Trump Labor Department official Leif Olson was reinstated on Wednesday after a Bloomberg Law piece suggesting he had posted anti-Semitic comments on Facebook in 2016 triggered backlash and near-unanimous assessments that the reporter misrepresented his comments.
“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,” the Department of Labor (DOL) announced in a statement first obtained by The Daily Caller’s Luke Rosiak.
Olson resigned on Aug. 30, four days before the Bloomberg Law piece was published. Many analysts pointed out Olson’s alleged “anti-Semitic” rhetoric was actually sarcastic mockery of Wisconsin alt-right, anti-Semitic congressional candidate Paul Nehlen. The Bloomberg Law piece remained uncorrected and unretracted as of Wednesday evening.
“I’m grateful to be heading back to work,” Olson tweeted late Tuesday, linking to the DOL’s news release announcing his reinstatement. “Thank you, Acting Secretary @PatPizzellaDOL and @WHD_DOL Administrator Cheryl Stanton for the opportunity to continue to serve.”
“And to everyone who reached out, and especially to each of you who risked your own credibility and reputation to defend mine: Jo and I can never thank you enough,” he continued. “Each of you is a blessing, and we hope to bless you in return. Thank you, and thank you again.”
The controversy began after reporter Benjamin Penn published the widely-derided piece headlined, “Trump Labor Aide Quits After Anti-Semitic Facebook Posts Surface.”
Penn quoted an Anti-Defamation League (ADL) spokesman, Jake Hyman, as calling Olson’s posts “clearly anti-Semitic,” and claimed the episode was “the latest in a series of mishaps under the Trump administration personnel vetting system.”
Observers on both sides of the political aisle quickly claimed the alleged anti-Semitic comments were sarcastic.
The ADL later retracted its assessment, stating, “We appreciate Mr. Olson’s clarification that he intended to be sarcastic with his posts, and accept his explanation of the content in question.”
Olson made the Facebook posts in question in 2016 when Nehlen lost to then-House Speaker Paul Ryan in the Wisconsin Republican primary.
“The guy just suffered a massive, historic, emasculating 70-point victory,” Olson wrote, referring to Ryan. “Let’s see him and his Georgetown cocktail-party puppetmasters try to walk that one off.” Olson went on to write in that same voice that the “Lamestream media … protect their own.”
Reaction to Penn’s reporting on Tuesday was withering. The Washington Post’s media critic, Eric Wemple said it was “unsurprising and highly disappointing” that Bloomberg Law had not retracted its piece.
“This signals that Bloomberg isn’t considering changes to a story that slimes Olson with ‘anti-Semitic Facebook posts’ that are not anti-Semitic,” Wemple wrote.
“Incredibly, the Bloomberg hatchet job by @benjaminpenn has not been retracted with an apology,” The Washington Examiner’s Philip Klein wrote. “Bolsters my view that this is really the most egregious case of media malpractice in 2019. Usually botch ups get retracted or significantly amended.”
Neither Penn nor Bloomberg Law responded to Fox News’ requests for comment on Wednesday night.
In his initial defense, Penn had pointed to the Labor Department’s reaction to his piece, without addressing concerns that his reporting was inaccurate.
“To Leif Olson’s friends & others who take issue with this reporting, I sent a screenshot of a public FB post to DOL, seeking comment,” Penn wrote. “4 hours later I received this response: ‘Today, the Department of Labor accepted the resignation of Leif Olson effective immediately.'”
Penn added: “Lost in all of this is that Olson was part of a team of political appointees tasked with the heavy lift of drafting wage-hour regulations that are high priorities for Trump White House, business community. They’re now down one adviser.”