April 26, 2017

Conservative website wonders why Trump administration won’t say that federal employees “must” support Trump


Scare quotes aren’t actually scary most of the time, but these give off quite a chill.

The Washington Examiner has worked itself into a state over a Department of Veterans Affairs employee who expressed her personal beliefs on her Twitter and also… included the two books she’s written in her bio?

Kayla Williams is the director of the VA’s Center for Women Veterans, and she has made it clear on Twitter that she opposes Trump. Earlier this year, she told Stars and Stripes that she would be attending an anti-Trump rally with her kids, “to show them that people should stand together for what they believe in.”

She also retweeted a tweet that said women should get their IUD as soon as possible, “before Trump-Pence reverse the requirement for full contraceptive coverage.”

Williams’ anti-Trump views haven’t stopped her from promoting her two books, or from getting the VA to help her promote them.

Her VA biography notes the two books she’s written, and the VA has promoted them on two other occasions: once in a May 3 release announcing her appointment, and again in a December VA blog about a podcast featuring Williams.

This doesn’t seem like much of an outrage, even according to the VA. The issue (mercifully) isn’t gaining traction, despite the best efforts of the Examiner (“The Washington Examiner asked questions about the matter for the last several weeks without a response. The House Veterans’ Affairs Committee also ignored several requests for comment from the Washington Examiner.”).

In the words of the Examiner’s Pete Kasperowicz, “The Department of Veterans Affairs is dismissing the actions of an employee who has written anti-Trump tweets and is promoting her own books on Twitter as someone who is simply exercising her ‘freedom of speech.’” (Please note the scare quotes.)

While Kasperowicz acknowledges that Williams’s Twitter bio doesn’t identify her as a VA employee, he does helpfully point out that she “may” have tweeted during work hours. Again, the VA is not going there; spokesman Randy Noller: “Like other Federal employees, VA employees have a constitutionally protected right to freedom of speech in their private lives, including during non-duty hours (e.g., lunch break).” Not satisfied with the pesky freedom of speech angle, Kasperowicz continues:

Conservatives have urged the White House to crack down on anti-Trump federal employees like Williams, who was appointed by President Obama and re-appointed by Trump.

So far, the White House has made it clear it wants all officials to support Trump. But in its most recent statement to the Washington Examiner, the White House said only that officials “should” back the president, not that they “must.”

The employee in question has quite the impressive bio, and has written two books, which have both gotten excellent reviews.



Julia Fleischaker is a former director of marketing and publicity at Melville House.