Kirstjen Nielsen, the former secretary of homeland security who is best known for separating the migrant children from their families and detaining them in an inhumane conditions, is all set to speak at Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summit in Washington in a few days. Hillary Clinton was also scheduled to speak at the summit, but on Friday, she removed herself giving a conflct of schedule. But a source close to Clinton said that she had decided after knowing that Nielsen would come there.
“We work with a lot of activists who are trying to do their best to improve this horrible situation down at the border,” the person said. “At the end of the day, it’s an easy decision. You have to side with them.”
The person further said one of the activists earlier alerted Clinton to Nielsen’s schedule, after which Clinton’s team informed that she wouldn’t be able to speak there.
“While there’s an argument to be made to hear all voices, there are those who fall outside of what should be the band of acceptable behavior and public policymaking,” the person said, “one of the most horrific things that we’ve had to bear witness to within our borders in modern political history.”
However, more than 51,000 people have signed a petition to remove Nielsen from the summit, “Fortune strongly believes that interviewing Nielsen—and other key figures from the private and public sector, however controversial—is important journalism and provides us an opportunity to ask substantive questions in front of our viewers and readers,” said Fortune communications manager Alison Klooster.
When they were asked why Fortune gave the chance to Nielsen—a brand shared for business and government— “reach a much greater audience for this crucial topic than we might have with a straight news piece.”
However, Nielsen will be interviewed by PBS NewsHour’s Amna Nawaz and the summit rule says their 15-minute discussion, which will be included questions from the audience as well, will cover “the horror of family separation, border security, and more.”
Still, it’s easy to see why Nielsen agreed to the interview, even with the promise of some public criticism. Being sandwiched between a “diversity and inclusion”–themed networking lunch and a panel on women running tech companies, Nielsen can recontextualize herself from a professional child abuser to an elite-schmoozing stateswoman who deserves a chance to explain herself.
The agenda of the summit also promotes an interview with Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson: “Lockheed Martin is charged with building the technology that will keep us safe on land, sea and sky—and even in space.” However, this is going to a big thing that all of these speakers are all set to speak at a summit celebrating female leadership.