As a lengthy record of U.S. Secret Service security lapses has been exposed, skepticism of the agency among African-Americans is growing, with an increasing number of blacks believing that agents who are supposed to be protecting President Barack Obama are deliberately dropping the ball. The latest scandal to plague the agency was reported on Friday, and involved a man who posed as a member of Congress and got close to the president while he delivered a speech.
“It is something that is widespread in black circles,” U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II, D-Mo., who is black, told the New York Times. “I’ve been hearing this for some time: ‘Well, the Secret Service, they’re trying to expose the president.’ You hear a lot of that from African-Americans in particular.”
Repeated security failures led former Secret Service Director Julia Pierson to resign earlier this week after she lost the confidence of Obama and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson.
The Secret Service scandal began with alleged fence-jumper Omar Gonzalez, who allegedly was carrying a knife when he accessed the White House on Sept. 19. Gonzalez, a 42-year-old Iraq War veteran, got as far as the East Room before he was subdued.
Earlier this week, it was revealed that an armed ex-convict was in an elevator with the president when Obama visited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention headquarters in Atlanta on Sept. 30. The Secret Service didn't know the man, a security contractor, had a gun until agents interviewed him about repeatedly taking pictures of the president with his cell phone. The incident went against Secret Service protocol.
And Friday it was reveled that a man posing as a member of Congress accessed a backstage area during or after a speech made by Obama at a Congressional Black Caucus event last week, according to Bloomberg.
The string of failures has caused some in the black community to question whether there’s a blatant attempt to provide Obama with lax security.
"What’s up with the Secret Service? There could be only two reasons that Secret Service protection for President Barack Obama is slipping these days: Either agents missed the memo that he's the first black president or they really are just that overwhelmed," wrote Charles D. Ellison, a political strategist and contributor to The Root, an online magazine for an African-American audience.
Donald Tucker, a retired Secret Service agent, who was among the first blacks to protect a president, estimated that most African-Americans are distrustful of the agency.
"I would say over 75 percent of the African-American community are suspicious and think that could be a situation, based on all the other things they think has happened to President Obama because he's an African-American, politically,” Tucker told the New York Times. "They're adding that to the pot."
Cleaver doesn't agree and said that blacks should have more faith in the Secret Service's intentions. He said that "there's nothing further from the truth" than the Secret Service deliberately making security lapses.
"[I]t's a little dangerous for us to allow that thinking to grow and spread," he said. "To the degree we can dismantle it, we should. I'm going to dispel it as much as I can."