Hurd, a former undercover CIA officer and an advocate for cybersecurity on Capitol Hill, was invited to speak at Black Hat, one of biggest cyber security conferences in the country, being held in Las Vegas in August. But Tech Crunch security editor Zach Whittaker highlighted on Thursday what he described was Hurd's "terrible voting record on women's rights." It includes voting against funding for Planned Parenthood, programs supporting women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) fields, and his support on restricting late-term abortions.
Black Hat initially defended its decision to invite Hurd, saying in a statement "Hurd has a strong background in computer science and information security and has served as an advocate for specific cybersecurity initiatives in Congress," adding that he will offer a "unique perspective" at the conference.
That did not, however, halt the uproar from the cybersecurity community, with some threatening to pull their involvement in the conference.
On Friday, Black Hat reversed its decision, saying they "misjudged the separation of technology and politics."
“Black Hat has chosen to remove U.S. Representative Will Hurd as our 2019 Black Hat USA Keynote. We misjudged the separation of technology and politics,” Black Hat told Tech Crunch. “We will continue to focus on technology and research, however we recognize that Black Hat USA is not the appropriate platform for the polarizing political debate resulting from our choice of speaker,"
Black Hat vowed that the conference is "still fully dedicated to providing an inclusive environment and apologize that this decision did not reflect that sentiment."
Rep. Hurd's communications director Katie Thompson issued a statement to Fox News.
"Representative Hurd was honored to be invited and hopes that the Black Hat Conference is a success. Congressman Hurd has always sought to engage groups of people that don't necessarily agree with all of his votes or opinions," Thompson told Fox News. "Congressman Hurd would have brought the perspective of a person of color and someone who served our nation abroad."