When Jen Psaki used her position and platform to attack Fox News, I reported that she might have been acting illegally. Why? Because she’s a government official, and it’s thus at the very least unethical, if not illegal for her to boost a company she has a relationship with (she’s rumored to be heading to MSNBC when she leaves the White House).
For reference, she said, when asked if Peter Doocy is a stupid SOB, “He works for a network that provides people with questions that, nothing personal to any individual including Peter Doocy, but might make anyone sound like a stupid son of a bitch.”
That attack on Fox, an attack that might have discredited it and thus boosted other stations like MSNBC in the eyes of some, particularly those who would be listening to Peppermint Patty on Pod Save America, was almost certainly unethical.
As a result, an anti-corruption organization called Protect the Public’s Trust (PPT) is demanding that she be investigated for what she said so it can be determined if she broke the law or behaved unethically by making the comments she did about Fox, a competitor to her future employer. Describing that demand in a press release/complaint, PPT said:
Today, federal ethics watchdog Protect the Public’s Trust requested an investigation into possible ethics violations by White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki. Ms. Psaki’s statements and actions in the wake of widespread media reporting that she has been in negotiations to leave federal service for a role with a major media outlet appear inconsistent with her own promise to set “an example of engagement and transparency.”
Despite the reporting and recusal requirements federal employees must comply with while in negotiations for outside employment as well as her own statements regarding those obligations, Ms. Psaki does not appear to have altered her behavior with respect to either her prospective employer or its competitors. She has continued to brief reporters from the White House podium, including fielding inquiries from the organizations reportedly in a bidding war for her services.
In addition, her comments on an April 14, 2022, recording of Pod Save America disparaging Fox News, a competitor of her reported prospective employer, could constitute a misuse of her official position. During the podcast, Ms. Psaki was introduced by her title of White House Press Secretary and answered questions relating to President Biden and other aspects of her official duties. When asked about Fox News White House correspondent Peter Doocy, she declared, “He works for a network that provides people with questions that, nothing personal to any individual including Peter Doocy, but might make anyone sound like a stupid son of a b***h.”
These actions could create a potential conflict of interest or the perception of a possible conflict of interest in the eyes of the American public. In keeping with the administration’s promises, expressed by Ms. Psaki in her role as White House Press Secretary, to be both the most ethical and most transparent in history, PPT requests an investigation into whether Ms. Psaki misused her position and created the appearance of an impermissible conflict of interest as well as for the release of records relating to Ms. Psaki’s recusals and negotiations for future non-federal employment.
“Jen Psaki on multiple occasions has touted the Biden Administration’s commitment to not just meet the minimum requirements with respect to ethics and transparency but to exceed the achievements of every one of its predecessors,” Michael Chamberlain, Director of Protect the Public’s Trust, stated. “Her pursuit of outside employment presents the perfect opportunity for her and the administration to demonstrate that commitment and take a step toward restoring the American public’s trust in its government. They don’t appear to be off to a great start in that regard but complying with our requests would represent a move in the right direction.”
In the complaint itself, a complaint in which PPT points out what Psaki did wrong and demands the materials necessary for an investigation into her, says, in part:
[O]n April 14, 2022, Ms. Psaki engaged in an apparent misuse of her official position when she publicly disparaged Fox News, a competitor of her reported future employer.
Moreover, Ms. Psaki has continued to brief reporters from the White House podium, including reporters from networks she has reportedly been negotiating with, without any apparent restrictions, creating a potential conflict of interest.
The appearance of a conflict of interest risks further damaging the already low level of public trust in government. In order to restore public trust and live up to Ms. Psaki’s own commitment to transparency and engagement, we are calling upon you to investigate whether Ms. Psaki violated her ethical duties, either in her remarks regarding Fox News or in her conduct while negotiating non-federal employment more generally.
In addition, we are calling upon you to release ethics records relating to Ms. Psaki’s quest to find a new employer including, but not limited to, records of any formal recusals, Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act of 2012 (STOCK Act) notifications, and records of advice the White House Counsel’s Office has provided to Ms. Psaki to aid compliance during her job search.
Boom. Justice is coming for Psaki.