In a particularly egregious episode of “cancel culture,” conservative lawyer Leif Olson was pressured to resign over Facebook comments that a reporter took out of context and sent to the press contact at the Department of Labor (DOL). On Wednesday, almost a week after Olson resigned, the DOL announced that he would be returning to work. While Bloomberg Law reported his Facebook comments out of context, suggesting they were anti-Semitic, many other outlets — both liberal and conservative — explained that the remarks were clearly satirical.
“On Friday, August 30, 2019, Senior Policy Advisor of the Wage and Hour Division, Leif Olson offered his resignation and the Department accepted. 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 DOL statement reads.
“A recently appointed Trump Labor Department official with a history of advancing controversial conservative and faith-based causes in court has resigned after revelations that he wrote a 2016 Facebook post suggesting the Jewish-controlled media ‘protects their own,'” began Bloomberg Law reporter Ben Penn. His article pulls Olson’s clearly sarcastic Facebook thread out of context.
Indeed, Olson had suggested that then-House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) was Jewish, even though he is Roman Catholic. When one commenter called Ryan a “Neo-con,” Olson replied, “No he’s not. Neo-cons are all Upper East Side Zionists who don’t golf on Saturday if you know what I mean.” The commenter replied, “That’s what I meant. He’s a Jew. Everyone knows that.” Olson responded, “It must be true because I’ve never seen the Lamestream Media report it, and you know they protect their own.”
As Tablet Magazine‘s Yair Rosenberg explained, this was clearly a joke mocking Breitbart, which had defended Paul Nehlen, the white supremacist anti-Semite who had challenged Ryan in the GOP primary. Vox’s Dylan Matthews, no conservative, also defended Olson and suggested DOL should re-hire him.
An Anti-Defamation League spokesman who condemned Olson’s comments later backtracked, saying he accepted Olson’s explanation that the comments were satirical.
Even so, Bloomberg Law’s Ben Penn wrote an expose, suggesting that the Trump administration had failed to check Olson’s background and should never have hired him. He also explained how he reached out to DOL, sending a screenshot of the Facebook post.
Olson seems to have explained himself to DOL, but he was asked to resign, anyway. Only after the backlash to the Bloomberg Law article and the forced resignation did the DOL reconsider.
This welcome restoration confirms that the DOL effectively forced Olson to resign. Yet it also raises the question: why didn’t DOL trust Olson when he explained the comments? Why did it take public backlash to get Olson reinstated?
How long before employers listen to their employees before rushing to fire them in the face of a likely scandal? Perhaps it would help for people in this situation to wait and investigate before acting.
Let’s cancel the “cancel culture.” People like Olson do not deserve this kind of treatment.
Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.