UNITED STATES: The White House found itself entangled in a Hatch Act controversy when Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre repeatedly used the term “MAGA Republicans” ahead of the 2022 election, a violation of the Hatch Act. The U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) issued a warning to Jean-Pierre, despite the White House Counsel’s Office initially deeming her remarks as permissible.
In response to Jean-Pierre’s statements, the advocacy group Protect the Public’s Trust filed a grievance with the OSC, led by Michael Chamberlain. The group accused Jean-Pierre of endorsing the downfall of her political adversaries and disparaging Republicans.
Jean-Pierre made these remarks from the White House press briefing room, prompting the advocacy group to request an investigation by the OSC, along with measures to prevent future incidents and appropriate penalties.
During her statements and Q&A sessions, Jean-Pierre referred to “mega MAGA Republican officials,” highlighting politicians who demonstrate a disregard for the rule of law. President Biden also employed the phrase on October 24 in a speech encouraging voters to support Democrats and enhance their representation in Congress. It is worth noting that the Hatch Act does not apply to the president and vice president, a precedent set in recent history.
After conducting an inquiry, the OSC determined that Jean-Pierre had indeed violated the Hatch Act, emphasizing that she cannot utilize her official authority or influence to interfere with election outcomes. However, the OSC chose not to pursue disciplinary action and instead issued a warning letter.
Interestingly, the OSC found that the White House Counsel’s Office initially did not perceive Jean-Pierre’s remarks as Hatch Act violations. This discrepancy prompted Protect the Public’s Trust to correspond with the agency. The authenticity of the online publication, which first reported the story, was confirmed by Zachary Kurz, the head of communications at the OSC.
Jean-Pierre characterized the OSC’s action as “retroactive,” asserting that they were unaware of the agency’s opinion when given permission to speak. She expressed the intention to engage in a dialogue with the OSC and the White House Counsel’s Office following a thorough review of the warning letter and the Counsel’s Office’s stance.
Notably, the term “MAGA” has been used within the White House, with reference to the “extreme MAGA Republican” faction in the House supporting a budget proposal.
It is important to note that not all conservatives find the term “MAGA” offensive. For instance, during the lead-up to the 2014 midterm elections, congressional candidate Cody Hart listed “MAGA Republican Party” as his preferred identification on the official election website of Washington state.