RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) – Faced with a question about his chief diversity officer saying “DEI is dead,” Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin said the idea of diversity, equity, and inclusion was admirable five to 10 years ago but that it has since “gone off the rails.”
“The concept of DEI, and let’s put ESG [environmental, social and governance] in it as well, these ideas five, ten years ago were laudable,” Youngkin told reporters Monday during a ceremonial bill signing outside the Executive Mansion in Richmond. “How do we embrace diversity? How do we make sure opportunity is made available to everyone? How do we foster an inclusive environment where people feel part of as opposed to excluded?
“And ESG and DEI have gone off the rails candidly and I think they’ve taken on a new mission that is really not consistent with those key principles. And so, we’ve got work to do.”
Youngkin was responding to a question about Martin D. Brown, his chief of diversity, equity and inclusion, declaring that “DEI is dead.” Brown’s remarks, first reported by The Washington Post, led to several calls for him to resign or for Youngkin to fire him.
“We’re not going to bring that cow up anymore. It’s dead,” Brown said about DEI when speaking to Virginia Military Institute faculty and staff in late April. “It was mandated by the General Assembly, but this governor has a different philosophy of civil discourse, civility, treating — living the golden rule, right?”
House Minority Leader Don Scott Jr. (D-Portsmouth) and state Sen. Scott A. Surovell (D-Fairfax) sent Republican Attorney General Jason Miyares a letter asking for an informal opinion regarding Youngkin’s actions involving DEI.
They pointed to Youngkin switching out the word “equity” for “opportunity” when proposing Brown as a nominee for the role and the state’s website referring to Brown as Virginia’s Chief Diversity, Opportunity, and Inclusion Officer.
“The title required by Code does not appear anywhere on the official state website,” Scott and Surovell wrote to Miyares, noting that the 2020 law establishing the position states it should be for the “Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.”
Youngkin reiterated his opposition to equity initiatives Monday, claiming that DEI has pushed for “equal outcomes” at the expense of equal opportunity.
“We’ve got to get back to the basic principles that we know are right and away from the bombastic language that DEI has become where people all of a sudden are professing that we want equal outcomes for everyone at any costs and where all of a sudden excellence has been subordinated to equity,” Youngkin said. “Let’s put words down and go work on the things that we know are right.”