Holmes171368
Clay164237
Tallahatchie155635
Stone149525
Clarke144762
Calhoun139922
Smith127725
Yalobusha121134
Walthall114037
Greene112929
Noxubee112225
Montgomery111236
Carroll106422
Lawrence105617
Perry104031
Amite100826
Webster95424
Tunica88221
Claiborne87825
Jefferson Davis87727
Benton84823
Humphreys84224
Kemper80020
Quitman7049
Franklin69617
Choctaw62513
Wilkinson59625
Jefferson56520
Sharkey44817
Issaquena1606
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 436087

Reported Deaths: 6486
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson63969994
Mobile31211565
Madison27851208
Tuscaloosa21233271
Montgomery19698326
Shelby19093130
Baldwin16981188
Lee13036105
Morgan12526134
Etowah11987179
Calhoun11441206
Marshall10357123
Houston8886158
Limestone827876
Cullman8203108
Elmore8120104
DeKalb7828103
Lauderdale7798103
St. Clair7763125
Talladega6394111
Walker6002177
Jackson594644
Colbert545276
Blount543986
Autauga532761
Coffee456762
Dale406883
Franklin372448
Russell349212
Chilton342873
Covington336068
Escambia330144
Dallas312096
Tallapoosa3120107
Chambers301170
Clarke293336
Pike261131
Marion251558
Lawrence250752
Winston232742
Bibb221248
Geneva208746
Marengo206529
Pickens199031
Hale182742
Barbour179337
Fayette177029
Butler172459
Cherokee164330
Henry158224
Monroe151320
Randolph144336
Washington140127
Clay129146
Crenshaw122944
Macon120937
Cleburne120724
Lamar119721
Lowndes113736
Wilcox106622
Bullock102228
Perry99118
Conecuh96821
Sumter90026
Greene76823
Coosa63215
Choctaw51724
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