Brandi Carlile pulls out of Fortune Women’s Summit over Kirstjen Nielsen appearance

Singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile has pulled out of the Fortune Most Powerful Woman Summit that begins today in Washington, D.C. She follows Hillary Clinton and “Surviving R. Kelly” executive producer Dream Hampton in exiting the summit over the inclusion of Kirstjen Nielsen, President Trump’s former homeland security secretary, who shared responsibility for implementing his family separation policy among migrants at the border.

Carlile was expected to address immigration issues herself at the summit, as her song “The Joke,” which was nominated for record and song of the year at the 2019 Grammys, deals with that topic.

In a series of Twitter messages Monday morning, the singer expressed profuse gratitude for the honor of being asked to appear and said she believes in dialogue with those expressing contrary viewpoints, but that appearing at the same dais as Nielsen was finally beyond the pale.

After quoting key lines from “The Joke” (“They come to kick dirt in your face / To call you weak and then displace you after carrying your baby on your back across the desert”), Carlile said, “At the end of the day I’m a mother with a ridiculous birthright and a heart for displaced people. i’m proud to have been invited to the Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit in D.C. Dropping out of such a special appearance is rarely my style. I believe in showing up and lending my voice. Joining the power.

“However,” she continued, “I don’t believe that human rights violators and merit-based abusers of displaced people should be given a platform to ‘reimagine’ history. Ever. The atrocity of family separation at our Southern border needs to go down in history as one of the United States of America’s most merciless acts.

“Respectfully, I absolutely cannot support Kirstjen Nielsen having a voice among the most powerful and inspiring women in America. Her access to power is righteously over. I forgive her. I mean no disrespect. I wish her well and hope that she comes to understand the error in her part of this shameful policy.

“I am beyond honored to have been considered,” Carlile concluded. “Thank you for understanding.”

Hampton, the “Surviving R. Kelly” executive producer, dropped out Friday, saying in a statement, “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. … Reputation rinsing ― using visible, celebratory platforms to restore and normalize monstrous abuse ― was actually common practice for predators like R Kelly and Jeffrey Epstein.”

In seeming recognition of the growing groundswell to remove Nielsen from the conference, Fortune has changed the name of the panel on which she was to appear. Formerly titled “Conversation,” the Q&A with Nielsen, to be conducted by PBS Newshour’s Amna Nawaz, is now being billed as “The Hard Questions.”

Clinton had cited a scheduling conflict in her exit from the summit, though sources told reporters that learning of Nielsen’s inclusion in the proceedings was key in her decision to back out.

Actress Sara Ramirez was quick to thank Carlile on Twitter, writing, “Thank you so much for using your voice, power and platform to speak to this. I am with you.”

