Friday, May 6, 2022

DHS Sec. Mayorkas Attempts to Explain Disinformation Governance Board: 'No Question' Could Have Done Better

DHS Sec. Mayorkas Attempts to Explain Disinformation Governance Board: 'No Question' Could Have Done Better

Days after it was revealed that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) would be implementing a Disinformation Governance Board, the department's Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas made his rounds on the Sunday shows. When asked about concerns people have about the board, Mayorkas stuck to a theme of focusing on the rollout. 

During his appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press," Mayorkas admitted to host Chuck Todd that they "could have done a better job in communicating what it is and what it isn't." He went on to describe the board as a "working group that takes best practices with respect to our work that has been going on for years. Best practices on how to do that work, the work of addressing disinformation that presents a threat to the security of our country, how to do that work in a way that does not infringe on free speech, does not infringe on civil liberties. So, this working group takes best practices and disseminates those best practices to the operators."

Mayorkas didn't offer too many reassurances, though, about the person tasked as executive director, Nina Jankowicz, whom Todd did not even refer to by name. Todd had asked if she "expressed too much politics on their Twitter feed and it's caused some consternation," which prompted Mayorkas' non-answer of how she is an "imminently qualified individual, a recognized expert on battling the threat of disinformation that presents a threat to the security of our homeland from Russia, from China, from Iran, from the cartels."

On "Fox News Sunday," Mayorkas told guest host Bret Baier that "there’s no question" he could have better communicated it, as Baier brought up free speech concerns. The secretary framed it as curbing "disinformation" from those that present domestic security threats, such as Russia, China, Iran, and the cartels. 

Mayorkas also insisted on explaining that the board is "a working group that takes best practices to make sure that in addressing disinformation that presents a threat to the homeland, our work does not infringe on freedom of speech."

A short time after the secretary offered "it's not about speech, it's about the connectivity to violence," Baier brought up Jankowicz, and unlike Todd, by name, referring to her tweets, which we have covered here at Townhall.

Baier asking "do you really think that Jankowciz is anywhere near objective enough for this particular job," prompted another defense from Mayorkas, who confidently answered "yes, I do" and referred to her as "highly regarded as a subject matter expert." He insisted that "I don't question her objectivity" and tried to reassure "we're not the opinion police."

During the time that he had, Baier continuously pushed Mayorkas to acknowledge that Americans are concerned with the governance board, prompting Mayorkas to offer "that's exactly why we set up this working group."

On CNN's "State of the Union," Mayorkas gave a similar response there, too. He once more offered that "criticisms are precisely the opposite of what this small working group within the Department of Homeland Security will do. And I think we probably could have done a better job of communicating what it does and does not do."

Even host Dana Bash was confused. Mayorkas tried to explain it for her that this "works to ensure that the way in which we address threats, the connectivity between threats and acts of violence are addressed without infringing on free speech, protecting civil rights and civil liberties, the right of privacy." He went on to further explain that "the board, this working group, internal working group, will draw from best practices and communicate those best practices to the operators, because the board does not have operational authority."

He also once more affirmed that Jankowicz is "eminently qualified, a renowned expert in the field of disinformation." When asked by Bash if she was "neutral," he responded "absolutely so."

The White House's response from last week was also severely lacking. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki claimed to know less than usual during last Thursday's press briefing, and seemed to play particularly dumb. Not only did she not know that reporters were referring to Jankowicz with their questions, she made it clear they supported the board, despite what little she knew.

"We, of course, support this effort," Psaki said, going on to point out how they "know that there has been a range of disinfo out there about a range of topics — I mean, including COVID, for example, and also elections and eligibility." When responding to a separate question, Psaki offered "what I can tell you is that it sounds like the objective of the board is to prevent disinformation and misinformation from traveling around the country in a range of communities," and even wondered "I’m not sure who opposes that effort."

Concerns nevertheless abound about the board, which has resulted in "Ministry of Truth" to trend for days on end over Twitter, referring to George Orwell's "1984." It's not so much the rollout or explaining it that is the issue. Rather, people have concerns about the existence of such a project from the federal government to begin with and the track record of those involved, as many columns for Townhall have highlighted.

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