The Interior Department is taking heat after posting a video on Instagram a week before the presidential election touting President Trump’s “historic feats for conservation.”
On Tuesday, Interior Secretary David Bernhardt posted a video to his official Twitter account featuring majestic images of national parks, birds, mountains and plains over text praising the Trump administration. The video, which is set to an upbeat tune, abruptly throws in snippets of the President and concludes with Trump remarking last month that his administration is “recommitting ourselves to preserving the awesome majesty of God’s great creation.”
The Interior Department’s official Instagram account posted the same video later Tuesday — a jarring contrast to what its feed usually features: scenes of the nation’s great outdoors.
The @realDonaldTrump Administration has accomplished historic feats for conservation, securing the largest investment in our national parks and public lands, opening 4 million acres to new hunting and fishing opportunities, and recovering a record number of endangered species. pic.twitter.com/LoOuCPqJXm
— Secretary David Bernhardt (@SecBernhardt) October 27, 2020
Tim Fullerton, who served as the director of digital strategy for the Interior Department during the Obama administration, decried the video as “propaganda” and said he would’ve been fired if he posted similar content when he ran the Interior’s digital team in 2012.
I ran the @interior digital team during President Obama’s re-election in 2012. I would have been fired for doing this.
This is a propaganda video created with your tax dollars meant to bolster the President’s chances of being re-elected. This is way outside the lines. https://t.co/tRw1MpmUnr
— Tim Fullerton (@TimFullerton) October 27, 2020
The Interior press secretary fired back at Fullerton in a tweet by insisting that the tweet featuring the Trump-friendly video got the green light from “career ethics attorneys.” The press secretary then proceeded to throw both Fullerton and the Obama administration under the bus.
Our tweets are approved by career ethics attorneys and thankfully no longer overseen by you.@Interior increased the number ethics staff by 250% to remove the rotten stench from the blatant failure of the prior administration to invest in the ethics program. https://t.co/v3aFjYobbS
— Interior Press Secretary (@DOIPressSec) October 28, 2020
Social media users soon came to Fullerton’s defense as they also slammed the Interior by accusing the department of committing a Hatch Act violation, which prohibits executive government officials from participating in political activity while on duty, but exempts the President and the vice president.
One factor in this Hatch Act / Interior Department Trump video mess is that @USInterior is usually one of the best accounts on Instagram and that video would be incredibly jarring on that account regardless of legality.
— Libby Nelson (@libbyanelson) October 28, 2020
I hope everyone's getting their FOIA requests in on this one. https://t.co/ooKC3aFDja
— Andrew Thaler (@DrAndrewThaler) October 28, 2020
Those investments do not appear to have paid off. https://t.co/UMoNazze9m
— Matt Ford (@fordm) October 28, 2020
This is a truly reprehensible tweet. A federal department attacking an individual citizen is incredible—like something out of Belarus. It's also absurd for Interior, which has been one of the worst ethical failures of the Trump administration, to brag about its ethics program. https://t.co/Ujiq72hFZh
— Walter Shaub (@waltshaub) October 28, 2020
— Jesse Lee (@JesseCharlesLee) October 28, 2020
The Interior Department did not immediately respond to TPM’s request for comment.