HUD Secretary’s Comments Evoke Folly of 1919 Sex Scandal
- Top DEI Bosses Have a Problem – Diversity - November 15, 2022
- Attorneys General Shady Business - November 2, 2022
- Wells Fargo Workers Went on Appraisal-Fraud Bender - October 11, 2022
Sometimes when government investigates a perceived problem, it creates a genuine one.
Assistant Secretary of the Navy (and future president) Franklin D. Roosevelt sent two investigators in 1919 to Naval Station Newport in Rhode Island to look into reports of immoral behavior – code at the time for “homosexual activity.” Their report found no such activity. But in the course of conducting the investigation, the two investigators deputized a handful of sailors, training them in techniques for luring personnel into liaisons at a YMCA just outside the base.
Predictably, the subsequent undercover activity by the newly minted “entrapment specialists” resulted in a wave of sightings and new complaints. As it happened, these new detectives seemed to relish their undercover roles a bit too much.
Ultimately, the episode lapsed into self-parody, but not before it had triggered a local prosecution and a congressional investigation, which concluded with Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels and Roosevelt receiving formal rebukes by Congress.
Fast-forward to August 2022. Televised comments by Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Marcia Fudge lapsed into similar self-parody. The cabinet secretary was addressing a handful of cases around the country in which borrowers were dissatisfied with appraised values and claimed racial discrimination.
In explaining her department’s findings, Secretary Fudge launched into what sounded remarkably like discriminatory rhetoric. She made comments that linked skin color to personality traits. She said to a CNN reporter: “The problem is who is in the appraisal industry. When you look at an industry that is 95% white… Because [the white appraisers] collect the data, the data is not good data.”
Her meaning was clear: Real estate appraisers, depending on skin color, can be dishonest or incompetent by nature. You can view the cabinet secretary’s remarks here. There’s little indication Secretary Fudge is bothered by hypocrisy or double-standards. She appears irony-proof.
It’s a shame. In her heyday, she was admired by appraisers. As U.S. Congresswoman for the 11th District of Ohio, then-Representative Fudge entered national prominence when she introduced House Bill 2108, the Predatory Mortgage Lending Practices Reduction Act of 2009. She was a Congressional firebrand who took up predatory lending in the smoldering wreckage of the 2007-2008 financial crisis.
She was viewed as a voice for those who had been victimized by affinity scams. Appraisers, whose fees in the otherwise dog-eat-dog mortgage origination game are not commission-based, have aligned interests with such reformers. Appraisers saw her as a fellow adult in the room. Those days are gone.
She has since allowed fashionable scapegoating – and possibly her own deep-seated biases – to define her. She now seems to be on a quest to dismantle objectivity, her only justification being the pigmentation of the observers.
But even as a vocal critic of predatory lending, she still gave most mortgage brokers and loan officers the benefit of the doubt.
“There are honest, decent mortgage brokers and agents in the industry,” she said in 2009. “Then there are a relatively few unscrupulous individuals who earn their commission through deception.”
Her magnanimity has apparently disappeared with the years. Her opinion of all appraisers is based, in her own words, on race and that alone.
But there is a dimension to her corrosive comments the secretary has perhaps not considered. In her televised interview, she told every employee at her agency what she thinks of them based on skin color. Some of the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s 9,600 employees of all backgrounds will begin questioning their career paths under her. Who could blame them? Have their careers been hindered or helped because Secretary Fudge openly equates competency or honesty to skin color?
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission maintains a web page with a sampling of discrimination cases – both from the private and public sectors – from 2003 to present. They detail common scenarios in workplace race discrimination. Secretary Fudge’s comments on CNN could be lifted from the web page.
That a person’s skin color would determine his or her level of honesty or competency is a repulsive remark for anyone to make, let alone a U.S. cabinet secretary. The public needs to call her out on it.
“He who fights with monsters should be careful lest he thereby become a monster,” wrote the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. Secretary Fudge should take heed of these wise words.