OSC Report: Karine Jean-Pierre Found to Have Breached Hatch Act with Frequent Labeling of GOP Candidates as 'Mega-MAGA Republicans'
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre violated the Hatch Act by referring to GOP officials and candidates as "mega MAGA Republicans," according to a government watchdog agency. Jean-Pierre will face no consequences for the violation.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre has been found to have violated the Hatch Act by repeatedly referring to GOP officials and candidates as "mega MAGA Republicans" in the lead-up to the 2022 midterms, according to the Office of Special Counsel (OSC). The Hatch Act is a law designed to prevent federal employees from using their positions to influence elections. In a letter obtained by NBC News, Ana Galindo-Marrone, who heads the agency's Hatch Act Unit, stated that Jean-Pierre's use of the phrase during official press briefings was intended to generate opposition to Republican candidates.
The OSC concluded that Jean-Pierre's statements, made in her official capacity, violated the Hatch Act's prohibition on using official authority or influence to interfere with or affect election results. However, despite the violation, Jean-Pierre will not face any consequences as the Office of Special Counsel has decided to close the matter without further action. Galindo-Marrone noted in her letter that the White House counsel's office did not believe at the time that Jean-Pierre's remarks were prohibited, and it is unclear whether the OSC's analysis was ever conveyed to her.
While Jean-Pierre will not face disciplinary action for this violation, the OSC warned the White House that any future prohibited political activity by Jean-Pierre would be considered a knowing and willful violation of the law and could result in disciplinary action.
Jean-Pierre has frequently cited the Hatch Act to avoid answering certain questions from reporters, including in the weeks leading up to the 2022 midterms. A complaint against her was filed by the conservative watchdog group Protect the Public's Trust in November, citing a White House briefing in which Jean-Pierre referred to "mega MAGA Republican officials who don't believe in the rule of law" and made other disparaging remarks about Republican candidates. The group argued that these remarks were an inappropriate attempt to influence the vote.
Jean-Pierre's actions align with the Biden administration's strategy of portraying their GOP opponents as far-right extremists threatening democracy in the lead-up to the midterms. President Joe Biden himself referred to Trump supporters as "MAGA forces" and a "threat to this country" in a speech on September 1.
Protect the Public's Trust Director Michael Chamberlain stated that Jean-Pierre's repeated condemnation of political opponents leading up to the midterms was a clear violation of the Hatch Act that could not be ignored by the Office of Special Counsel.
The incident highlights the ongoing erosion of trust in the government among the American public. Officials are expected to use their authority for the benefit of all Americans rather than acting as a political party's arm. Unfortunately, Jean-Pierre's actions may have followed the lead of President Biden, who has often employed polarizing messages and demeaning slogans targeting his opponents, despite promising to restore normalcy and lower the political temperature.
During a White House press briefing, Jean-Pierre was asked if she believed she had violated the Hatch Act. She responded by stating that she had received approval to use the terminology at the time and that the remarks in question were made months ago. She declined to give her opinion or thoughts on the matter and mentioned that the White House Counsel would have a routine conversation with the Office of Special Counsel regarding the issue. Jean-Pierre acknowledged that the Biden White House has used the term "mega MAGA Republicans" multiple times before, emphasizing that it was used in the context of discussing policies and values.