Watchdog Group Files Hatch Act Complaint Against White House Press Secretary Over ‘Mega MAGA Republican’ Comment

Watchdog Group Files Hatch Act Complaint Against White House Press Secretary Over ‘Mega MAGA Republican’ Comment
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre speaks during a daily press briefing in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House in Washington, on Nov. 2, 2022. (Oliver Contreras/Getty Images)
Mimi Nguyen Ly
11/5/2022
Updated:
11/7/2022
0:00

A government watchdog group announced that it filed a complaint against White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre alleging that she violated the Hatch Act—a federal law that limits the political activities of federal employees—over remarks she made about “mega MAGA Republican” officials.

On Nov. 3, Protect the Public’s Trust (PPT)—a group that seeks to ensure government officials abide by the rules, including by informing the American public about “the self-dealing and conflicts of interest, and the improper and illegal behavior of senior officials across the government”—filed a complaint (pdf) with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) over Jean-Pierre’s remarks at a press conference on Nov. 2.

“Unfortunately, we have seen mega MAGA Republican officials who don’t believe in the rule of law,” Jean-Pierre stated at the briefing. “They refuse to accept the results of free and fair elections, and they fan the flames of political violence through what they praise and what they refuse to condemn.”

Michael Chamberlain, director of the watchdog group, said the comments were “disparaging President Biden’s political opponents.”

He told Henry Kerner, special counsel for the OSC and a Trump appointee, that Jean-Pierre’s statements “were clearly made in her role as an employee of the White House and appear to be political in nature, seeking the defeat of her political opponents in the Republican party in the upcoming general election less than a week away on November 8.”

The watchdog group asked the OSC to “promptly investigate Ms. Jean-Pierre’s conduct as a potential Hatch Act violation based on her use of her official position to advocate for the defeat of a political party.”

“We request that you promptly investigate these potential violations and immediately intervene to ensure that the government officials do not abuse their official authority in an attempt to influence the results of the impending 2022 general election,” it said.

Chamberlain issued a separate statement, saying: “The comments appear to be clearly designed to influence voters in next week’s election. A quick and complete investigation into these statements would be a good first step in helping to restore the American public’s trust in its government.”
The group alleges that Jean-Pierre’s statement cannot be attributed to “an insufficient knowledge of the restrictions of the Hatch Act,” in part because White House chief of staff Ron Klain and Jean Pierre’s predecessor, Jen Psaki, have previously been found to have violated the same federal law. Furthermore, Jean-Pierre herself “has on several occasions cited the Hatch Act as justification for avoiding responding to queries from the press corps,” PPT noted.

Jean-Pierre did not respond to an emailed request seeking comment on the matter by press time.

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