magazine triggered calls to boycott its Most Powerful Women Summit by inviting Kirstjen Nielsen, the former Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to appear in an
onstage interview on Tuesday.
The protest was small, silly and short-lived, and Fortune was right to avoid turning over its conference itinerary to a handful of miffed
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Grammy-winning singer Brandi Carlile and filmmaker Dream Hampton were among those who backed out of the conference,
which mostly featured a noncontroversial group of women business leaders.
Nielsen oversaw the Trump administration's enforcement of a poorly written law that said children
couldn't be detained with adults, a standard practice in U.S. criminal courts that routinely separate kids from lawbreaking parents. A zero-tolerance policy aimed at dissuading illegal immigration
resulted in the cruel and inhumane practice of splitting up families at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Amid withering criticism, President Trump last year signed an executive order
to end the policy of separating migrant children from parents who were detained as they tried to enter the U.S. illegally. Nielsen resigned from her job in April, as President Trump demanded a harder
line against illegal border crossings, a key campaign pledge that included the construction of a 2,000-mile border wall.
Clinton officially backed out because of a scheduling
conflict, but Slate
cited an unnamed source familiar with Clinton's
process who said she was dissuaded by Nielsen's presence. Is Clinton really that cowardly?
Her withdrawal occurred before her public spat with Rep. Tulsi
Gabbard, the Democratic presidential candidate who also appeared at the Fortune
summit. Clinton last week suggested Gabbard was a Russian agent
, sparking a public feud that's turned Clinton into a laughingstock.
I'm disappointed that Clinton, Carlile and Hampton withdrew from Fortune's
over Nielsen's appearance. U.S. immigration policy is a polarizing mess, and deserves more open discussion about necessary reforms. I've studied the issue closely for a book project, but
that's another column.
As it turned out, Nielsen's appearance at the summit wasn't that interesting. It consisted of well-rehearsed answers to mostly rehashed questions from
PBS NewsHour’s Amna Nawaz. Months ago, Nielsen faced a harsher grilling in congressional hearings.