Former South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint (R) defended his tenure at the Heritage Foundation hours after he was ousted by the organization’s Board of Trustees.
On Tuesday, Thomas A. Saunders III, chairman of The Heritage Foundation’s Board of Trustees, said in a statement published on the organization’s website that “by a unanimous vote” the board asked for and received DeMint’s resignation. He said the board elected Ed Feulner, founder of the Heritage Foundation, to serve as president and CEO while the organization searches for a replacement for DeMint.
Saunders said that “after a comprehensive and independent review of the entire Heritage organization, the board determined there were significant and worsening management issues that led to a breakdown of internal communications and cooperation.”
“While the organization has seen many successes, Jim DeMint and a handful of his closest advisers failed to resolve these problems,” he said.
In a statement posted to his Facebook page, DeMint called Saunders’s statement “puzzling.”
"The public statement released earlier is puzzling given that the board of trustees has praised our work for four years and approved performance bonuses for the entire management team each year for a job well done,” DeMint said. “It also stands in stark contrast to the independent review by the University of Pennsylvania which publicly recognized advances in Heritage's scholarship, management and integrity over the last 4 years, and improved Heritage's rankings in virtually every category. In fact, Heritage was recognized as the 13th Best Managed Think Tank in the world in 2016.”
DeMint touted a number of accomplishments made by the organization while he was president, including aiding the transition of President Donald Trump, offering conservative policy recommendations to his administration, as well as “partnering with the Federalist Society to create a list of possible Supreme Court judicial nominations that led to the confirmation of Justice Neil Gorsuch.”
He also pointed to a new fellowship program for staffers on Capitol Hill and the creation of four new research institutes within the Heritage Foundation.
DeMint also said that “When I came to Heritage in 2013, I told our staff and millions of members around the country that over the next four years, we had the opportunity to lead a resurgence of conservative policies and communications to win the hearts and minds of the American people.” He continued:
I’m grateful to have worked with some of the greatest minds and talents in America and believe we’ve accomplished together what we set out to do. Reagan once said there’s no limit to what you can achieve if you don’t care who gets the credit, and nothing better exemplifies that selfless dedication than the men and women I’ve been honored to work with at Heritage. I will continue to be part of that great fight for freedom for years to come and I’m excited about the next chapter in my work for the conservative movement.
Reports last week suggested that DeMint would be forced out of his position, but Heritage did not issue a public statement until DeMint’s resignation was official.
In some of the reports, staffers pointed to a breakdown in communication between DeMint and Mike Needham, CEO of Heritage Action for America, the organization’s lobbying arm.
The Daily Beast reported Tuesday evening that a group of top staffers at Heritage, loyal to DeMint, were also forced to resign.
Editor’s note: The author of this story once worked for The Daily Signal, the news organization of The Heritage Foundation.