This kind of media malfeasance is sickening
A few weeks ago, Leif Olson, an attorney, moved his family from Houston to D.C. to join the Department of Labor. Less than three weeks after starting work, Olson resigned when Bloomberg reporter Ben Penn dug up an old Facebook post in which Olson mocked anti-Semites and spun the post as an endorsement of anti-Semitism.
In a public post September 3, Olson wrote:
Well, that was fast: Earlier last week, I posted that I had joined the Department of Labor’s Wage & Hour Division as an advisor to Cheryl Stanton. At the end of last week, I resigned that position. This would not have happened had I not made fun of the alt-right in August 2016.
Let me explain.
Because I delight every time the alt-right and anti-Semites lose credibility by having their noxious idiocy publicly collide with the real world, I indulged in a bit of mockery when Paul Ryan demolished his alt-right, anti-Semitic primary opponent in 2016 (as you can see in the linked album). My post and the comments that followed it were so dripping with disdain that I was complimented for “speaking sarcasm like it was [my] first language.” The sarcasm was so clear that a half-drunk, one-eyed mole rat on a Jovian moon using its empty socket to read Facebook over my shoulder through a handheld spyglass could see it.
This did not stop a reporter from asking Administration personnel for a comment on my statement that it “must be true” that Paul Ryan is a Jew because “I’ve never seen the Lamestream Media report on it, and you know they protect their own”—a statement so ludicrous that there is a 100% chance it was pulled out of context and which the reporter himself acknowledged was clearly a joke. This came shortly after I became aware that the same reporter was contacting people about my past cases. Though I knew of only one in particular, I could surmise the others that would catch a reporter’s eye. It wasn’t difficult to figure how the sort of reporter who would insinuate I’m an anti-Semite would paint those other cases.
The fact that I worked in the Division was going to be used to try to derail every regulation, ruling, proposal, notice, guidance, and letter that came out of the Division. My continued employment was an obstacle, not a help; a fully drunk, no-eyed mole rat on a comet in the Oort Cloud using its nose to read Facebook reflected on a mirror behind my shoulder through a kaleidoscope could see that.
I anticipate that, in a few hours, a story will hit Bloomberg News’s Daily Labor Report. In it, Ben Penn will write that I was hired as a Senior Policy Advisor, even though I had posted “controversial” statements in the wake of Paul Ryan’s re-election that “some might take” as anti-Semitic. He will write that my social-media accounts would have been shown to the Presidential Personnel Office as a matter of course and that I was hired after going through that process. He will continue to note that there are other “controversial” things about me. I represented the plaintiffs who sued Houston’s mayor to enjoin her executive order requiring the city to pay spousal benefits to same-sex spouses despite the explicit prohibition against doing so in the Texas Constitution, Texas Family Code, and City Charter. (He will probably not note that the lawsuit was brought before Obergefell was decided and that my name stopped appearing on the papers after it was decided.) I objected to the settlement of the class action brought in the wake of the Target data breach and am thus to blame for the delay in classmembers’ getting their settlement checks. I don’t have an obvious background in employment or labor law and thus represent a strange choice for a position in the Wage & Hour Division. Quite likely, I was hired only because I am a hard-right ideologue.
He’ll publish my statement that the Facebook comments were sarcasm criticizing the anti-Semitism and conspiracy theorizing of the alt-right. He will possibly publish my statement that Wage & Hour does important work, that I enjoyed my time there, and that I wish Cheryl and her team all the best. And I do. This was as close to a dream job as I’ve ever gotten. Wage & Hour touches nearly every employer and employee in the country; it is no exaggeration to say that my work might have helped literally millions of people—and done so with real, cognizable money in their pockets.
And on Friday, I resigned it.
Jo and I are still praying over our next move. Because she is amazing, of course, she had two job offers within 24 hours of getting to Virginia, but this move was predicated on the idea that (1) I would finally be moving into public service and (2) we would have two incomes. If you know anyone who needs a law or public-policy or writing job filled, particularly in the DC area, I’d appreciate your letting me know. Until then, my thanks to everyone for your good wishes and congratulations on the move and the old new position—I enjoyed it immensely while it lasted.
UPDATE: The story went live a bit ago. My only surprise is that they stuck with the anti-Semitic accusation in and of itself rather than going with “some might say.” Thanks, everyone, for your kind words so far.
Thankfully, the administration is sticking by Olson. Despite his pre-emptive resignation, Olson has been reinstated. From the Daily Caller:
Leif Olson abruptly left the department 18 days after joining the federal government, after moving his family from Texas to take the job. The departure came after Bloomberg Law reporter Ben Penn contacted the White House and Labor Department about what he portrayed as an anti-SemiticFacebook post from 2016. Penn cropped out in a Tuesday article portions of the exchange that directly referenced it being “epic sarcasm.”
“On Friday, August 30, 2019, senior policy advisor of the Wage and Hour Division Leif Olson offered his resignation and the department accepted,” the department said in a statement to the DCNF. “Following a thorough reexamination of the available information and upon reflection, the department has concluded that Olson has satisfactorily explained the tone and content of his sarcastic social media post and will return to his position.”
Leif Olson is good people. I had the privilege of chatting with him on multiple occasions back in my grassroots work days. Even if he were not good people, this kind of media malfeasance is sickening. Good on the administration and the DOL for refusing to succumb to the tiny minded media elites who think nothing of destroying the livelihood and reputation of perfectly respectable individuals.DONATE
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