October 17, 2019

Dept. of Labor Official Resigns Over ‘Sarcastic’ Posts Bloomberg Called ‘Anti-Semitic’

Screenshot from Facebook.

A Department of Labor (DOL) official resigned on Aug. 30 after Bloomberg reported that the official had some “anti-Semitic” Facebook posts from 2016; the official says his posts were making fun of the alt-right.

The official, Leif Olson, posted a Facebook status in Aug. 2016 regarding then-Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) defeating white nationalist Paul Nehlen in a congressional primary in an “emasculating 70-point victory.” A commenter then claimed that Ryan was a “neo-con,” prompting Olson to respond, “No he’s not. Neo-cons are all Upper East Side Zionists who don’t golf on Saturday if you know what I mean.”

The commenter then said Ryan’s “a Jew. Everyone knows that.” Olson responded, “It must be true because I’ve never seen the Lamestream Media report it, and you know they protect their own.”

When Bloomberg provided a screenshot to the DOL for comment, the DOL replied that they “accepted the resignation of Leif Olson effective immediately.”

Olson told Bloomberg that his comments were “sarcastic criticism of the alt-right’s conspiracy theories and anti-Semitic positions.” Olson also wrote on his Facebook page, “I never thought I’d see the day when making fun of alt-right anti-Semites led to being branded an anti-Semite, but here we are.”

Tablet’s Yair Rosenberg argued that Olson’s comments were “brutally sarcastic from start to finish,” pointing out that “Breitbart had hyped a Nehlen victory and a repudiation of Ryan; instead, Ryan won by nearly 70 percent.”

Additionally, Rosenberg noted that the Bloomberg report left out a commenter on the post saying, “I’m trying to find the correct response to epic sarcasm. I guess I’ll give you my son’s favorite compliment: you speak sarcasm like it’s your first language.” Another commenter later said it was “not Breitbart’s best day” and Olsen responded, “not breitbart-dot-com’s best series of months, you mean.”

The Anti-Defamation League initially told Bloomberg that Olson’s comments were “clearly anti-Semitic,” but later told Rosenberg that they “appreciate Mr. Olson’s clarification that he intended to be sarcastic with his posts, and accept his explanation of the content in question.”

Bloomberg is defending their reporter.

“We stand behind our reporting,” a Bloomberg spokesperson told The Washington Post. “We contacted the White House and the Department of Labor asking for comment on Mr. Olson’s Facebook posts. Within four hours, the Department of Labor responded that Olson had resigned.”

Rosenberg theorized that the DOL’s response was due to the Trump administration “trying to demonstrate zero-tolerance on anti-Semitism, in a way here that shows how they don’t really get anti-Semitism.”

Ted Frank, a friend of Olson’s tweeted, “Tell me, what honest report calls this sarcastic criticism of anti-Semites anti-Semitic? Leif is a friend, and I’d trust him with my Jewish life. I’m appalled at Bloomberg’s hit piece disrupting his life for no reason.”