The Conservative Myth Of The Ambassador Ousted Over A Personal Email Account
Conservative media have accused Hillary Clinton of hypocrisy, claiming that a U.S. ambassador was forced to resign for using a personal email account at the same time Clinton was engaged in a similar practice during her tenure. In fact, the ambassador in question was fired following an investigation that accused him of a vast array of failures and mismanagement, not just improper use of email.
Former U.S. Ambassador To Kenya Scott Gration Resigned In Response To Damning Investigation Into His Management Failures
AP: “Gration Resigned After Seeing A Draft” Of Report “Highly Critical Of Gration's Leadership And Management Of The Embassy.” The Associated Press reported in June 2012:
State Department officials said an internal audit of the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi to be released next month will be highly critical of Gration's leadership and management of the embassy, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the audit is still being prepared and is confidential.
Gration resigned after seeing a draft of the report, the officials said.
Three U.S. Embassy employees told The Associated Press that Gration led the embassy using a “my way or the highway” military leadership style that didn't translate well in the civilian embassy world. The employees asked not to be identified, fearing retribution. [Associated Press, 6/29/12]
Foreign Policy: Gration Review “One Of The Worst Reviews” For An Ambassador “In Several Years.” Foreign Policy reported in June 2012 that Gration's review by the State Department's Office of the Inspector General “was described ... by multiple people briefed on its contents as one of the worst reviews of an ambassador's performance written by the IG's staff in several years”:
The impending release of a highly critical report by the State Department's Inspector General's office prompted the sudden resignation Friday of U.S. Ambassador to Kenya Scott Gration, according to administration and congressional sources.
The report was described to The Cable by multiple people briefed on its contents as one of the worst reviews of an ambassador's performance written by the IG's staff in several years. The bulk of the criticisms focused on Gration's terrible relationship with embassy staff since he took over as ambassador in February 2011 following a controversial two-year stint as President Barack Obama's special envoy for Sudan. [Foreign Policy's The Cable, 6/29/12]
Foreign Policy: Gration Reportedly Told Employees He Would “Shoot Them In The Head” If They Defied Him. Foreign Policy further reported, “At one point in his battles with his newfound employees, Gration told embassy staff he would 'shoot them in the head' if they didn't follow his instructions, and the staff formally complained about that remark, according to one unconfirmed account.” [Foreign Policy's The Cable, 6/29/12]
New Republic: Gration's Management Style Triggered “Staggeringly High” Attrition. A June 2012 New Republic article on Gration's resignation referenced his use of personal email but focused on his poor management style and its impact on morale:
A former State Department official with a long service record in the Africa bureau and a former ambassador told me that Gration's tenure in Kenya was marked by constant friction with his superiors and a refusal to abide by State Department protocol and security measures. For instance, in a move that upset officials in the Department of Defense and White House, Gration complicated U.S. diplomacy to Somalia by demanding oversight of the Somalia Embassy's actions. And because Gration insisted on using his personal computer to conduct State Department business, he set up an office in one of the few places in Embassy Nairobi authorized for an unsecured network--a bathroom. (When a staffer had a meeting with him, he or she would sit on the toilet.)
Attrition rates at the Nairobi Embassy were staggeringly high, said a former U.S. government official who worked on Sudan. Many of Gration's staff opted to be transferred to the highly dangerous Iraq and Afghanistan embassies rather than continue to work for him. “Some people had to go to some real shit holes to escape him,” said the former official. Gration made capricious policy that hurt staff morale. At one point, he told his staff that they could either sacrifice the extra pay they make for working in a volatile region, a State Department sacred cow, or he would force their spouses and children to leave the country. (In Kenya, officers are allowed to bring their families and collect 'post differential' pay). [New Republic, 6/29/12]
State Inspector General Report: Gration “Lost The Respect And Confidence Of The Staff To Lead The Mission,” And Was “Divisive And Ineffective.” From the August 2012 report from the Department of State's Office of Inspector General:
The Ambassador has lost the respect and confidence of the staff to lead the mission. Of more than 80 chiefs of mission inspected in recent cycles, the Ambassador ranked last for interpersonal relations, next to last on both managerial skill and attention to morale, and third from last in his overall scores from surveys of mission members. The inspectors found no reason to question these assessments; the Ambassador's leadership to date has been divisive and ineffective. [“Inspection of Embassy Nairobi, Kenya,” Department of State's Office of Inspector General, August 2012]
