White House press secretary accused misusing law to avoid tough questions

Politico reports that many reporters have taken issue with White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre’s frequent use of the Hatch Act to avoid answering questions. 

“[I]ncreasingly, members of the media are privately grumbling that Jean-Pierre is applying an overly broad definition of Hatch Act restrictions to the topics they’re asking,” the outlet writes.

What’s the Hatch Act?

In short, the Hatch Act stops employees of the executive branch from getting too political while on the job.

According to the U.S. Office of Special Counsel:

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​The Hatch Act, a federal law passed in 1939, limits certain political activities of federal employees, as well as some state, D.C., and local government employees who work in connection with federally funded programs.

The office explains:

The law’s purposes are to ensure that federal programs are administered in a nonpartisan fashion, to protect federal employees from political coercion in the workplace, and to ensure that federal employees are advanced based on merit and not based on political affiliation.​​​​ ​​

Example after example after example

Jean-Pierre appears to have started to substantially lean on the Hatch Act in August with the midterm elections in sight. But, she has continued to lean on it despite the midterms now being in the rearview.

Jean-Pierre, for example, just invoked the Hatch Act this past week in order to avoid answering a question about whether President Joe Biden will return the campaign donations that he received from FTX founder Sam Bankman Fried.

“I am covered by the Hatch Act, which I’m happy to say over and over again, because we believe in the rule of law here,” Jean-Pierre claimed.

Earlier in December, Jean-Pierre invoked the Hatch Act again to avoid answering a question about the potential involvement of the 2020 campaign of Biden in Twitter’s decision to censor, in the leadup to the 2020 presidential election, the New York Post’s bombshell Hunter Biden laptop story.

Is this legitimate?

Many are now arguing that Jean-Pierre is misusing the Hatch Act.

One White House reporter told Politico, “I think reporters get the feeling that it’s a way to avoid having to answer some delicate questions. You can almost feel the entire briefing room rolling their eyes when they hear the Hatch Act drop.”

Fox News and the Washington Examiner both support this idea by citing experts as suggesting that Jean-Pierre is likely misusing the Hatch Act.

Fox’s expert calls Jean-Pierre’s use of the Hatch Act “somewhat evasive,” while the Examiner’s expert states that Jean-Pierre is “arguably using it as an excuse to avoid answering questions.”

This does indeed seem to be the case. The Hatch Act appears to be yet another way for the Biden administration to try to avoid transparency.

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