A Republican lawmaker said the State Department’s diversity chief has created an "inherent quota system" for hiring based on race, and compared it to choosing employees by physical characteristics such as height and baldness.
Rep. Brian Mast (R., Fla.), the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee's oversight and accountability subcommittee, grilled the agency's outgoing "diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility" director Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley over her race-related hiring policies during a hearing on Tuesday.
"Is baldness—somebody that looks like me—does that make you a better diplomat?" asked Mast, a double-amputee Army veteran who is also bald. "If somebody’s 5’8 like me or 6’3, like somebody else, does it make them a better diplomat?"
Abercrombie-Winstanley laughed at the questions before responding, "No, I do not believe so."
The heated exchange came as Abercrombie-Winstanley is wrapping up her controversial, two-year tenure as diversity chief, and as the State Department prepares to choose her successor. Republicans have criticized Abercrombie-Winstanley for focusing on race and gender in hiring, with Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) calling her policies "brazen discrimination."
Abercrombie-Winstanley has said she holds "diversity" as a top consideration for employee recruitment, arguing in an interview last year that when State Department officials are "putting together panels of officers to consider for positions, that list better be diverse."
Mast said the race of candidates shouldn’t matter in hiring, calling it "un-American."
"It shouldn’t matter that I’m half Mexican. It shouldn’t matter whether I’m able-bodied or ambulatory or not ambulatory," he said. "That doesn’t have anything to do with what my background is, that I served in these operations in the military, that I gained these skills."
He added that diversity "can’t be the number one filter because it does create an inherent bias, an inherent quota system" in hiring.
Abercrombie-Winstanley was testifying before the subcommittee about the State Department’s diversity budget for fiscal year 2024.