Within 24 hours of his damning statement criticizing President Obama's "keep your plans" health care solution, Washington D.C.'s insurance commissioner, William P. White, was looking for a new job. His exit was swift and ugly.
After the President announced a plan last Thursday that will let people keep their existing plans for one more year, White released a statement criticizing the new strategy. "The action today undercuts the purpose of the exchanges, including the District’s DC Health Link, by creating exceptions that make it more difficult for them to operate," White said. Little did he know that statement would result in his dismissal some 24 hours later, despite being "one of several insurance commissioners across the nation to reject the President's move," according to CNN.
White initially defended his statement — which was issued without approval from the Mayor's Office — and that is likely what ultimately cost him his job, according to The Washington Post. White realized his mistake Thursday evening after a conversation with Deputy Mayor Victor L. Hoskins, his immediate supervisor, and City Administrator Allen Y. Lew. "Only then did White 'seem to understand the severity of the error,'" the Post says. White tried to explain his actions and apologize to the mayor and other city officials in an email late that night:
"I take full responsibility for the press statement and its release. I understand that this was a failure in our process because I should have clarified my intentions and sought approval from [the executive office of the mayor] before issuing the press statement. I apologize for any difficulties this caused.”
That wasn't enough, though. The next day he was let go.
D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray, a staunch Obama ally, was initially furious with White, and the two offices exchanged a flurry of angry back-and-forth emails well into Thursday evening, according to the Post. White followed his typical procedure when he sent out his statement, forwarding copies to his staff and mayoral spokesman Pedro Ribeiro at the same time. Ribeiro usually does not object or offer White permission before his statements were posted, but this situation, White admits in hindsight, deserved some heightened scrutiny.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.