WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama's choice to lead the Transportation Security Administration withdrew his name Wednesday, a blow to an administration trying to explain how a man could attempt to blow up a commercial airliner on Christmas Day.
Erroll Southers said he was pulling out because his nomination had become a lightning rod for those with a political agenda. Obama had tapped Southers, a former FBI agent, to lead the TSA in September but his confirmation has been blocked by Republican Sen. Jim DeMint, who says he was worried that Southers would allow TSA employees to have collective bargaining rights.
In an e-mail to friends and colleagues, Southers said, "It is unfortunate that we are residing in such contentious political times, that exceptional, 'apolitical' candidates have to seriously consider their willingness to participate in public service."
Questions have also been raised about a reprimand that Southers received for running background checks on his then-estranged wife's boyfriend two decades ago. Southers wrote a letter to lawmakers earlier this month acknowledging that he had given inconsistent answers to Congress on that issue.