Eddie Bernice Johnson’s chief of staff back at work after suspension for email about gay staffer

Eddie Bernice Johnson

Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson’ chief of staff, who was placed on administrative leave last month over an email he wrote criticizing a gay staff member, is back on the job, The Dallas Morning News reports today.

Rep. Johnson, D-Dallas, placed her chief of staff, Murat Gokcigdem, on leave after the Washington Blade, an LGBT newspaper in the capital, obtained a copy of an email Gokcigdem wrote about Christopher Crowe in 2010. Crowe died last year from a staph infection, but at the time he was one of four finalists to become special assistant to the undersecretary of budget and tax in the Treasury Department.

Crowe, who worked in Johnson’s office and headed the LGBT Congressional Staff Association, sought a letter of recommendation from Gokcigdem for the Treasury Department post. In response to Crowe’s request, Gokcigdem drafted an email to Johnson that he mistakenly sent to Crowe, according to the Blade. Gokcigdem’s email said Crowe was underqualified for the Treasury Department and suggested he was only being considered by the White House post because he was gay.

“It is my personal belief that he has contacts there,” Gokcigdem wrote. “And they, as a group watching and supporting each other if you know what I mean.”

The Morning News reports that Johnson’s office won’t say for how long Gokcigdem was suspended, whether he was paid during that time, or what the findings of the investigation were. The newspaper suggests that the leak of Gokcigdem’s email to the Blade was designed to stir opposition to Johnson prior to the Democratic Primary, and Gokcigdem’s suspension was her effort to tamp down the issue until after the election. Johnson won a landslide victory over two challengers, Taj Clayton and Barbara Mallory Caraway.

The story quotes the deputy executive director of Log Cabin Republicans of Dallas, who suggests that Johnson’s office is sweeping the matter under the rug.

“Investigations tend to provide cover for a lot of facts that one doesn’t want to talk to,” Christian Berle told The Morning News. “It is unfortunately emblematic of a situation many staffers on the Hill are dealing with. … They’re not able to show up at work as themselves.”

Gokcigdem’s suspension led indirectly to the revelation that Rep. Johnson was running misleading advertisements in Dallas Voice, saying she had a perfect record on LGBT issues for 20 years when in fact she voted in favor of the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act in 1996.

Johnson’s office declined repeated requests for an interview with the Voice, the only LGBT newspaper in her district, to discuss the ads and explain why she voted for DOMA but is now a sponsor of the bill to repeal it.

—  John Wright

BREAKING: Eddie Bernice Johnson places chief of staff on leave over email about gay staffer

Eddie Bernice Johnson

The Washington Blade is reporting that Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Dallas, a staunch LGBT ally, has placed her chief of staff on administrative leave in response to an email he wrote about a gay staff member two years ago.

Murat Gokcigdem was placed on indefinite leave effective Monday, the Blade reports, after the LGBT newspaper obtained a copy of an email Gokcigdem wrote about staff member Christopher Crowe in 2010. Crowe died last year from a staph infection, but at the time he was one of four finalists to become special assistant to the undersecretary of budget and tax in the Treasury Department.

Crowe, who worked in Johnson’s office and headed the LGBT Congressional Staff Association, sought a letter of recommendation from Gokcigdem for the Treasury Department post. In response to Crowe’s request, Gokcigdem drafted an email to Johnson that he mistakenly sent to Crowe, according to the Blade.

Gokcigdem’s email said Crowe was underqualified for the Treasury Department and suggested he was only being considered by the White House post because he was gay.

“It is my personal belief that he has contacts there,” Gokcigdem wrote. “And they, as a group watching and supporting each other if you know what I mean.”

A spokeswoman for Johnson’s office didn’t immediately respond Monday evening to a request for comment from Dallas Voice.

You can read Gokcigdem’s full email about Crowe here.

Our initial reaction to this news is that we suspect there must be more to this story. It’s hard to believe that Rep. Johnson would suspend her chief of staff based on this email alone.

It’s also worth noting that today is the first day of early voting in the primary, and Johnson has two Democratic challengers. So the timing of this email being leaked to the Blade strongly suggests that it’s politically motivated.

Stay tuned to Instant Tea for updates.

—  John Wright