State Inspector General Report: Gration “Damaged The Cohesion” Of His Mission, Which Risked Becoming “Dysfunctional.” From the August 2012 report from the Department of State's Office of Inspector General:
The Ambassador has damaged the cohesion of Embassy Nairobi's country team by underscoring differences between offices working directly with Kenya and those with regional responsibilities. Country team members, particularly those from other agencies, relied on the recently departed deputy chief of mission to maintain a sense of common purpose at Embassy Nairobi. Unless corrected there is a risk that the country team will become dysfunctional. The Ambassador needs to broaden his understanding of why various agencies are part of his mission, cease avoiding contact with them, and work with the assistance of a senior Department of State (Department) official and the next deputy chief of mission to restore country team harmony. [“Inspection of Embassy Nairobi, Kenya,” Department of State's Office of Inspector General, August 2012]
State Inspector General Report: Gration Focused Staff Attention On Projects With “Almost No Value.” From the August 2012 report from the Department of State's Office of Inspector General:
The Ambassador's efforts to develop and focus the mission's work around what he calls “mission essential tasks” have consumed considerable staff time and produced documents of unclear status and almost no value to the Department in approving priorities and assigning resources. His efforts have also created confusion about the relevance of the embassy's annual Mission Resource Request (MRR). The Office of Inspector General (OIG) team agreed with embassy staff that the mission essential task process added no real value to the management of the embassy. [“Inspection of Embassy Nairobi, Kenya,” Department of State's Office of Inspector General, August 2012]
State Inspector General Report: Email Use One Of Several Cases In Which Gration Acted In Violation Of Department Policy. From the August 2012 report from the Department of State's Office of Inspector General:
The Ambassador's greatest weakness is his reluctance to accept clear-cut U.S. Government decisions. He made clear his disagreement with Washington policy decisions and directives concerning the safe-havening in Nairobi of families of Department employees who volunteered to serve in extreme hardship posts; the creation of a freestanding Somalia Unit; and the nonuse of commercial email for official government business, including Sensitive But Unclassified information. Notwithstanding his talk about the importance of mission staff doing the right thing, the Ambassador by deed or word has encouraged it to do the opposite. [“Inspection of Embassy Nairobi, Kenya,” Department of State's Office of Inspector General, August 2012]
State Inspector General Report: Gration Does Not Read His Classified Messages. From the August 2012 report from the Department of State's Office of Inspector General: “The Ambassador does not read classified front channel messages and has not established a system to have his staff screen incoming cables relevant to Kenya and U.S. interests in the region.” [“Inspection of Embassy Nairobi, Kenya,” Department of State's Office of Inspector General, August 2012]
State Inspector General Report Also Criticized Gration Over Policies And Focus. From the August 2012 report from the Department of State's Office of Inspector General:
- The Ambassador's initiative to redirect programming for nearly $550 million in U.S. health assistance, while well intentioned, has proven disruptive and created confusion about its relationship to existing programs. He announced to the Kenyans the establishment of a new unfunded program, called Let's Live, with the unrealistic aim of reducing by 50 percent in 1 year Kenya's premature mortality rates for infants, mothers, and noncommunicable diseases.
- The embassy needs to focus the political section's reporting on the forthcoming March 2013 elections and should draw from a 1-year strategy recently approved by Washington, which includes a plan to engage the Kenyan public and authorities to prevent and mitigate ethnic-political conflict.
- The respective responsibilities of Embassy Nairobi and the Somalia Unit are clear in principle, but in practice the Ambassador has set a tone that discourages collaboration between the embassy and the Somalia Unit. [“Inspection of Embassy Nairobi, Kenya,” Department of State's Office of Inspector General, August 2012]
Conservatives Downplay Gration's Management Failures, Focus On Improper Email Use To Push Clinton Hypocrisy
The Federalist: “Hillary's State Dept. Forced The Resignation Of An Ambassador For Using Private E-Mail.” Under the headline “SCOOP: Hillary's State Dept. Forced The Resignation Of An Ambassador For Using Private E-Mail,” The Federalist reported that Gration was forced to resign “in part for setting up an unsanctioned private e-mail system,” which the site described as “eerily similar” to Clinton's email practices:
Although Hillary Clinton and her allies may be claiming that her private e-mail system is no big deal, Hillary's State Department actually forced the 2012 resignation of the U.S. ambassador to Kenya in part for setting up an unsanctioned private e-mail system. According to a 2012 report from the State Department's inspector general, former U.S. ambassador to Kenya Scott Gration set up a private e-mail system for his office in 2011.
The inspector general's report offered a scathing assessment of Gration's information security practices -- practices that are eerily similar to those undertaken by Clinton while she served as Secretary of State.