22 PHOTOS
Former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen
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Former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen
FILE - In this April 10, 2019, file photo, outgoing Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen speaks at the dedication ceremony at the Homeland Security headquarters Center Building at the old St. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington. Nielsen was told by President Donald Trump’s chief of staff not to bring up election security in meetings with the president, but she continued to push the issue with administration and international leaders despite the lack of White House coordination. That’s according to people familiar with the matter. Nielsen, who resigned in April, had made cybersecurity a focus of her tenure there. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)
Una sonriente Kirstjen Nielsen hace declaraciones a la prensa frente a su casa de Alexandria, Virginia, el lunes 8 de abril del 2019, dos días después de renunciar como secretaria de seguridad nacional de EEUU. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)
Outgoing Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen speaks at the dedication ceremony at the Homeland Security headquarters Center Building at the old St. Elizabeths Hospital, Wednesday, April 10, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
La exsecretaria de Seguridad Nacional Kirstjen Nielsen habla afuera de su residencia en Alexandria, Virginia, el lunes 8 de abril de 2019. (AP Foto/Kevin Wolf)
Outgoing Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen speaks at the dedication ceremony at the Homeland Security headquarters Center Building at the old St. Elizabeths Hospital, Wednesday, April 10, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 11: Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen looks on during the Conference for Prosperity and Security in Central America on October 11, 2018 in Washington, DC. Leaders from the Central American countries of Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras met with U.S. leaders at the second Conference for Prosperity and Security in Central America. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Outgoing Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, left, speaks accompanied by outgoing acting deputy secretary Claire Grady, at the dedication ceremony at the Homeland Security headquarters Center Building at the old St. Elizabeths Hospital, Wednesday, April 10, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Kirstjen Nielsen testifies to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on her nomination to be secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in Washington, U.S., November 8, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
US Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen M. Nielsen (2nd R) smiles Border Patrol officer Gloria Chavez (C) beside a plaque with Presidents Trump's name on it at the first completed section of Trumps 30-foot border wall in the El Centro Sector, at the US Mexico border in Calexico, California on October 26, 2018. (Photo by Mark RALSTON / AFP) (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
Kirstjen Nielsen is sworn in before testifying to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on her nomination to be secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in Washington, U.S., November 8, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Kirstjen Nielsen, U.S. secretary of Homeland Security nominee, listens to an introduction from U.S. President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017. Trump�announced his nomination of Nielsen, a top aide to White House Chief of Staff�John Kelly, to succeed him as secretary of Homeland Security. Photographer: T.J. Kirkpatrick/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Kirstjen Nielsen testifies to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on her nomination to be secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in Washington, U.S., November 8, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 11: Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen (C) and Mexico Secretary of Government Alfonso Navarrete (R) look on as U.S. Vice President Mike Pence speaks during the Conference for Prosperity and Security in Central America on October 11, 2018 in Washington, DC. Leaders from the Central American countries of Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras met with U.S. leaders at the second Conference for Prosperity and Security in Central America. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump listens to his Secretary of Homeland Security nominee Kirstjen Nielsen in the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., October 12, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
REFILE - ADDING DETAIL: White House Chief of Staff John Kelly (R) walks with Kirstjen Nielsen, the chief of staff at the Department of Homeland Security, on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, U.S., before his departure with President Donald Trump to Yuma, Arizona, August 22, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
U.S. President Donald Trump smiles as he introduces his Secretary of Homeland Security nominee Kirstjen Nielsen in the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., October 12, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 08: Kirstjen Nielsen, Homeland Security Department secretary nominee, is introduced by Sens. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, left, and Marco Rubio, R-Fla., during her Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee confirmation hearing in Dirksen Building on November 8, 2017. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 12: White House Deputy Chief of Staff Kirstjen Nielsen speaks during a nomination announcement at the East Room of the White House October 12, 2017 in Washington, DC. President Donald Trump has nominated Nielsen to be the next homeland security secretary, the position that has left vacant by Chief of Staff John Kelly. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 12: U.S. President Donald Trump shakes the hand of White House Deputy Chief of Staff Kirstjen Nielsen during a nomination announcement at the East Room of the White House October 12, 2017 in Washington, DC. President Trump has nominated Nielsen to be the next homeland security secretary, the position that has left vacant by Chief of Staff John Kelly. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Kirstjen Nielsen listens as US President Donald Trump nominates her as next US Secretary of Homeland Security in the East Room of the White House October 12, 2017 in Washington, DC. / AFP PHOTO / Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Secretary of Homeland Security nominee Kirstjen Nielsen smiles after U.S. President Donald Trump introduced Nielsen in the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., October 12, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Outgoing Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, front center left, cuts a ribbon accompanied by outgoing acting deputy secretary Claire Grady, front center right, Incoming Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan, front left, and Administrator of the Transportation Security Administration David Pekoske, front right at the dedication ceremony at the Homeland Security headquarters Center Building at the old St. Elizabeths Hospital, Wednesday, April 10, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
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A number of liberal or progressive politicians and activists are still scheduled to appear, along with some major players in the entertainment business. Those still on the agenda include presidential candidate Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, Anita Hill, Eva Longoria, former U.S. national security advisor Susan Rice,  and the CEOs, directors, presidents or board chairmen of such companies as Starbucks, Microsoft, Verizon Business, Deloitte and Cisco.

Well before “The Joke,” Carlile has been active in refugee causes with her Looking Out Foundation, which has worked in partnership with War Child UK.

 

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