The Trump administration has yanked the nomination of a Michigan state lawmaker who called for banning all Muslims from air travel, said that women aren’t interested in science careers and labeled low-income preschool parents “academically and socially needy.”
President Donald Trump had nominated Michigan state Rep. Tim Kelly, a Republican, for a top career and technical education position at the Department of Education. In an interview with POLITICO on Thursday, Kelly accused the “deep state,” “haters” and federal employees who don’t like Trump for making the nomination process “toxic” and “intrusive.”
“This is clearly not a good match for me,” said Kelly. “It’s too toxic of an atmosphere. I don’t see how anybody gets anything done. It’s just over-the-top toxic.”
Kelly confirmed to POLITICO that his nomination was pulled because of statements that he made on his blog, the “Citizen Leader,” between 2009 and 2012. He said that none of the statements he made were “out of the mainstream.”
“They asked me, ‘When are you going to give us a letter of resignation?'” Kelly said. “I said, ‘It’s your nomination, you take it away!’
“If people read the [blog] posts, people will think … this guy got a bad deal,” he said. “I’m appalled that people would take this out of context. … I wrote this blog several years ago.
“Someone from inside leaked this,” he added. “I wasn’t ever hiding it. I was forthcoming with it from the get-go.”
On the blog, a December 2009 post by Kelly called “A Modern Proposal” suggests that all Muslims should have to clear their names off no-fly lists. Kelly’s post came days after a Nigerian man attempted to blow up a flight with a bomb concealed in his underwear.
An excerpt from Kelly’s blog reads: “Since 9/11, we continue to live the ridiculous myth that bombings in the name of Islam, can, have, and will be perpetrated by anyone other than Muslims so we must therefore screen everyone. … Instead of assuming that all people are interested in, let alone capable of, blowing up Western, Christian, or Jewish things, let’s assume that all Muslims are. Then it remains their problem in clearing their individual names off of any no-fly or border crossing lists.”
Kelly defended the post, saying he was “upset” when he wrote it.
“This was seven years after 9/11 and we still weren’t taking the kinds of measures to stop harm from coming to this country,” he said. “This illusion of security that the federal government tries to push on the American public. The reality is that they don’t have your back.
“America, you’re on your own. There’s nobody in Washington that’s going to help you,” he said.
Kelly said the Trump administration has also been vetting his Twitter account and he was recently approached with a “new list” of tweets that “Democrats might find offensive.” He would not say who approached him, and would not disclose whether the Education Department or the White House informed him he would no longer be a nominee.
He said he has been “wrestling” with his nomination for months, asking himself, “What am I getting myself into?”
“I don’t see why anybody with any sense wants to go there,” Kelly said. “They take good people and ruin them.”
Asked for comment, the White House directed POLITICO to the Education Department. A Trump administration spokesman confirmed that the nomination was pulled.
According to the Detroit Free Press, Kelly has been a vocal advocate for school choice and an ally of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. The Great Lakes Education Project, a school choice and charter school advocacy group formed by DeVos, gave $2,000 to Kelly in campaign contributions during the last three years.
The Senate education committee was scheduled to hold a confirmation hearing for Kelly, in addition to two other top education hires, next week. Senate HELP Committee spokeswoman Mairead Lynn told POLITICO that Democrats had planned to question Kelly about his blog during the hearing.
In another blog post, this one from February 2010, Kelly writes, “research … shows that bias against women in the sciences is extremely weak.” Kelly writes that federally funded programs to recruit women in science amounts to “wasteful spending.”
“Studies point to data that indicate men and women simply have different tastes when it comes to areas of study,” he writes.
“For my money, this kind of ridiculousness in academia should not be rewarded and certainly not paid for by the American taxpayer,” Kelly wrote. “That’s what university endowments and private foundations are for. Furthermore, this kind of wasteful spending is a glaring sign that Washington has more of our money than is necessary to operate essential government programs and way too much time on their hands.”
Kelly again defended the post, saying, “We’ve been trying to get women interested in [career and technical education], and they’re simply not interested. Study after study says it. And yet we keep throwing money at it.”
In a post from March 2011, he criticizes the parents of children who participate in Head Start, a federal preschool program for low-income children, as “academically and socially needy.”
“As I said, there have been a number of independent studies over the years that have concluded that these program children come to school with no more social or cognitive abilities than their non-program counterparts. So why then do we continue to pay for this failure? … In other words, we pay the very same people, the parents of these children, who are often themselves academically and socially needy, to teach their own not to emulate the destructive and debilitating behavior and practices they witness everyday in their own homes and neighborhoods. Yeah, that’s gonna work.”
Kelly defended the post, called Head Start a “sham program.”
“Go check on any [GAO] study. … It’s a sham program and we continue to fund it.”
As a Michigan state representative, Kelly’s socially conservative views on LGBT issues put him at odds with Michigan Democrats — he called guidelines spelling out bathroom protections for transgender students “hogwash” in a radio interview.
Kelly said he intends to continue serving as a state representative.