According to a report from the inspector general’s office responsible for overseeing the State Department, multiple State Department officials say that top department official Cam Henderson drank excessive amounts of alcohol on “numerous” occasions while on the job. According to this report — which is not officially published at present and was completed earlier this year — those State Department sources even say that “members of foreign delegations had made comments or raised concerns about Ms. Henderson’s alcohol intake.” When a top official at the State Department is sparking concern about their consumption of alcohol from foreign counterparts, there’s a problem.
The report about the issue states that the inspector general “believes that [Henderson’s] conduct raises significant suitability concerns and given the visibility of her position, [the office] believes it is important to bring them to the attention of department leadership.” Members of State Department leadership do not seem to have taken the report seriously.
In a more levelheaded State Department that wasn’t led by political lackeys for President Donald Trump’s agenda, there might be a comprehensive and similarly levelheaded effort to address the issue (assuming the allegations are accurate). Instead, following the period of time covered by the inspector general’s report, Henderson was elevated to an even more senior role at the department. She now leads the Office of Protocol, whose responsibilities include oversight of diplomatic events. Henderson was appointed to this position in August of 2019, and the inspector general’s report about her behavior covers a period of time from the fall of 2017 through the summer of 2019. Although the report didn’t emerge until after her appointment to lead the protocol office, her alleged alcohol consumption doesn’t seem to have been a secret.
Henderson assumed the leadership of the Office of Protocol after the departure of the office’s previous chief, Sean Lawler, who was apparently regularly abusive towards employees. In August, The Washington Post reported that two officials said that Henderson had encouraged Lawler to drink on the job. Lawler is also a subject of the inspector general’s report in question, which characterizes his treatment of staffers as “workplace violence.” Once, Lawler reportedly even cracked a horsewhip in the office.
The State Department’s official response to the inspector general’s report has been fierce denunciation. A spokesperson sent HuffPost a statement reading:
‘The department’s leadership is extremely disappointed in the quality of work displayed in this memo from the IG’s office, as it leaves out important facts and paints a picture that is not accurate to what actually transpired… It is clear in statements to IG investigators that both Ms. Henderson and [Henderson’s deputy Mary-Kate] Fisher are respected for their professionalism and actions as members of the protocol staff.’
Angry rhetoric isn’t the only apparent response from top leaders at the State Department. The report about Henderson’s (and Lawler’s) behavior was concluded shortly before Secretary of State Mike Pompeo got the president to fire the State Department’s then-inspector general, Steve Linick, whose other investigations included a look at whether Pompeo had abided by the law with his rushed weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E.