Black Hat has removed U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas, from its keynote slot just one day after it unveiled the Texas congressman as the speaker at its annual hacking conference in Las Vegas.
After the security firm’s initial announcement June 13 that Hurd would serve as a keynote speaker during the August event, Black Hat organizers received criticism from some in the cybersecurity community because of the Republican’s voting record on women’s issues.
“We misjudged the separation of technology and politics,” Black Hat said in a 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.”
Such criticism came from the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Director of Cybersecurity Eva Galperin, who tweeted yesterday, “a keynote from a lawmaker who doesn’t believe women should have fundamental human rights is not a great way make women feel welcome in the infosec community.”
Hurd, who is one of the leading voices in Congress on IT reform, has a reputation as a middle-of-the-road member and has frequently broken with his party on controversial votes in the House. But critics of Black Hat’s decision to invite him pointed to an analysis of Hurd’s voting record that showed he votes for bills supporting women’s rights just 2 percent of the time.
Hurd has strong national security credentials, serving as a CIA officer in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India for nearly a decade. Before he was elected to Congress, he was a senior adviser to the cybersecurity firm FusionX. He is also a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
Hurd’s office did not immediately respond to a request seeking comment. Black Hat did not say when it would announce a new speaker.