Guard Who Escorted President Obama While he Was at CDC Headquarters in Atlanta has Been Fired

Kenneth Tate, a security guard, was fired after operating an elevator for President Obama at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and escorting him back to his limousine. He said he is unsure why. (Credit: Audra Melton for The New York Times)
Kenneth Tate, a security guard, was fired after operating an elevator for President Obama at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and escorting him back to his limousine. He said he is unsure why. (Credit: Audra Melton for The New York Times)

Kenneth Tate toiled for years as a construction worker and corrections officer, and he has no doubt that his last job — working as a $42,000-a-year private security guard at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — was the best he ever had.

The high point was an afternoon seven weeks ago when he was assigned to accompany President Obama, who was visiting the agency’s headquarters here for a briefing on the Ebola epidemic. It was not only that Mr. Tate’s bosses had entrusted him with staying close to such an important dignitary. It was that, as an African-American born in Chicago, he was going to meet the nation’s first black president, a man he deeply admired.

But by the time Mr. Obama’s visit was over, Mr. Tate was on the way to losing his job.

As Mr. Obama’s motorcade was preparing to leave the C.D.C., Mr. Tate tried to take a picture on his cellphone as a memento. Angry Secret Service agents told him that he had gotten too close to the Beast, as the presidential limousine is known. When the agents relayed to Mr. Tate’s bosses what had happened, they reacted angrily.

“This was unjust and has been a nightmare,” Mr. Tate, 47, said in an interview last week. “I’ve tried to rationalize it. It won’t go away.”

But it took several weeks before the full consequences of the incident became clear. An investigation conducted shortly after Mr. Obama’s visit revealed that Mr. Tate was carrying a C.D.C.-issued firearm, a violation of Secret Service protocols — and a security lapse that the agency’s director at the time, Julia Pierson, never mentioned to the White House.

Then, on the same day that Ms. Pierson testified at a contentious hearing on Capitol Hill about how a fence jumper with a knife had gained entry to the White House, The Washington Examiner revealed that Mr. Obama had been on an elevator with a C.D.C. security guard who was carrying a gun in violation of Secret Service protocols.

The story added to a growing debate over whether the Secret Service was failing in its most basic duties. Some news media organizations, as well as Representative Jason Chaffetz, Republican of Utah, said — erroneously — that the security guard had been convicted of felonies. Mr. Tate had been arrested several times, including on charges of robbery and assault, but never convicted.

The next day, Ms. Pierson resigned. But in Mr. Tate’s view, he is the real victim.

“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.”

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