Government watchdog says White House press secretary violated Hatch Act during midterms

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.
(Image credit: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

A government watchdog warned White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre that she broke the law by referring to "mega MAGA Republicans" in the lead-up to the 2022 midterm elections, NBC News reported Tuesday.

The U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) sent a letter to Jean-Pierre informing her that she violated the Hatch Act by using the term. The Hatch Act is a federal law that "limits certain political activities of federal employees" to ensure that "federal programs are administered in a nonpartisan fashion," according to OSC. Its main purpose is to prevent federal employees from engaging in certain political activities while doing their job.

"Because Ms. Jean‐Pierre made the statements while acting in her official capacity, she violated the Hatch Act prohibition against using her official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with or affecting the result of an election," the letter said.

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Jean-Pierre first made the comments during a Nov. 2 press briefing, when she said that "mega MAGA Republicans" — referring to the "Make America Great Again" slogan used by the Trump White House — didn't believe in "the rule of law." A conservative group called Protect the Public's Trust filed a Hatch Act complaint against her later that month.

Following an investigation, OSC "decided to close this matter without further action" despite finding Jean-Pierre in violation of the Hatch Act, and "have decided not to pursue disciplinary action and have instead issued Ms. Jean‐Pierre a warning letter."

President Biden has often used "mega MAGA Republicans" in his speeches, but the Hatch Act does not apply to the president or vice president. The Trump administration was also subjected to numerous Hatch Act violations, and "MAGA" was used in an official capacity on the Trump White House website more than 1,780 times, The Hill reported.

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Justin Klawans

Justin Klawans is a staff writer at The Week. Based in Chicago, he was previously a breaking news reporter for Newsweek, writing breaking news and features for verticals including politics, U.S. and global affairs, business, crime, sports, and more. His reporting has been cited on many online platforms, in addition to CBS' The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

He is also passionate about entertainment and sports news, and has covered film, television, and casting news as a freelancer for outlets like Collider and United Press International, as well as Chicago sports news for Fansided.