Black Hat, a security and technology organization that had held briefing and training events around the world for the last 22 years, published a statement on its website saying they had disinvited Rep. William Hurd (R-Texas) from their 2019 event on Aug. 7-8.
“We misjudged the separation of technology and politics,” said Black Hat in their 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.”
There was an online backlash of people who disagreed with Hurd’s pro-life stance, many taking to Twitter to complain. Some said they were canceling their plans to attend.
According to the website Techcrunch, a spokesperson for Black Hat initially defended their choice to have Hurd give the Keynote address.
“Hurd has a strong background in computer science and information security and has served as an advocate for specific cybersecurity initiatives in Congress,” said the Black hat spokesperson according to Techcrunch. “He will offer the Black Hat audience a unique perspective of the infosec landscape and its effect on the government.”
After the backlash, Black Hat reversed their stance.
Black Hat said on Twitter, “Black Hat has chosen to remove U.S. Representative, Will Hurd, as our 2019 Black Hat USA Keynote.”
Black Hat has chosen to remove U.S. Representative, Will Hurd, as our 2019 Black Hat USA Keynote. We’ve posted a statement here: https://t.co/JsuVECbVTs
— Black Hat (@BlackHatEvents) June 14, 2019
Hurd served as an undercover officer in the CIA and a Senior Advisor for a cybersecurity firm. He explains his viewpoints on abortion and human rights on his government website.
“I believe that every human life is sacred, including both the mother and the child,” said Hurd.
Many users on Twitter expressed their disagreement with Black Hat’s decision to remove him.
One user posted, “How was that a good decision?”
House member, arguably one of the few in the House is seriously involved in cyber regs, gets invited to keynote at #BlackHat.
Twitter outrage ensues: “He voted wrong on women’s rights.”
How was that a good decision?
— Stasys Bielinis (@Staska) June 15, 2019
I don’t agree with this decision. I think we can stand to hear sense from Hurd on cybersecurity without endorsing his other, less sophisticated views. I don’t think we have to agree with everything someone says in order to listen to them.
— Simon Pope (@skjpope) June 15, 2019
Another Twitter user said, “You know what is a ‘women’s issue?’ Cybersecurity.”
— AshLee Strong (@AshLeeStrong) June 15, 2019
Some Twitter users took to a more comical approach to express themselves, with comments such as, “Complete opposite of inclusive, but ok.”
Complete opposite of inclusive, but ok.
— Danko Stanojevic (@HnSDanko) June 15, 2019
“We misjudged the separation of technology and politics” – you did. By removing speaker for political views.
— Hubert Kowalski (@johnny_bit) June 15, 2019
— Ken Saganski (@KenSaganski) June 15, 2019
According to the website Cyberscoop, the communications director for Hurd, Katie Thompson, said Hurd wished the conference a success.
“Representative Hurd was honored to be invited and hopes that the Black Hat Conference is a success,” said Thompson in a statement to CyberScoop. “Congressman Hurd has always sought to engage groups of people that don’t necessarily agree with all of his votes or opinions.
“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 perspective of a person of color and someone who served our nation abroad.”