White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre has often been tight-lipped when it comes to questions about the upcoming 2024 election, citing the need to comply with the Hatch Act. But her cautionary approach didn’t prevent her from getting into hot water. The Office of Special Counsel (OSC) recently determined that Jean-Pierre had indeed violated the Hatch Act with her remarks in 2022, as reported by NBC News.
While in office, the Hatch Act restricts federal employees from participating in specific political activities. Jean-Pierre was found to have violated the act during a press briefing on November 2, 2022, just before the much-awaited midterm elections. A complaint was swiftly filed on November 3, highlighting the situation.
It all began with Jean-Pierre’s opening statements at the briefing before she faced any questions. She passionately emphasized the President’s belief that our democracy was under attack and that those who denied election results and fueled political violence were a threat to our nation’s integrity. Notably, she didn’t hold back from criticizing “mega MAGA Republicans,” a term she frequently used to describe the President’s political opponents in the lead-up to the midterms.
Jean-Pierre’s habitual demonization of “MAGA Republicans” turned out to be a violation of the Hatch Act, leading to her receiving a warning letter from the OSC. While the OSC acknowledged her transgression, they chose not to pursue disciplinary action but issued a warning letter. Interestingly, the White House Counsel’s Office, at the time, didn’t consider Jean-Pierre’s remarks as prohibited.
In response to the OSC’s findings, White House spokesperson Andrew Bates assured the public that they take the Hatch Act seriously and are currently reviewing the opinion. However, this revelation casts doubt on the administration’s commitment to upholding the law, considering that Jean-Pierre isn’t the only member of the Biden administration to have run afoul of the Hatch Act.
In April, the OSC informed Health & Human Services Sec. Xavier Becerra that he violated regulations by expressing support for Senator Alex Padilla’s reelection on September 15, 2022, at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute Annual Awards Gala. Becerra had deviated from his prepared remarks and publicly endorsed Sen. Padilla (D-CA), referring to him as a friend and someone he plans to vote for in the upcoming election.
Last October, it was revealed that then-White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain had also violated the rules by retweeting the pro-Democrat Strike PAC from his official account in May 2022. The matter was closed without disciplinary action since he deleted the retweets once he learned of the violation.
Unsurprisingly, Twitter is abuzz with discussions about the Hatch Act as news of Jean-Pierre’s violation spreads like wildfire.