Kenneth Tate, the dude who was on the elevator with President Obama at the Centers for Disease Control, carrying a gun, got fired from his job with a contractor working for the CDC. And Tate wants to know: Why?
Several things as first reported about the story appear to be wrong, according to the New York Times.
1. Yes, he was carrying a gun. But unlike the first impression conveyed to us, he wasn’t just carrying a gun. He was a security officer carrying the gun issued to him by the CDC.
2. He doesn’t have any felony convictions. In fact, he hasn’t even been convicted of a misdemeanor. He may not quite be a boy scout. He has been “arrested several times, including on charges of robbery and assault, but never convicted,” according to the New York Times. Still, innocent until proven otherwise.
3. It appears he was taking photos not in the elevator – which made him seem like some kind of personal-space-invading lunatic – but outside as Obama left. He claims he stood back when the Secret Service told him too.
Mr. Tate says he is befuddled and disappointed. From the Times piece:
“From the reports, I was some stranger that entered the elevator,” he said in an interview here at the office of his lawyer, Christopher Chestnut. “I mean, I was appointed.”
According to Mr. Tate, the day Mr. Obama traveled to the C.D.C. started the way every workday did, with being issued a .40-caliber Smith & Wesson handgun and two magazine clips. Mr. Tate said he had holstered the weapon on his belt under his suit jacket.
His supervisors then told him that he was going to operate the service elevator Mr. Obama was going to use. Everything appeared to be going right for Mr. Tate. The previous day he had taken off for his birthday and won $800 playing his birthday digits in the lottery.
Around 2:25 p.m., the presidential motorcade arrived at the back entrance of the C.D.C. On the elevator ride, Mr. Tate said, the president struck up a conversation.
“He acknowledged me, said, ‘How you are doing?’ He said, ‘What’s your name?’ I told him my name, and he extended his hand, shook my hand, and I said it’s a pleasure to meet him. And I proceeded to escort him upstairs.”
“I was just proud,” Mr. Tate said. “That was a big accomplishment to me.” He said one of the Secret Service agents had told him that it was remarkable that Mr. Obama had talked to him, considering it had taken the president two years to acknowledge the agent . . .
After Mr. Obama’s meetings, Mr. Tate took him back down to where the limousine was waiting. After the president got in, Mr. Tate tried to take a picture. He said he had thought nothing of it because he had taken photos of other dignitaries before — including one with Michael R. Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York.
When a Secret Service agent officer waved at him to get back, Mr. Tate said, he headed into the building.
An agent he passed on his way inside said someone was probably going to lose his job because no one was allowed so close to the limousine. Mr. Tate said he had no idea why the agents were so concerned since he did not believe he had disobeyed any of their instructions.
A few minutes later, he said, his bosses angrily pulled him aside. Secret Service agents then took him into a conference room to question him.
“I was upset. I’m nervous because I’m like, I don’t understand what’s going on,” he said. Mr. Tate said the images he had taken on his smartphone were of the limousine and the agents around it — similar to ones that news crews often take. He said the Secret Service had ordered him to delete them; he complied. After the Secret Service interview was completed, Mr. Tate’s bosses took away his C.D.C. badge. The next week he was given his letter of termination.
The problem was that a man with a gun whom the Secret Service hadn’t authorized to be near the president got near the president. Unfortunately for Mr. Tate, powerful people who were the ones actually responsible for this mishap got to spin the story before he did. If Tate’s version of events is correct, Obama should make it right for him.
Not that the CDC would ever make a mistake.