This morning, Bloomberg Law’s Benjamin Penn reported that Leif Olson, a policy adviser in the Department of Labor’s wage and hour division, had resigned from the Department after “anti-Semitic posts surface[d].” The Department of Labor has acted quickly and has already removed Olson from its organization chart.
The Facebook post in question was included in Penn’s article in the form of a low-resolution screenshot, included below:
The screenshot highlights one particular reply from Olson, which stated that “all Neo-cons are all Upper East Side Zionists who don’t golf on Saturday if you know what I mean.” According to Bloomberg Law’s Benjamin Penn, this referenced “anti-Semitic tropes” and Mr. Olson was “suggesting the Jewish-controlled media ‘protects their own.’”
Benjamin Penn’s screenshot cropped out a comment which would have revealed that Penn’s premise was false.
Benjamin Penn failed, however, to quote Olson’s original post, which would have revealed to Bloomberg’s audience that Olson was quite clearly being sarcastic.
Mimicking—for the purposes of sarcasm—a Paul Nehlen supporter, Olson posted:
“Establishment insider RINO corporate tool Paul Ryan…suffered a massive, historic, emasculating 70-point victory. Let’s see him and his Georgetown cocktail-party puppetmasters try to walk that one off.”
Here, Olson was mocking Paul Nehlen, a notorious white nationalist and anti-semite. The post in question was written on August 10th, 2016, the day after Paul Ryan crushed Nehlen in a Republican primary, getting 85% of the vote to Nehlen’s 15%. Olson describing Ryan’s 70-point victory as “emasculating” to Ryan demonstrates Olson’s obvious sarcasm.
Even more deceitfully, Benjamin Penn’s screenshot cropped out a comment which would have revealed that Penn’s premise was false. A screenshot provided by Ted Frank, director of the Hamilton-Lincoln Law Institute, shows that in the very next comment after Olson’s “Upper East Side” remarks, a commenter compliments Olson on his “epic sarcasm” and suggests that he “speak[s] sarcasm like it is your first language.” It is unclear why this portion of the exchange was cropped out, as it is further evidence that Olson was being sarcastic.
Human Events has reached out to Bloomberg Law and Benjamin Penn for comment, inquiring as to whether Bloomberg Law will retract Benjamin Penn’s smear, and whether Penn will be subject to discipline for his actions. As of publication, neither Penn or Bloomberg Law has responded to Human Events’ inquiries.
The Department of Labor seems to have forced Olson’s resignation without considering the accuracy of Benjamin Penn’s reporting.
Penn, however, seems to have chosen indignation as a PR strategy, suggesting to those “tak[ing] issue with this reporting” that he only “sent a screenshot of a public FB post to DOL, seeking comment.” As Ted Frank pointed out on Twitter, Penn’s defense is a “fundamentally dishonest description of what [Penn] did—especially when he’s still smearing Olson as anti-Semitic.”
Frank also noted that other parts of Benjamin Penn’s Bloomberg Law article were inaccurate. Penn misrepresented Olson’s role in two different pieces of litigation: a class action settlement objection where Olson was the objector, and a Texas same-sex marriage case.
Also of note is the Anti-Defamation League’s decision to pile on Benjamin Penn’s smear of Olson. Jake Hyman, a spokesman for the ADL in New York, stated that “[t]he post in question is clearly anti-Semitic,” and that Olson must “apologize and affirm that he no longer harbors such virulently hateful views.” It is unclear if the ADL’s Jake Hyman read the entire post or the comments that indicated that Olson was clearly being sarcastic. It is also unclear on what basis the ADL’s Jake Hyman is suggesting that Olson has ever “harbored anti-Semitic views.”
That said, the Trump administration is not without blame here. As Philip Klein at the Washington Examiner pointed out, the Department of Labor seems to have forced Olson’s resignation without considering the accuracy of Benjamin Penn’s reporting. That is bizarre—and demands an explanation. Human Events has reached out to the Department of Labor and the ADL for comment; none has been provided as of publication.
Leif Olson himself issued a statement on Facebook, saying he “never thought he’d see the day when making fun of alt-right anti-Semites led to being branded an anti-Semite, but here we are.”
Indeed, Mr. Olson. Indeed.