The online social media platform Twitter is incredibly popular among reporters and politicians alike. President Donald Trump’s tweets regularly spark numerous news articles and the then-White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said that the President’s tweets should be considered “official statements.” Now the Office of Government Ethics has ruled that retweets are considered endorsements, a view not popularly held according to many journalists’ bio disclaimer, and therefore grounds for violations of the Hatch Act. The OGE found that United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley violated the Hatch Act, which prohibits political activity by federal employees, by retweeting Trump’s praise of a House candidate in South Carolina.
Haley’s account is a personal one that existed before she served as Ambassador of the United Nations and not one of the permanent accounts, like @statedeptspox, that is transferred to each occupant of the role. However, the Office found that her account gave the impression of being official because it featured her official government headshot, a header picture of her meeting with the UN Security Council at the White House with President Trump, and numerous tweets on official matters. In addition, her bio listed her as “United States Ambassador to the United Nations” and the United States Mission’s website linked to her account.
Since the account gave the impression of being official, Haley’s retweet made it appear like she was endorsing a political candidate from her official position. Haley has since undone the retweet and the OGE did not discipline her because she had no other political activity on the account.
As of publication, her Twitter bio has been scrubbed to be blank and the header photo is different than the one previously described.
The OGE review came as a result of a complaint from the government watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. CREW executive director Noah Bookbinder said in a statement, “This is already the third time this year that a senior Trump official has been reprimanded for misusing their official position following a CREW complaint.”
“Ambassador Haley should have known better.”