Heather Wilson, who just resigned as secretary of the Air Force and is the finalist for the presidency of the University of Texas at El Paso, is encountering opposition because of her anti-LGBTQ record as a member of Congress – and years ago she was subject to criticism for her removal of a file containing allegations of inappropriate contact with a minor by her husband, Jay Hone.
Hone was never charged with a crime, and he has said the incident was mereley a misunderstanding. But during her campaign for Congress in 1998, Wilson was criticized for her actions concerning the file when she was secretary of the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department.
In 1995, during her first week in that job, she ordered that the file on Hone moved from an Albuquerque warehouse to the department’s office, according to the Albuquerque Journal. She at first denied doing so, then acknowledged that she had.
“Wilson has said she had the file moved from the warehouse to CYFD offices because she did not want a file with personal information about her family available to department employees and denied opening the file or taking it out of the department offices,” the Journal reported in 2006, when Raw Story, Daily Kos, and other blogs were carrying stories on it. Her opponent in the 1998 election in New Mexico’s First Congressional District, Democrat Phil Maloof, said that moving the file represented an abuse of power. The Bernalillo County district attorney, Bob Schwartz, said at the time that Wilson broke no law but did not adhere to proper protocol on moving public records.
The police report on the incident was still available at the Albuquerque Police Department. Obtained by Raw Story in 2006, it said that in 1993 Hone was hosting a 16-year-old boy in his home for pizza and a movie. Hone, a lawyer, was the legal representative for the boy, who lived in a group home. The youth told police that after he returned to the living room from the bathroom and was sitting down, Hone touched him on the buttocks. The boy yelled “Hey, what are you doing?” and Hone replied that he was simply reaching for a slice of pizza. “Afterwards nothing else happened,” the report reads. The youth said he had seen Hone several times since, and Hone’s attitude toward him did not change. He said he did not want Hone arrested but “just wanted to talk to somebody about it,” according to the report.
Raw Story noted that Wilson was a member of the House Page Board when rumors began to circulate about Rep. Mark Foley’s sexually explicit messages to teenagers who had served as congressional pages. Foley ended up resigning from Congress in 2006, saying his actions were wrong but not illegal; he said he never had any sexual contact with the youths.
The Journal, in reporting on the accusation against Hone in 2006, elected not to divulge the police report’s contents. Wilson told the paper that year, “This is an old issue, and it has been dismissed before.”
Wilson, a Republican, represented the First District in the U.S. House from 1998 to 2009. She compiled a largely anti-LGBTQ voting record, with zeroes on the Human Rights Campaign’s Congressional Scorecard for most of her terms going back to 2003, the earliest available. She received a 5 in her final term, as she cosponsored a bill allowing Medicaid to cover early treatment for people with HIV.
GLAAD has spoken out strongly against her appointment at UTEP, citing her record in Congress. The organization notes that she has said she does not “approve” of homosexuality and that heterosexual marriage “is the best institution for raising children.” She voted to amend the U.S. Constitution to ban same-sex marriage and said she opposed civil unions as well. She voted against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and twice voted against LGBTQ-inclusive hate-crimes legislation, and once criticized an LGBTQ inclusive antibullying bill “on the basis that teasing is just a part of a child’s life,” according to GLAAD.
“The students of the University of Texas at El Paso deserve a president who has demonstrated that she will stand up for them, and Heather Wilson has proven time and time again that she will not stand up for LGBTQ people. Simply put, her record should disqualify her without question,” said Zeke Stokes, chief programs officer at GLAAD, in a press release.
Wilson, who was appointed by Donald Trump in 2017 to head the Air Force, is the sole finalist to succeed Diana Natalicio, who is retiring as UTEP’s president after 30 years. The University of Texas Regents have yet to vote to confirm her, and students have protested her appointment, objecting to her anti-LGBTQ record and questioning whether the regents looked hard enough to find a Latinx candidate. More than 80 percent of the student body is Latinx. Some of them cross the border from Mexico to attend, and they have said Trump’s anti-immigrant policies have done much harm in the region. The Texas Democratic Party has urged University of Texas System Chancellor James Milliken to rescind her nomination, and more than 9,000 people have signed a petition opposing her appointment.
During a recent visit to campus, she said her approach to LGBTQ issues “is to treat everyone with dignity and respect.” She has also said she was drawn to UTEP because of its inclusivity and mix of cultures. She has sent a letter to Milliken saying she would schedule another campus visit while her nomination is pending.
GLAAD has also called on former Texas congressman and current Democratic presidential hopeful Beto O’Rourke, who lives in El Paso, to speak out on Wilson’s nomination, but he has yet to do so. The Advocate has sought comment from O’Rourke, UTEP, and Wilson but has not received a response.