Award-winning filmmaker, author and activist dream hampton is pulling out of an appearance at a high-profile women’s conference because the event will also feature Kirstjen Nielsen, President Donald Trump’s former homeland security secretary who oversaw his migrant family separation policy.
Hampton, the executive producer of the documentary “Surviving R. Kelly,” was scheduled to appear on an Oct. 22 panel about “justice and power.” The Most Powerful Women Summit, set to be held in Washington, D.C., brings together prominent women across industries.
But Fortune, the organizer of the summit, has been under pressure to rescind the invitation to Nielsen, who executed and defended Trump’s policy of separating and detaining thousands of migrant families crossing into the United States. Fortune has so far refused to do so, leading hampton to pull out of the conference.
Hampton provided HuffPost with a statement on her decision:
Fortune should not be giving Kirstjen Nielsen a platform to rehabilitate her image. I’ve worked all my life to tell the stories of women, girls and families. Sharing a stage with Nielsen, who separated immigrant families and put babies in cages, would have put a stamp of approval on her immoral and reprehensible actions and help legitimize the terror that Trump is inflicting on immigrants and communities of color. So I’m cancelling my attendance and encourage other speakers to do the same. I’m thankful for the organizing CREDO Action, Define American and Bend the Arc have done to hold Trump collaborators like Nielsen accountable for their atrocities.
Reputation rinsing ― using visible, celebratory platforms to restore and normalize monstrous abuse ― was actually common practice for predators like R Kelly and Jeffrey Epstein. When every infant, toddler, child and teenager Nielsen is responsible for ripping from their families is released and reunited, when attempts at restitution are made, then perhaps she can face one of them for a public “interview.” Perhaps they’ll begin by asking her a softball, like “Does she now know Norway is a white country?”
Activist groups have been following Nielsen since she resigned from the Trump administration in April, trying to ensure that her actions as homeland security secretary aren’t forgotten.
Groups like Credo Action spoke out when The Atlantic Festival invited Nielsen as a speaker, and organizers of the September event eventually announced she would no longer be participating. In 2018, Credo held a protest outside her house, playing audio of detained migrant children crying.
“We are in solidarity with dream hampton, who just showed what moral leadership looks like by refusing to speak on the same stage as child snatcher Kirstjen Nielsen at Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summit next week. Every other speaker should follow her lead,” said Credo Action campaign manager Jelani Drew-Davi.
While Nielsen is still listed as a speaker at the summit, Fortune has changed the description of her panel. Right now, her session ― scheduled to take place just 30 minutes before the panel that hampton was supposed to be on ― is called “The Hard Questions.”
But previously, Nielsen was going to be on a panel called “Conversation,” with a discussion about “supply chain risk management” ― as well about her role in other policies, such as family separation.
Fortune defended its invitation of Nielsen, telling HuffPost that organizers wanted to make sure that she had to face “tough questions publicly.”
“We believe that the most powerful women in business, who also happen to be some of the most powerful women in the world, have strong views about how the U.S. Administration has handled its immigration policy,” said Fortune spokeswoman Alison Klooster. “We sought out an opportunity to bring the woman who was effectively responsible for that policy to ask her tough questions publicly and on stage about that policy. We brought in Amna Nawaz from PBS NewsHour to do the interview with the clear understanding that this would be a no-holds-barred interview, and that there would be an opportunity for our MPW members to ask questions, as well. That’s how we practice live journalism.”
Klooster said the description of the panel changed because Conway was no longer able to attend.
“The grassroots pressure against Nielsen is working ― Fortune has now tried to reframe Nielsen’s segment into asking ‘the hard questions’ about ‘the horror of family separation,’” Drew-Davi said. “But this still gives Nielsen a platform to attempt to rehabilitate her image and sanitize her cruel attacks on immigrant families and children. The only thing Nielsen should be allowed on a stage for is to condemn her complicity with an admitted racist and her actions traumatizing immigrants and to apologize to the thousands of families she tore apart for the long-lasting damage she inflicted upon them. Fortune should stop trying to redeem their bad decision and cancel the Nielsen session now.”