He Wouldn’t Lie, So He Quit
He Wouldn't Lie, So He Quit
Homeland Security Spokesman Takes a Stand On Principle
A tip of the hat this morning to a federal employee who took a stand on principle and gave up his job rather than mislead the public on behalf of the president’s political agenda.
James Schwab quit as a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security on Monday rather than follow orders to disseminate what he called “misleading facts” to support a Trump administration attack on Oakland, CA mayor Libby Schaaf. The mayor drew the president’s wrath last week after she warned immigrants in her community about a late February “sweep” by federal immigration enforcement agents.
“I quit because I didn’t want to perpetuate misleading facts,” Schwab told the San Francisco Chronicle. “I asked them to change the information. I told them that the information was wrong, they asked me to deflect, and I didn’t agree with that. Then I took some time and I quit.”
President Trump and other federal officials publicly accused Mayor Schaaf of helping 864 criminals avoid arrest by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents. The mayor’s warning of the raids was “a disgrace,” the president said.
But Schwab said ICE never expected so many arrests and that many of the people targeted in the raids had no criminal records. “We never pick up 100 percent of our targets. And to say they’re a type of dangerous criminal is also misleading,” he told CNN.
Like every federal agency, the Department of Homeland Security employs a cadre of “public information officers” who serve as spokesmen and spokeswomen for the agency. They field inquiries from journalists, produce public service announcements and advertisements, write speeches for agency leaders and generally promote agency work.
The good ones help reporters cut through the bureaucracy and get to officials who can answer legitimate inquiries; they give the public information about agency work that may not be “news” but is nonetheless important. But some also become apologists and/or knowingly spread misinformation to make their political bosses look good; journalists call them “flaks,” a bit of slang that marks them as liars or obfuscators without actually using those words.
Schwab, to his credit, refused to become a flack. We could use more like him.