There isn’t much to say here. Just read the Facebook posts by DOL attorney Leif Olson that caught Bloomberg’s attention (via Ted Frank) and marvel at how much bad faith is required to pretend they were written in earnest. This is obvious — obvious — sarcasm, written a few years ago after Paul Ryan trounced Paul Nehlen in their congressional primary despite loads of hype for the latter’s chances from anti-Ryan populist outlets like Breitbart.
Ryan won the race 84/16. Olson was clearly mocking populists and alt-righters who thought Ryan stood a chance of losing (“a massive, historic, emasculating 70-point victory”). There’s even a comment in the Facebook thread pictured above congratulating Olson for his “epic sarcasm.”
That didn’t stop Bloomberg News reporter Ben Penn, who flagged the posts for the Department of Labor and asked them how they felt about the comments Olson left about “Upper East Side Zionists” in the same thread — again, obvious mockery of the alt-right obsession with defeating Ryan and the, ahem, “globalists.” Olson had just started work at the DOL three weeks ago; evidently the bureaucracy there wasn’t in the mood to tolerate bad press from a new employee, no matter how disingenuous that bad press might be. Within a matter of hours Olson was gone, a triumph for Bloomberg captured in its story entitled “Trump Labor Aide Quits After Anti-Semitic Facebook Posts Surface.”
Four hours after Bloomberg Law requested comment from the White House and DOL about Leif Olson’s social media post, the department said he has resigned, without elaboration…
Olson’s arrival at the agency, which was quietly noted in an online WHD organization chart, raises more questions about the Trump administration’s vetting system for political appointees…
“The post in question is clearly anti-Semitic, and if it does indeed belong to Leif Olson of the U.S. Labor Department, we call on him to apologize and affirm that he no longer harbors such virulently hateful views,” said Jake Hyman, a spokesman for the Anti-Defamation League in New York.
Bloomberg’s bad faith is the core outrage here but spare some contempt for the DOL and ADL, each of whom would have recognized this as a dirty hit if it had taken five minutes to digest his posts. Both entities may have remembered that other Trump appointees have gotten caught with genuinely offensive material in their social-media archives and opted not to give Olson the benefit of the doubt, especially with a “credible” news outlet like Bloomberg feigning offense at his posts. What’s a better headline for the DOL and ADL: “RANDOM TRUMP APPOINTEE FORCED OUT OVER OFFENSIVE POSTS?” or “DOL, ADL REFUSE TO CONDEMN TRUMP APPOINTEE FOR ANTI-SEMITISM”?
The reporter, Ben Penn, has little to say in his defense this morning on social media except to note how quickly the DOL moved to get rid of Olson once his Facebook thread was brought to their attention. The alacrity with which institutions move to bow and scrape to “cancel culture” is now treated as proof of that culture’s righteousness. John Podhoretz spoke for most of the rest of the Internet, though:
— Ben Penn (@benjaminpenn) September 3, 2019
There are other errors about Olson in Penn’s story too according to Ted Frank, all of which conveniently make Olson look bad in case you doubt that there was bias at work here. I’ll say this much for Penn, though — he was honest enough, at least, to note in his story the real reason that Olson needed to be Canceled.
Olson also was known in Houston-area legal circles for his appellate work challenging the rights of same-sex couples after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled gay marriage is legal; intervening to block defrauded consumers from receiving $10 million that Target Corp. had agreed to pay in a class settlement; and urging the high court to invalidate the Obama administration’s policy giving certain illegal immigrants a pathway to citizenship.
Olson was at the DOL to work on deregulation, another crime against leftism. He had the wrong politics; he was bad. All that remained was to find evidence of such extreme badness that he could no longer be gainfully employed. Penn was even more honest towards the end of his story, noting that “The Paul Ryan exchange appears to be the only appeal to Jewish stereotypes” on Olson’s Facebook feed and that Olson was even known to wish happy new year to Jewish (and non-Jewish) friends on Rosh Hashanah. He seems to realize that this is a hatchet job. He just wanted to see if the DOL would drop the axe under pressure.
I assume Olson’s resignation will be belatedly unaccepted as this becomes a conservative cause celebre online today. Maybe even you-know-who will weigh in with a tweet or two; a case of the media falsely accusing someone on his side as bigoted to serve its own agenda is political gold for him, a smoking gun that they’re cutthroat and can’t be trusted in their commentary on Trump himself. Coincidentally, this episode is playing out on the same day that Axios is reporting that allies of Trump are raising money to investigate the social-media (and personal?) histories of members of the media, a process that’s already resulted in embarrassment for the New York Times. Good luck finding anyone in conservative activism who has a problem with those tactics after episodes like this. Turnabout is fair play.