Biden Spokesperson’s Joke About the Law She Broke Rubs Americans the Wrong Way

Biden Spokesperson’s Joke About the Law She Broke Rubs Americans the Wrong Way

  • April 2, 2024
White House Press Secretary has been caught violating the Act on multiple occasions

It appears White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre doesn’t take the Hatch Act seriously, except when she needs it. At least twice, as determined by the independent Office of the Special Counsel (OSC), she’s violated the law that bars government employees from electioneering while on taxpayer time. But ask her and her deputies tough questions in the White House Press Room and they’ll dive for the cover of the Hatch Act before you can say “Simon Ateba.” So it’s little wonder she thought the Hatch Act would make for an appropriate April Fool’s joke on Monday.

“So President Biden is scheduled to announce he is revoking the Hatch Act,” she told the Press Corps. “So as a gift to all of you, so now I can actually take all your questions about 2024.” The joke was greeted with groans from the assembled reporters, as it should be from anybody who values transparency and rectitude in government.

Watchdog Protect the Public’s Trust (PPT) filed a complaint with OSC in November 2022, just days before the midterm election because of her actions in a press briefing. After an investigation, OSC in June 2023 informed PPT that “Ms. Jean-Pierre used the phrase ‘MAGA Republicans’ repeatedly during official press briefings,” and “she made those references to generate opposition to Republican candidates.” Accordingly, “Ms. Jean-Pierre violated the Hatch Act,” which prohibits using official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with or affecting the result of an election.

While OSC declined to punish KJP, it did issue government-wide reinforcing the Act and specifically telling government workers to avoid terms like “MAGA.”

Yet on June 14, 2023, Ms. Jean-Pierre issued a statement that disparaged Congressional Republicans’ budget proposals by repeatedly using the term “MAGA.” Worse, reported that also on June 14 “Andrew Bates [Jean-Pierre’s subordinate] wrote in a memo that Republicans’ ‘main economic agenda item’ is ‘MAGA tax welfare for the richest Americans and giant corporations ….’” These violations came one week after the OSC guidance to federal employees clearly prohibiting the use of the campaign slogan while on official duty and days after a media firestorm highlighting the controversial press secretary’s violation.

PPT filed yet another complaint, and in December 2023, OSC again found that KJP and Bates had violated the act with their temper tantrums. In the face of this repeat violation, OSC declined to pursue the matter because it had “reason to believe that White House officials are abiding by the warning letter and advisory opinion.”

Perhaps there’s a statute of limitations for Hatch Act violations?

“It’s hard to know which is worse, the press secretary’s joke or the arrogance that made her think it might be funny,” said PPT Director Michael Chamberlain. “The Hatch Act is an attempt to make sure politics ends at the federal agency door. To have any teeth, it must be enforced equally, not matter which party is in office. Ms. Jean-Pierre never faced consequences for two violations of the act, so she has no reason to treat it as other than a lame joke. Unfortunately, the joke’s on the public, who trust that the rules apply equally to everyone and that federal employees are not using their official roles to engage in partisan political activity.”