CDC Guard Who Rode Elevator With Obama Says Firing Was ‘Unjust’

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Photo: MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

Secret Service director Julia Pierson resigned last month after several White House security breaches, but it appeared the final straw was a report that on September 16 agents let an armed CDC security contractor ride in an elevator with President Obama, though he had been convicted of several felonies. In an interview with the New York Times published on Sunday, the fired CDC security guard, Kenneth Tate, offered a different version of events, saying he was assigned to escort the president, is not a felon, and should not have lost his job. “This was unjust and has been a nightmare,” Tate said. “I’ve tried to rationalize it. It won’t go away.”

Tate said that on the day Obama visited the agency’s Atlanta headquarters, he had his CDC-issued .40-caliber Smith & Wesson handgun holstered on his belt under his suit jacket. He was excited when his supervisors told him that he would be operating the service elevator during the president’s visit, particularly because he’s an African-American born in Chicago and admires the president. Tate said they had a pleasant and appropriate interaction in the elevator: Obama asked what his name was and shook his hand. “I was just proud,” he said. “That was a big accomplishment to me.”

He said the Secret Service agents only became agitated when he took a picture of the presidential limousine after Obama was already inside. He was ordered to stand back and told no one was allowed that close to the limousine. Though he did not feel he disobeyed any of the Secret Service’s instructions, agents made him delete the photos, and the next week he was fired by Professional Security Corporation, the private security firm that employed him.

Tate has been arrested several times, but was never convicted. A Secret Service official told the Times that Tate’s account was generally consistent with what their investigation found, but Professional Security Corporation said his version of events was “not correct,” without specifying which parts were untrue. The inspector general’s office of the Department of Homeland Security is still looking into the incident.