Trump Team Always Knew of Ousted USAID Official’s Homophobia

Trump store at the CPAC conference at  National Harbor, Maryland
In early 2018, at the Conservative Political Action Conference, Merritt Corrigan may have looked like any friendly MAGA cashier, but her bigoted, vitriolic Twitter feed told a different story.
Reuters/ Kevin Lamarque

A homophobic Trump appointee to the US Agency for International Development (USAID) who served since this past spring as deputy White House liaison to the agency has been ousted from her role over her anti-LGBTQ comments and other social media posts.

But her homophobia and transphobia aren’t new, which presents important questions: Why was she hired in the first place? And why did she stay on board even after concerns about her fitness were raised publicly?

Merritt Corrigan’s name resurfaced in the media in recent days after she unlocked her personal Twitter account and embarked on a tweetstorm, firing out posts laced with insensitive rhetoric about LGBTQ people and prompting USAID’s acting administrator, John Barsa, to finally step in and pull the plug on her short-lived tenure with the agency, according to Politico.

Merritt Corrigan, active in GOP circles for years, had a well-documented history of bigotry

However, Corrigan has been linked to the Trump team for years — she was seen serving as some sort of cashier at the “Trump Store” at the Conservative Political Action Conference in February of 2018. Despite previous media reports about her extensive history of anti-LGBTQ remarks, she was hired anyway and her bosses even rushed to her defense when she was drawing attention earlier this year.

Corrigan’s wild takes have most recently included statements like “gay marriage isn’t marriage,” “men aren’t women,” and even ones directly attacking her own favored administration’s approach to foreign policy. She also alleges that her work environment was rife with an anti-Christian culture.

“The United States is losing ground in the battle to garner influence through humanitarian aid because we now refuse to help countries who don’t celebrate sexual deviancy,” she said in a tweet on August 2. “Meanwhile, Russia and China are happy to step in and eat our lunch.”

In a follow-up tweet, she wrote, “I watched with horror this week as USAID distributed taxpayer funded documents claiming ‘we cannot tell someone’s sex or gender by looking at them’ and that not calling oneself ‘cis-gendered’ is a microagression… I’m not cis-anything. I’m a woman.”

In November of last year, Politico reported that Corrigan had worked for the Republican National Committee before getting hired as a political liaison at the Hungarian Embassy. While in the embassy job, she tweeted that Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, a far-right figure who has cracked down on civil liberties in that country, is “the shining champion of Western civilization.”

She enjoyed currency in Republican circles for years despite publishing Twitter posts saying that “our homo-empire couldn’t tolerate even one commercial enterprise not in full submission to the tyrannical LGBT agenda.”

Politico also noted last fall that she once said women today are “far from the guardianship of a loving husband.” Following the emergence of Politico’s reporting, she made her Twitter account private.

As Corrigan’s bombastic reputation started receiving attention in the spring, Barsa issued a statement saying he wanted to “specifically condemn the unwarranted and malicious attacks” on Corrigan and other political appointees, before adding that “USAID is honored to have” such officials who “are committed to enacting the policies of President Donald J. Trump.”

This defense of Corrigan came despite her earlier tweet that “Liberal democracy is little more than a front for the war being waged against us by those who fundamentally despise not only our way of life, but life itself.” An odd statement, to say the least, from an appointee to an agency that applies a “liberal democracy index” when evaluating the strength of nations seeking US aid, ProPublica noted in a story about her in June.

The pressure against Corrigan mounted from the time of her appointment. Late last month, a group of 20 Democratic members of Congress sent a letter to Barsa demanding that she resign immediately, citing her anti-LGBTQ stances and her comments rejecting the “false pretense of [women’s] equality with men,” among other comments.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Eliot Engel spearheaded that letter, triggering Corrigan to begin unleashing wild conspiracy theories about the lawmaker.

“@RepEliotEngel can hide behind his mask as he attacks me for my Christian beliefs, but he can’t hide from his own well-documented tragic use of prostitutes,” she wrote in a tweet about the Jewish lawmaker from New York.

Corrigan is vowing to soon hold a news conference during which she is anticipated to rip her ousting as a case of discrimination on the basis of religion. She is planning to stand alongside conspiracy theorists Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman in order to “discuss the rampant anti-Christian sentiment at USAID.”

In a statement confirming her departure this month, USAID sidestepped her anti-LGBTQ remarks entirely and instead opted to acknowledge her complaints of an anti-Christian environment in her workplace. The agency told Politico it “takes any claim of discrimination seriously, and we will investigate any complaints of anti-Christian bias Ms. Corrigan has raised during her tenure at the agency.”

In the wake of her firing, Corrigan continues pushing homophobic tweets. On the evening of August 3, she retweeted a post by a profile dubbed “@NationalFile” that quoted her as saying, “The Department of Defense has refused to sell military requipment — needed in order to combat ISIS and other extremist groups — to certain countries in Africa because they did not have gay marriage.”

The Human Rights Campaign’s government affairs director David Stacey condemned the Trump administration for appointing individuals who disregard basic tenets of human rights.

“Sadly, Merritt Corrigan is not unique in the Trump Administration,” Stacey said in a written statement. “She is the exact type of anti-LGBTQ zealot that Trump recruits and places in positions of power. Corrigan’s biased and harmful beliefs are not shared by the vast majority of Americans. Corrigan is a symptom of a larger problem… it’s time to hold the Trump-Pence administration accountable at the ballot box and elect a leader this November who supports the fundamental humanity of LGBTQ people and appoints people who share that basic decency.”

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