Seema Verma and the #DesiWallofShame

The U.S. coronavirus task force member is the latest Indian American to receive flak, for her work in the Trump administration dismantling federal healthcare systems.

Kiran Misra

April 9, 2020

Seema Verma and the #DesiWallofShame
President Donald J. Trump listens to a reporter’s question after announcing a national emergency to further combat the Coronavirus outbreak, at a news conference Friday, March 13, 2020, in the Rose Garden of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

In the early days of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S., my family and I watched the government addresses and asked, "Who is that Indian lady standing behind the president?" 

Seema Verma isn't just a diversity prop — she’s one of the most influential people in the country, both as a part of the White House’s coronavirus task force and the head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). 

She is also one of the earliest members in a long line of South Asian Americans to be part of the #DesiWallofShame on Twitter, a hashtag that started trending in mid-2017. Verma joins Indian Americans such as Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chair Ajit Pai, former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley, and U.S. Circuit Judge Neomi Rao. These appointees have consistently championed some of U.S. President Donald Trump’s most controversial policies — such as restricting access to healthcare and rolling back efforts to close the gender pay gap. 

“These appointees talk about being Indian American but the thing is, you can't claim identity with this community if you’re also advancing measures that harm us, as well as other communities of color,” shared Deepa Iyer, one of the founders of the Wall of Shame.

Trump has appointed more than two dozen Indian Americans to high-ranking positions. He’s on track to tie or surpass former president Barack Obama, who appointed more than 50 Indian Americans to key administration positions over his two terms. So how did Indian Americans, who overwhelmingly vote Democrat, end up working for a Republican administration? And how did Verma, born to Democrats, become one of the most powerful people dismantling the Affordable Care Act?