A Trump administration official accused of anti-Semitism was reinstated a day after resigning over dubious allegations that he had accused American Jews of controlling the press.
On Tuesday, Bloomberg Law reported that Leif Olson, a recently appointed senior policy adviser at the Department of Labor, had used several anti-Semitic tropes in a 2016 Facebook post commenting on the political fortunes of Paul Nehlen, a white nationalist who had failed in his bid to unseat then-House Speaker Paul Ryan in Wisconsin’s Republican primary.
Olson resigned several hours after Bloomberg contacted his department and the White House for comment.
On Thursday he tweeted his thanks to acting US Deputy Secretary of Labor Pat Pizzel saying he was “grateful to be heading back to work” and “the opportunity to continue to serve.”
— Leif Olson (@olsonleif) September 4, 2019
He has defended his post as “sarcastic criticism of the alt-right’s conspiracy theories and anti-Semitic positions” — a position that was echoed by journalists and commentators across the political spectrum.
His post said that Ryan had been “brought to heel” by an “uprising of the conservative masses of real America eager for an authentic voice in Washington instead of the same tired globalist open-borders pap they’ve been pushing on us since the Elites abandoned the People.”
“The guy suffered a massive historic, emasculating 70-point victory,” Olson continued. “Let’s see him and his Georgetown cocktail-party puppetmasters try to walk that one off.”
Responding to a commenter who jokingly asserted that Ryan was Jewish, Olson wrote that “it must be true because I’ve never seen the Lamestream Media report it, and you know they protect their own.”
You might say this instead shows Olson endorsing absurd anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. But the standpoint of the post is established from the start as pro-Ryan.
— Jonathan Chait (@jonathanchait) September 3, 2019
And he later made his sarcasm clear when he said the post was a parody of “garbage like this, written unironically and featured… on the front page of what what was, just a short time ago, a trustworthy source of opinion journalism” — a reference to website Breitbart.
Yair Rosenberg of Tablet wrote that the incident “ought to be an object lesson for reporters seeking to tackle this important topic,” while New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait said that firing Olson “as an anti-Semite over this post strikes me as terribly unfair.”
The Anti-Defamation League, which initially condemned Olson, said it had accepted his explanation after reporting that he highlighted later comments on the post in which its sarcastic nature was made explicitly clear.
According to the right-wing Daily Caller website, a senior Department of Labor official said that the department’s acting secretary “personally decided to instate Olson after carefully reviewing all the facts and circumstances.”
Bloomberg said it stands by its reporting.