Cancel Culture

Labor Department Official Quits After Bloomberg Law Reporter Discovers Anti-Semitic Facebook Post That Is Not Actually Anti-Semitic

Leif Olson was clearly making fun of the alt-right.


Leif Olson, a Trump appointee in the Department of Labor, resigned from the federal government this week after attracting scrutiny from Bloomberg Law reporter Ben Penn, who accused Olson of referencing anti-Semitic tropes in a Facebook post from 2016.

"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,'" wrote Penn.

The post does reference anti-Semitic tropes, but the post itself is not anti-Semitic. On the contrary, it is clearly mocking the kind of alt-right people who hold such views.

The post in question discusses the victory of former House Speaker Paul Ryan (R–Wisc.) over his 2016 primary challenger, Paul Nehlen, a white supremacist. "[Ryan] just suffered a massive, historic, emasculating 70-point victory," wrote Olson. "Let's see him and his Georgetown cocktail-party puppetmasters try to walk that one off." It's obvious that Olson is pro-Ryan, and is not actually attacking the congressman. He's copying the language of an anti-Ryan troll.

As Vox's Dylan Matthews explains:

Written in the voice of a Breitbartist conservative who hates Paul Ryan, the post assails Ryan for his "emasculating 70-point victory" after Ryan defeated Nehlen by that overwhelming margin. The comments are what got Olson in (undeserved) trouble: "Neo-cons are all Upper East Side Zionists who don't golf on Saturday if you know what I mean," and, after a friend joked about Ryan being Jewish, Olson added, "It must be true because I've never seen the Lamestream Media report it, and you know they protect their own."

You do not need a PhD in linguistics to correctly identify this as obvious sarcasm — another commenter on the thread praised the post's "epic sarcasm." Conservatives, especially ones of a neoconservative bent on foreign policy, have made sarcastic jokes like this about what they perceive as (and what sometimes, as in the case of Nehlen, is) anti-Semitic criticism of neoconservatism, a movement primarily founded by Jewish intellectuals.

But if that post was not clear enough on its own, Olson added an additional post making his point extremely, extremely clear.

Matthews goes on to note that he is generally supportive of cancel culture, and thus it's important to hold the cancellers accountable when they unleash the mob on an undeserving target. "The Department of Labor ought to rehire Olson so he can keeping advising them to pursue policies I disagree with," Matthews wrote. "Not doing so would damage our societal immune system and make it easier for false charges like this to stick in the future."

Going after Olson for this post was an obvious misfire on Penn's part, and it's a shame that Penn seems to have doubled down on his mistake.