The Federalist did not mention any of the other failures highlighted in the OIG report, instead playing up several news articles which mentioned his email practices. [The Federalist, 3/5/15]
Weekly Standard: “Clinton State Department Ousted Ambassador Using Private Email.” In a March 5 post, Weekly Standard writer Mark Hemingway highlighted the 2012 State Department Inspector General's report under the headline “Clinton State Department Ousted Ambassador Using Private Email.” Hemingway noted that Gration “was fired for a myriad of reasons,” none of which he named, but added that the incident nonetheless confirms that the “State Department policy was very clear. Using a private email outside the State Department's secure system was completely unacceptable. If this applied to ambassadors, one would think it was sensible policy for the Secretary of State as well.” [Weekly Standard, 3/5/15]
Daily Caller: “US Ambassador Fired For Hillary-Like Use Of Private Email.” In a March 5 post headlined “US Ambassador Fired For Hillary-Like Use Of Private Email,” Daily Caller reporter Neil Munro wrote, “The U.S. ambassador to Kenya was forced out in 2012 after an inspector general report showed managerial incompetence, including his use of a private email system to evade agency rules.” [Daily Caller, 3/5/15]
Daily Mail: “Clinton's State Department Ousted Ambassador To Kenya After He Set Up Private Email System.” The Daily Mail noted that Gration departed the State Department “after a scathing performance report blasted his leadership style,” but did not note any of the leadership charges against him, instead focusing on his use of Gmail to conduct official business:
The report determined that Gration 'assumed charge of the mission's information management operations,' in Nairobi, and 'ordered a commercial Internet connection installed in his embassy office bathroom so he could work there on a laptop not connected to the Department email system.'
He also tried to legitimize his actions by writing new policy and distributing it to the embassy staff, saying the use of 'commercial email' for government business was acceptable.
The State Department did not respond to a request for comment about parallels between her case and Gration's.
But the 2012 IG report spelled out a policy that it appears Clinton herself failed to follow. [Daily Mail, 3/5/15]
Washington Examiner: “Clinton Ousted U.S. Ambassador For Using Private Email.” A Washington Examiner piece headlined “Clinton ousted U.S. Ambassador for using private email in 2012” claimed that “Despite relying exclusively on her own private email system during her time in office, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ousted the U.S. ambassador to Kenya in 2012 in part for the same offense.” The Examiner went on to note that Ambassador Gration had also publicly berated staff members and “was roundly criticized for his confrontational leadership style.” [Washington Examiner, 3/5/15]
Fox News Runs With Story That Gration “Was Canned” For “Using Personal Email”
FoxNews.com: “Central Issue” For Gration Resigning Was “His Handling Of The Computer And Email Systems.” Under the headline “Clinton used personal email - but ousted ambassador was chastised for doing the same,” FoxNews.com claimed that while many “aspects of Gration's leadership style were called into question” by the IG report issued before his resignation, “a central issue was his handling of the computer and email systems.” From FoxNews.com:
Scott Gration, then-ambassador to Kenya under Clinton, resigned shortly before the release of a damning inspector general report in 2012. Many aspects of Gration's leadership style were called into question -- including an apparent habit of “publicly berating” staffers and personally “attacking” them -- but a central issue was his handling of the computer and email systems. [FoxNews.com, 3/5/15]
On Hannity, Weekly Standard Writer Claims “An Ambassador Lost His Job” Over Emails. On the March 5 edition of Hannity, The Weekly Standard's Daniel Halper said, “an ambassador lost his job over some of these e-mails. A 2012 inspector general reports that he had an e-mail system outside of the State Department. I think it's -- they knew the law, obviously. Hillary Clinton fired somebody over it. It looks really bad for her.” [Fox News, Hannity, 3/5/15 via Nexis]
On Special Report, Correspondent Says Gration Was “Reprimanded” And “Resigned” Over Email. During a segment on Clinton's email account, correspondent Doug McKelway reported, “In August of 2012, the State Department inspector general reprimanded the U.S. ambassador to Kenya, Scott Gration after an investigation found that he quote, 'Ordered a commercial Internet connection installed in his embassy office bathroom so he could work there on a laptop not connected to the department e-mail system.' Gration later resigned.” McKelway did not mention any other criticisms of Gration. [Fox News, Special Report, 3/5/15 via Nexis]
Fox & Friends: Gration “Was Canned -- Okay, Resigned” For “Using Personal Email.” On Fox & Friends, reporter Kevin Corke said that Gration “was actually canned -- okay, resigned -- for also using personal email”:
KEVIN CORKE: Coming up in our next half hour, or our next hour, I want to tell you guys about someone else in 2012 who was actually canned -- okay, resigned -- for also using personal email. Did you hear about that?
TUCKER CARLSON: Ambassador to Kenya.
CORKE: You got it, and it's a big story.
CARLSON: It is pretty unbelievable that one of her ambassadors, her own ambassadors, was relieved of his post in part for using private email. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 3/6/15]