WASHINGTON — Government watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility & Ethics in Washington accused White House press secretary Jen Psaki Friday of violating the Hatch Act after her comments on the Virginia gubernatorial race.
When asked about the governor's race during a Thursday press briefing, Psaki said Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe has the backing of President Joe Biden.
"I think the President, of course, wants former Governor McAuliffe to be the future governor of Virginia," Psaki said only weeks before the Nov. 2 election. "We’re going to do everything we can to help former Governor McAuliffe, and we believe in the agenda he’s representing."
CREW addressed a letter to the White House Office of Special Counsel requesting an investigation into whether Psaki violated the Hatch Act — a federal law prohibiting executive branch employees from "activity directed toward the success or failure of a political party, partisan political candidate, or partisan political group.”
"By mixing official government business with support of a candidate for partisan political office in the weeks before the election and engaging in political activity while on duty, Ms. Psaki appears to have used her official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with or affecting the result of an election, political activity that is prohibited by law," the letter states.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Psaki told CNN's Jake Tapper Friday that she and Biden take ethics "seriously."
"As I understand it, if I said 'he' instead of 'we,' that would not have been an issue at all. And I'll be more careful with my words next time, words certainly matter," she said.
CREW sent a similar letter to the White House Counsel earlier this year after Psaki tweeted Biden "clearly opposes any effort to recall Gavin Newsom." Newsom won the historic recall election in September.
Former White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany also criticized Psaki Thursday, tweeting that the media should hold Psaki accountable.
"There is no problem in engaging in First Amendment political activity, but it must be done separate and apart from the podium," she said.
McEnany's tweet received a litany of responses noting her own past experiences. The former press secretary has also met with past allegations of Hatch Act violations for doubling as Trump's campaign adviser during his 2020 run for reelection.
Trump's 2020 Republican presidential nominee acceptance speech at the White House raised additional concerns about Hatch Act violations.
"The shamelessness, ah the shamelessness..." MSNBC's Mehdi Hasan, host of the "Mehdi Hasan Show," wrote above a repost of McEnany's tweet.
Contributing: The Associated Press
Reach out to Chelsey Cox on Twitter at @therealco.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Jen Psaki accused of violating Hatch Act by government watchdog group