Her attack might have violated ethics laws.
Donald Trump has long abused his power to attack or benefit private companies using his social media presence, and now his chief spokesperson is getting in on the action.
While Trump was tweeting and golfing away the day on Sunday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was using her government Twitter account to lodge a very public complaint about a private company.
In a tweet, Sanders alleged that her toddler was able to complete an $80 purchase simply by repeating a phrase at the family’s Amazon Echo device:
Alexa, we have a problem if my 2 year old can order a Batman toy by yelling "Batman!" over and over again into the Echo pic.twitter.com/7uF0d2fmD8
— Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) January 14, 2018
The Amazon Echo device allows the user in this case, Sanders to enable or disable the voice purchasing feature, or to require a numerical code for purchases, facts that Sanders declined to share.
At first glance, the tweet might seem innocuous, even humanizing, but as former Office of Government Ethics chief Walter Shaub was quick to point out, Sanders’ message falls outside of ethical norms, and perhaps even the law:
If you were a low-level staffer with no press duties in a big department, @PressSec, your boss might just stroll into your office and ask you to delete this. But you're not that. Employees throughout govt look to you to set an example because tone from the top matters. Do better.
— Walter Shaub (@waltshaub) January 14, 2018
The possible complications of such a tweet are myriad, including potential effects on sales, or on the company’s stock price, or the mere appearance of an attempt to gain reward and/or punish Amazon.
As Shaub pointed out, in other circumstances, this could be seen as a minor error born of innocent motives, but Sanders’ position as a high government official complicates the matter. So does the fact that Donald Trump has waged a very public campaign against Amazon, whose founder also owns The Washington Post.
When your main job is to accurately answer every question that’s put to you, the last thing you need is Sarah Huckabee Sanders maligning you on Twitter. Sanders should delete her tweet and apologize.