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GOP lawmakers rip VA for memo to remove iconic WW II victory kiss photo, demand author be fired

Two GOP lawmakers slammed the VA "bureaucrat" responsible for a since-rescinded memo that directed the removal of the iconic V-J Day Times Square kiss photo from VA centers.

FIRST ON FOX — Two Republican lawmakers are calling for the removal of a Veterans Affairs official responsible for a since-rescinded memo that directed the removal of the iconic V-J Day in Times Square photograph from VA health care centers.

Montana Sen. Steve Daines and Rep. Ryan Zinke, R-Mont. wrote to VA Secretary Denis McDonough after an X account, “End Wokeness,” published a memo sent from Assistant Under Secretary for Health Operations RimaAnn Nelson last week. 

In the memo, Nelson called for the historic photo of a Navy sailor kissing a woman in Times Square on V-J Day in 1945 to be removed from all VA medical buildings because it doesn’t foster a “more trauma-informed environment that promotes psychological safety.”


“This action is promoted by the recognition that the photograph, which depicts a non-consensual act, is inconsistent with the VA’s no-tolerance policy towards sexual harassment and assault, as outlined in VA Handbook,” the memo states. 

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Secretary McDonough overrode the memo in a statement Tuesday.

“Let me be clear: This image is not banned from VA facilities, and we will keep it in VA facilities,” McDonough said. 

A VA spokesperson confirmed to Fox News Digital the memo was sent out but should not have been, and it has been rescinded. 

But the lawmakers are demanding Nelson’s firing over the “politically driven memo.” 

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They called the memo “only the most recent in a long line of misguided actions and woke agendas dictating the management of the VA.”

The lawmakers pressed McDonough for details about the process for drafting and approving the memo.

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“Not only was this proposed policy ill-conceived, but it was also somehow deemed a VHA operational priority during a time when there are significant issues with recruitment and retention, hiring freezes, and budgetary constraints. It raises the question of VHA’s organizational structure and the qualifications of some of its core management,” the letter states. 

In a statement to Fox News Digital, McDonough responded to the letter, saying, “Rima has dedicated her career to serving Veterans. We are fortunate to have her at VA, and she will remain at VA.”

Nelson’s memo said the “perspectives on historical events and their representations evolve,” and that “recent discussions have highlighted concerns about the non-consensual nature of the kiss, prompting debates on consent and the appropriateness of celebrating such images in today’s environment, especially within institutions, such as VHA facilities, which are committed to upholding standards of creating a safe and respect environment.

“This action reflects our dedication to creating a respectful and safe workplace and is in keeping with our broader efforts to promote a culture of inclusivity and awareness,” it continued.

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The lawmakers questioned if the Office of Management and Budget, Domestic Policy Council or the White House provided input for this guidance and if a draft of the memo was provided to the office of the executive secretary for review or approval, and how this policy was deemed to benefit either veterans or health care operations.

“The VA is not going to be banning this photo,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Tuesday.

“I can definitely say that the memo was not sanctioned, and so it’s not something that we were even aware of.” 

The lawmakers also asked for any other memos Nelson has issued.

“The VA needs to reassess its priorities and start putting veterans at the center of their everyday operating posture,”  the lawmakers said. “This cannot begin to happen with leadership structures advocating political policies over veteran priorities and those responsible for this misguided memo need to be held accountable, starting with the termination of Ms. Nelson’s employment at the VA.”

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