By Bethany Blankley | The Center Square contributor
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas continues to be on the defensive after announcing the creation of a new “misinformation and disinformation governance board” he first described at a House Judiciary Committee hearing last week.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday said Florida flat out rejected the bureau, and U.S. Sen. John Kennedy, R-Louisiana, grilled Mayorkas about it in a Senate Appropriations hearing.
But before their pushback, Mayorkas received widespread criticism from left- and right-leaning individuals and groups. On Sunday, he went on talk shows, and issued a fact sheet about the board on Monday justifying its purpose.
DeSantis and Kennedy weren’t persuaded.
Speaking at a news conference in Clearwater about environmental projects, DeSantis said, “As if they don’t have enough issues to deal with, they now have an idea, and I honestly thought this was a belated April Fool’s joke, but they are actually going to create in the Department of Homeland Security a Bureau of Disinformation. It’s basically a Ministry of Truth,” he said, referring to the bureau created by Big Brother to spy on and control a fictional citizenry in George Orwell’s dystopian novel, “1984.”
Referring to the Biden administration, he said, “they want to be able to put out false narratives without people being able to speak out and fight back. They want to be able to say things like ‘Russia collusion’ and perpetuate hoaxes and have people like us be silenced. They want people to be able to advocate for COVID lockdowns … for school closures, things that are not supported by the evidence. But then when you speak out they want to stifle dissent.”
“We reject this bureau in the state of Florida,” DeSantis said to applause and cheers.
Initially, Mayorkas said the bureau was established to combat threats to election security and homeland security.
“We are disseminated information to the secretaries of state,” he testified. “We are counseling them and providing resources to ensure better physical security. We are addressing all aspects of election security. Given of course, the midterm elections that are upon us and the fundamental integrity of our democratic process that is at stake.”
He told Fox News Sunday’s Bret Baier in response to criticism, “I really need to clarify. This is a working group that takes best practices to make sure that in addressing disinformation that presents a threat to the homeland that our work does not infringe on free speech.
“It’s not about speech, it’s about the connectivity to violence,” Mayorkas pivoted, suggesting the board would be focusing on anti-Semitic violence.
However, in a fact sheet published on Monday, DHS stated the board’s purpose was “on disinformation that threatens the security of the American people, including disinformation spread by foreign states such as Russia, China, and Iran, or other adversaries such as transnational criminal organizations and human smuggling organizations. Such malicious actors often spread disinformation to exploit vulnerable individuals and the American public, including during national emergencies.”
The fact sheet nowhere mentions election integrity despite the fact that Mayorkas testified it was the board’s primary focus last week.
Kennedy asked Mayorkas if the board would investigate former President Bill Clinton when he testified under oath, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky,” referring to White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Later, Clinton admitted he’d had an affair with Lewinsky. In 1998, the U.S. House of Representatives impeached Clinton for lying under oath to a federal grand jury and obstructing justice.
Mayorkas replied to Kennedy, “Senator, again, let me be clear that the department’s responsibility is to address this information that threatens the security of the homeland.”
Kennedy also asked Mayorkas if the board would investigate the claim former President Barack Obama made about the Affordable Healthcare Act, which turned out not to be true. Obama claimed, “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor.” However, after the ACA was implemented, millions of people lost their health insurance coverage, their doctors, health insurance companies were forced to close, and healthcare coverage became less affordable and less accessible.
Mayorkas said the board wouldn’t have operational authority or capability. “Our mission is to protect the security of the homeland, and we address disinformation when it threatens the security of the homeland,” he said.