The top communications official at the Department of Veterans Affairs reportedly told Georgia Coffey, the chief diversity officer, not to condemn white supremacists after the deadly rally in Charlottesville, Va. Coffey chose to rock the bigot boat, but frustrated by lack of support from the Trump administration, she jumped ship.
Coffey, a career senior executive at VA, pushed the agency to issue a statement against the “repugnant display of hate and bigotry by white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and the Ku Klux Klan,” according to emails from August 2017, given to The Washington Post by American Oversight, a nonprofit watchdog group.
Coffey’s statement conflicted with President Trump’s response in which he blamed “many sides” for the rally where Heather Heyer was killed. She also said that Charlottesville was “a tragic reminder that our work in civil rights and inclusion is not finished.”
The same week Coffey drafted the remarks for dissemination by VA Secretary David Shulkin, he broke with Trump by saying the violence “outraged” him, which made waves.
So John Ullyot, the VA’s chief communications official, a Trump appointee, told Coffey in an email to stand down.
His directive allegedly came from the White House, where officials were “scrambling to contain the fallout from Trump’s comments,” sources told The Post.
Coffey intended for the statement to be sent to 380,000 VA employees of whom more than 40 percent are minorities. It would’ve also been made public.
She said in an email that paring down the statement would “dilute my message and fail to convey the sense of condemnation that I hope we all feel.”
It seems the racism and violence that occurred in Charlottesville, along with Trump’s indifference prompted a tipping point in her career at the VA — Coffey published the statement on her own.
The full remarks were published under her name in the September 2017 newsletter posted by the VA’s diversity office. But it was removed and she was reportedly reprimanded.
On the VA’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion website, there’s no newsletter listed for September 2017.
Coffey retired from her position after getting burnt by the Trump administration. In November 2017, she began work as senior manager for diversity and inclusion at Lockheed Martin. She has not commented to the press about the discovery of the emails.
Reader Question: Georgia Coffey made a bold move. Would you have done the same in a similar situation