Rep. Will Hurd will no longer give the keynote address at the Black Hat security conference amid questions about his voting record on women’s rights.
Hurd, a Texas Republican congressman, was scheduled to headline the conference later this year, but the organizers decided to walk back the decision a day later.
“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,” said a statement. “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.”
“We are still fully dedicated to providing an inclusive environment and apologize that this decision did not reflect that sentiment,” the statement added.
A new keynote speaker has not yet been announced.
Hurd’s communications director Katie Thompson said the congressman was “honored” to be invited.
“Congressman Hurd has always sought to engage groups of people that don’t necessarily agree with all of his votes or opinions,” she said. “That’s why Rep. Hurd is one of the loudest voices for bipartisanship in Congress. This Congress alone he voted for equal pay for equal work, for the Violence Against Women Act and the Equality Act. Not to mention Congressman Hurd would have brought the prospective [sic] of a person of color and someone who served our nation abroad.”
We reported yesterday that some in the security community felt uncomfortable and described their unease with the decision to appoint Hurd as keynote speaker. Hurd has consistently voted against legislation supporting women’s rights, including efforts to financially support women in STEM fields, but also voting in favor of allowing states to restrict access and coverage to abortions and defunding access to women’s health organizations like Planned Parenthood.
Critics said the move alienated women at a time where diversity in security remains a challenge. Others criticized the choice of speaker on his views, calling access to women’s healthcare a human right.
Several long-time Black Hat attendees said on Twitter that they would not attend the conference following news of Hurd’s keynote.
Updated with remarks from Hurd’s communications director.