A Labor Department official who resigned after a Bloomberg Law report falsely claiming he posted antisemitic messages was reinstated, the Labor Department said on Wednesday.
On Tuesday, Bloomberg Law reporter Ben Penn published a story claiming that Leif Olson, a Labor Department official appointed to the Wage and Hour Division 18 days earlier, published “Antisemitic Facebook posts” when he clearly posted sarcastic remarks intended to mock far-right antisemites.
Penn wrote that four hours after reaching out to the department for comment, Olson resigned.
“Today, the Department of Labor accepted the resignation of Leif Olson effective immediately,” a department spokeswoman told Penn.
The article cited a statement from Jake Hyman, a spokesperson for the Anti-Defamation League.
“The post in question is clearly anti-Semitic, and if it does indeed belong to Leif Olson of the U.S. Labor Department, we call on him to apologize and affirm that he no longer harbors such virulently hateful views,” Hyman told the outlet.
After the report went up, Hyman posted on the group’s website that, “We appreciate Mr. Olson’s clarification that he intended to be sarcastic with his posts, and accept his explanation of the content in question.”
These are the posts Bloomberg called “Antisemitic”:
Olson posted a clearly sarcastic post about former House Speaker Paul Ryan’s Republican primary win against white supremacist Paul Nehlen, who has made repeated antisemitic attacks.
Olson wrote that “Establishment insider RINO corporate tool” Ryan, referencing far-right attacks against the congressman, just “suffered a massive, historic, emasculating 70-point victory.”
A commenter added, “he’s a neo-con too, you know.”
“No he’s not. Neo-cons are all Upper East Side Zionists who don’t golf on Saturdays if you know what I mean,” Olson replied, again referencing far-right tropes.
“That’s what I meant. He’s a Jew. Everyone knows that,” the commenter wrote.
“It must be true because I’ve never seen the Lamestream Media report it, and you know they protect their own,” Olson replied.
Penn posted the exchange in the report, but cropped out another comment that called the exchange “epic sarcasm.”
“It was sarcastic criticism of the alt-right’s conspiracy theories and anti-Semitic positions,” Olson told Bloomberg before they published the bogus report anyway.
Olson gets his job back:
The Labor Department issued a statement a day after the report was published announcing that Olson was reinstated.
"On Friday, August 30, 2019, Senior Policy Advisor of the Wage and Hour Division, Leif Olson offered his resignation and the Department accepted,” the department said in a statement. “Following a thorough reexamination of the available information and upon reflection, the Department has concluded that Mr. Olson has satisfactorily explained the tone of the content of his sarcastic social media posts and will return to his position in the Wage and Hour Division."