On Friday, President-elect Donald Trump’s office announced that retired Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn had accepted his offer to serve as national security adviser. Flynn served as the chief of the Defense Intelligence Agency, but was supposedly forced to step down because of his controversial views and a contentious relationship with the White House and other senior officials. Such opinions were not the only contentious aspects of his tenure. As reported by the Daily Beast, a DIA presentation in 2013 urged the agency’s female employees to apply makeup to appear more attractive, wear clothes to accentuate one’s features, and encouraged high heels.
The documents accompanying the presentation in January 2013, which Susan Strednansky, public affairs officer at the DIA, described as “informal,” were obtained by MuckRock in 2013 through a Freedom of Information request. While the briefing was addressed to both genders, men were instructed that dark suits appear more authoritative in the workplace and “suspenders = elegance,” while women were told to straddle the line between the “Plain Jane” look and items that highlight “the positive/disguise the negative” and do not stand out as “flamboyant, gaudy, attention-drawing.”
Slide titles included “Dress considerations for women,” ‘Body size and shape considerations,” and “What not to wear.” Some suggestions for women included paying attention to trends and adapting the latest look to an individual’s figure and personality, avoiding tight-fitting clothing and items that were too big/too small, shunning certain fabrics, and so on. The presentation also noted that “open-toe shoes are no longer a faux-pas as long as worn with suit pants or skirt” and that low to moderate heels were recommended.
As for makeup tips, the presentation suggested that the “Plain Jane” look could be avoided by finding a perfect product balance. The line was that coordinated makeup communicates that an individual is moving assertively toward identified goals, but that too much makeup can distract from a professional look. The document noted that “makeup helps women look more attractive.”
“I’m not going to deny that it exists, and it was bad. It was inappropriate for sure,” Strednansky, the public affairs officer at the DIA, said at the time. “Neither the agency nor the leadership has condoned anything that was in that briefing.”
In a memo to employees that was also obtained by MuckRock, which responded to the presentation, Flynn apologized for the “unnecessary and serious distraction” the “highly offensive” briefing had caused. He added that the intention was “pure of heart and intended to help… but even smart people do dumb things sometimes. That said, no one is going to be taken to the wood shed over this. They’ll require some counseling (to be sure) on what it means to think before you act.”
Throughout the election, Flynn served as a surrogate for Trump and defended his behavior as evidenced in the leaked Billy Bush tape, and after many women came forward to accuse of Trump of unwanted advances and sexual assault. Flynn also called former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton “really stupid” for introducing into the news cycle former Miss Universe Alicia Machado, whom Trump had called “Miss Piggy” and “Miss Housekeeping.”