Rep. William Hurd (R., Texas) was disinvited Friday from a keynote speaking slot in the Black Hat cybersecurity conference because of his pro-life views.
Hurd, a former undercover CIA officer and an advocate of cybersecurity, was invited to speak at the Black Hat cybersecurity conference in Las Vegas this August. When he was announced as one of the keynote slots, critics pounced on Hurd's pro-life record.
TechCrunch security editor Zach Whittaker took to Twitter to declare Black Hat's invitation an affront to "diversity," even though Hurd is an African American.
"Diversity and inclusion is one of the most urgent matters in cybersecurity, but Black Hat seems to be sticking to its decision to allow Rep. Will Hurt to keynote the conference, despite his atrocious voting record on women's rights," Whittaker tweeted.
Black Hat initially defended their decision in an earlier statement.
"Hurd has a strong background in computer science and information security and has served as an advocate for specific cybersecurity initiatives in Congress," the statement said. However, some in the cybersecurity community shared their anger over Hurd being a speaker.
— Tarah (@tarah) June 13, 2019
— Eva (@evacide) June 13, 2019
— yan (@bcrypt) June 13, 2019
The criticism and the threat of people pulling out from the conference caused Black Hat to release a statement where they apologized for misjudging the separation of technology and politics.
"Black Hat has chosen to remove U.S. Representative Will Hurd as our 2019 Black Hat USA Keynote. We misjudged the separation of technology and politics," the statement reads. "We will continue to focus on technology and research, however we recognize that Black Hat USA is not the appropriate platform for the polarizing political debate resulting from our choice of speaker."
African-American representation is considered a dire problem in the tech industry, but Black Hat expressed no concern about that after its decision to expel Hurd.
In their statement, Black Hat said they remained "fully dedicated to providing an inclusive environment and apologize that this decision did not reflect that sentiment."
Hurd's communications director Katie Thompson released a statement saying the congressman was "honored to be invited" and wishes the conference is a success.
"Congressman Hurd has always sought to engage groups of people that don't necessarily agree with all of his votes or opinions. That's why Rep. Hurd is one of the loudest voices for bipartisanship in Congress." Thompson said. "This Congress alone he voted for equal pay for equal work, for the Violence Against Women Act and the Equality Act."
In addition, she cited various votes showing Hurd's concern for women's issues.
"This Congress alone he voted for equal pay for equal work, for the Violence Against Women Act and the Equality Act," Thompson said.