San Antonio’s city attorney is conducting an independent review of San Antonio Fire Chief Charles Hood after a photo that was published by the San Antonio Express-News Thursday night showed him posing next to a nude model who had sushi on her body.
KSAT obtained the photo Friday afternoon. It shows Chief Hood at the private party, not in uniform, holding sushi while kneeling next to the model. He is looking at the camera and other people can be seen taking a photo of Hood.
The incident happened while Chief Hood was attending a firefighter’s birthday party in January, he said. The chief has since apologized for the incident in a statement sent Friday to KSAT.
“I attended a firefighter’s 50th birthday party in January. This photo was taken at the front entrance to the party. I certainly didn’t intend to offend anyone, and if I did, I sincerely apologize," Hood said.
City Manager Erik Walsh said in a statement that he is directing the city attorney to conduct an “independent review” of the incident and that he will take “whatever action is warranted.”
“I have directed the City Attorney to conduct an independent review of all the facts and circumstances involving the photograph and the event. This is a serious issue and I’ll take whatever action is warranted. We all have to be aware that our actions outside of the workplace – good, bad or otherwise – reflect on our entire organization," Walsh said.
San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg said during Friday’s coronavirus briefing that he is in support of Walsh’s directive for the city attorney to conduct the review involving the photograph.
“The scene in that photo is counter to the standards and values that we expect from the city of San Antonio organization. I am supportive of the city manager’s call for an investigation...,” Nirenberg said. “What was in that photo is clearly counter to what we expect from the values of this organization. I was made aware of it late (Thursday) night. I was made aware of the investigation (Friday) morning."
Under San Antonio Fire Department’s rules, employees on-or-off duty “shall be governed by the ordinary and reasonable rules of good conduct and behavior,” AP reports.
Serving sushi on a naked woman, otherwise known as “body sushi” or “naked sushi,” is part of the Japanese practice of nyotaimori, according to a report from The Associated Press.
Some historians trace the origins of nyotaimori back a few centuries to the Samurai period in Japan, following battle — though other researchers argue it is a more recent practice popularized in the 20th century, according to the Express-News. However, the act of eating sushi off a model’s body has been criticized in recent years for objectifying women. Some Asian countries have restricted nyotaimori because of those and hygienic concerns.
Hood has served as San Antonio’s fire chief since 2007. His responsibilities include disciplining firefighters.
Firefighters are role models. Having a City leader partake in any practice that objectifies women-even when consensual-raises questions about attitudes toward women & undermines efforts to recruit women into a workforce in which they make up 4% of workers nationally. #herolikeher— Ana Sandoval (@AnaSandovalSATX) October 29, 2020
The Associated Press contributed to this report.