House Democrats call for firing of USAID political appointee with history of Islamophobic statements

Reps. Joaquin Castro and Ilhan Omar on Monday called for the firing of a controversial U.S. Agency for International Development appointee over his reported history of Islamophobic comments.

The members of Congress wrote in a letter to acting USAID Administrator John Barsa that the agency’s religious freedom adviser, Mark Kevin Lloyd, has a “historical pattern of prejudice against the Islamic faith and the Muslim population” that is antithetical to the agency’s mission.

“Given the scope of USAID’s reach and the priority it has placed on religious freedom, USAID’s program development will necessarily involve planning with Muslim countries or populations,” the letter, a copy of which was shared with POLITICO, said. “Any USAID senior leader that cannot serve the world’s multi-faith society is unable to assist in fairly administering these assistance programs.”

A spokesperson for USAID did not immediately return a request for comment.

The letter from House Democrats comes weeks after seven Democratic senators demanded an investigation into reported offensive comments from both Lloyd and USAID Deputy White House Liaison Merritt Corrigan.

POLITICO reported that the recent hirings of Lloyd and Corrigan sparked internal turmoil within the agency due to their history of offensive social media statements.

A 2016 Associated Press investigation revealed that Lloyd, then the Trump campaign’s Virginia field director, shared a Facebook post calling Islam “a barbaric cult.” The investigation also found that days after an Islamic extremist carried out a mass shooting in Orlando, Fla., Lloyd shared a meme that said people should be forced to eat bacon before they can purchase guns.

The comments recently resurfaced in a Washington Post article that documented Lloyd’s appointment as USAID’s religious freedom adviser in late May. A USAID spokesperson told the Post that Lloyd’s “barbaric cult” comment was in reference to radical Islam, not the religion as a whole.

The Post also reported Lloyd accused former President Barack Obama of being connected with the Muslim Brotherhood in subsequent Facebook posts. The spokesperson did not explain Lloyd’s other reported Islamophobic statements.

Castro (D-Texas) and Omar (D-Minn.) wrote that the agency’s response to Lloyd’s statements is “woefully inadequate.”

“Far from an isolated incident of poor judgment, Mr. Lloyd’s behavior openly and frequently displays his contempt for a religion that counts nearly two billion followers, and constitutes the second largest religion in the world,” Castro and Omar wrote in the letter. “He does not represent the values of our country, and he should not be in a position to betray our nation’s constitutional promise of religious freedom.”

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