Haley defends military husband’s Facebook post
Army Times: The head of South Carolina’s National Guard said Tuesday he will conduct an internal review of the Guard’s policy on social media use after Gov. Nikki Haley’s husband used Facebook to call members of the state Senate cowards for not voting on a bill favored by his wife.
Maj. Gen. Robert Livingston said he spoke with Michael Haley about the matter, and Michael Haley told the general he intended to express himself as a private citizen, not as a member of the Guard. Michael Haley is an officer the South Carolina Army National Guard.
Sen. Jake Knotts, a Lexington Republican who has often clashed with Gov. Haley, called late Tuesday for Michael Haley to resign his commission if he can’t abstain from “contentious partisan issues.”
In speeches, Gov. Nikki Haley frequently talks about her husband’s military service and says she is proud that he puts on his uniform daily when he goes to work. At a news conference, the governor defended her husband, saying he made the posting while away from the family and attending two weeks of military training in Texas. “He is a person. He is a citizen. He has the right to get frustrated,” Haley said, responding to calls that Michael Haley apologize for the posting.
Michael Haley’s post came Thursday after the Senate failed to vote on a bill backed by his wife that would restructure portions of the state government. “It amazes me that in a week that we have heroes who have died fighting for our freedoms, we have cowards who are afraid to take a vote in the senate,” Michael Haley wrote.
Earlier that day, the Guard announced that three South Carolina soldiers had been killed in an attack by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan.
“We reviewed the posting,” Livingston said in a telephone interview. “It was not a partisan expression and he did not express himself as a member of the military.”
Livingston said he wants to ensure that every citizen, including Michael Haley, maintains his freedom of speech. But the general noted that Michael Haley has a unique role serving as the governor’s spouse, as well as a lieutenant in the National Guard. “I think he is very conscious of the stir this has caused,” Livingston said.
Livingston said the military has had to grapple with an “evolving” approach to social media, and the situation offers a chance for review. “We will conduct an internal review and do a wash on the policy that all our people have to deal with” on social media, Livingston said. “We will use this as an opportunity to make sure all our people don’t step over the line.”
Livingston said he hoped the contretemps does not take away from the heroism displayed by the three members of the Guard who gave their lives in Afghanistan. “We have three real heroes who have fallen. I don’t want us to lose sight of the tremendous sacrifice that they, and their families, are making,” he said.
Knotts suggested that Michael Haley’s action violated the Hatch Act, which prohibits federal employees from engaging in partisan political activity.
“Michael Haley should be ashamed of himself for invoking the memory of dead soldiers just to make a partisan political point,” he said in a statement. “As a commissioned officer in the South Carolina National Guard, Mr. Haley should know that he is not permitted to engage in partisan rhetoric.”
Knotts said that if Michael Haley wants to be involved in politics, he should resign from the military. “I’m concerned when a person uses his uniform or position in the military for political purposes,” Knotts said. He said the Facebook post was “an insult to the families and to the Senate as a whole.” He said Michael Haley should offer apologies to both the soldiers’ families and to the Senate.
On Monday Sumter Sen. Phil Leventis said on the floor of the Senate that Michael Haley’s comment amounted to politics at its worst. He said he didn’t think the three soldiers died for a new South Carolina Department of Administration. “I found it difficult that Mr. Haley implied that he knew what those three wanted. They died as Americans. They didn’t die as Republicans or Democrats,” said Leventis, a Democrat who retired as a brigadier general in the South Carolina Air National Guard after 30 years in uniform.
After he spoke, Republican colleague Sen. Chip Campsen of Charleston rose to say Leventis was no coward, and had 21 combat flights in the Iraq war to his credit. Leventis said in a telephone interview Tuesday that he believed Michael Haley “stepped way out of line” by using the soldiers’ deaths to make a point about a local political issue.
In April, a Marine Corps sergeant in San Diego was discharged for criticizing President Obama on Facebook. The military has had a policy since the Civil War limiting the free speech of service members, including criticism of the commander in chief.
Pentagon directives say military personnel in uniform cannot sponsor a political club; participate in any TV or radio program or group discussion that advocates for or against a political party, candidate or cause; or speak at any event promoting a political movement.
Federal employees engage in partisan political activity all the time (some federal employees, such as the President, are exempt from the Hatch Act). What do you think goes on in DC on a daily basis?
Michael Haley is in a sticky situation – in the National Guard and married to a politician. Should he be able to voice his opinion while not in uniform? How can he not be a vocal supporter for his wife?