Singer Brandi Carlile joined two-time failed presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in dropping out of Fortune’s "Most Powerful Women Summit" because former DHS secretary Kirstjen Nielsen is set to speak.
Carlile accused Nielsen of violating human rights and being an "abuser," citing Nielsen's role in implementing the Trump administration's immigration policy. The singer said she means "no disrespect" by accusing Nielsen of crimes against humanity.
"I don’t think that human rights violators and merit-based abusers of displaced people should be given a platform to ‘reimagine' history. Ever," Carlile wrote on Twitter. "The atrocity of family separation at our Souther border needs to go down in history as one of the United States of America’s most merciless acts."
"Respectfully, I absolutely cannot support Kirstjen Nielsen having a voice among the most powerful and inspiring women in America. Her access to power is righteously over," Carlile added. "I forgive her. I mean no disrespect. I wish her well and hope that she comes to understand the error in her part of this shameful [family separation] policy."
With respect and gratitude. pic.twitter.com/rhKpRYf6gF
— Brandi Carlile (@brandicarlile) October 21, 2019
Carlile is not the first invitee to drop from the event. Clinton pulled out of it shortly after calling the presidential candidate and fellow honoree Rep. Tulsi Gabbard a "Russian asset." The Clinton camp has claimed that it was Nielsen, rather than Gabbard, who led the former secretary of state to withdraw from the event.
A source close to Clinton told Slate that family separation during Nielsen's tenure was "one of the most horrific things that we’ve had to bear witness to within our borders in modern political history." That source also told Slate that Clinton lied when she cited "schedule conflicts" as the reason she canceled on Fortune, instead of doing it in order to side with migrants against Nielsen:
"We work with a lot of activists who are trying to do their best to improve this horrible situation down at the border," the person said, citing Clinton’s support of RAICES and other organizations that advocate for asylees and immigrants. "At the end of the day, it’s an easy decision. You have to side with them."
The person said one of those activists alerted Clinton to Nielsen’s slot on the schedule earlier this week, after which Clinton’s team notified Fortune that she would no longer be attending the event. Friday evening, Clinton’s name and headshot were removed from the summit’s website.
More than 50,000 people have signed an online petition demanding Fortune disinvite Nielsen, declaring her "the architect of baby jails."
Fortune communications manager Alison Klooster released a statement standing by the journalistic importance of keeping Nielsen in the program.
"Fortune strongly believes that interviewing Nielsen—and other key figures from the private and public sector, however controversial—is important journalism and provides us an opportunity to ask substantive questions in front of our viewers and readers," Klooster said.
The Trump administration faced an influx of migrants at the southern border, with particularly children being brought by adults, during Nielsen's tenure. Trump promised to end the so-called catch-and-release policy of prior administrations, leading to overcrowding at detention centers and an increase in family separations.