Former Press Secretary & Senior Advisor to the Director of Communications
Faith Vander Voort was the Press Secretary & Senior Advisor to the Director of Communications. She was also the Deputy Press Secretary to Secretary Ryan Zinke, a position she had held since March 2018. She left Interior on June 10 to join the Trump reelection campaign.
A native Iowan, Faith Vander Voort graduated from Azusa Pacific University (APU) in 2017 with a degree in communications, journalism and related programs. Located in California, APU describes itself as a “a comprehensive, evangelical, Christian university.” Vander Voort began her career in politics interning for Representatives Steve King and Cathy McMorris Rodgers, in 2015 and 2017, respectively, with a stint as an editorial intern for the Heritage Foundation in 2016. Vander Voort worked as communications director and executive assistant for Fox News political analyst Angela McGlowan from October 2015 to June 2017, and also worked as a public relations and media consultant at McGlowan’s firm at the same time. Vander Voort worked as a Press Secretary / Digital Director for Rep. Paul Gosar from June 2017 to March 2018, and was simultaneously a Digital Adviser for the House Republican Study Committee from January 2018 to March 2018. Vander Voort started in her current role as Interior Deputy Press Secretary in March 2018.
Sources: [Department of the Interior, accessed 11/02/18, Michael Doyle, “Interior’s Vander Voort heads to Trump campaign,” E&E News, 04/06/19, Faith Vander Voort, “Just believe in SOMETHING,” The Clause: Azusa Pacific, “About,” accessed 07/18/18, Azusa Pacific University, Accessed from Legistorm, 07/18/18, LinkedIn Profile for Faith Vander Voort, accessed 7/18/18]
Heritage Foundation (Resource Development on Public Lands)
Vander Voort worked at the Daily Signal, which is the multimedia news organization of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank that has received almost $800,000 from ExxonMobil and millions from the family foundations of the oil-billionaire Koch brothers.
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Political Strategies and Insights
Additional Background on Employers of Note:
As an intern with The Heritage Foundation, Vander Voort wrote a piece for The Daily Signal on Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-KY) investigation into alleged wasteful spending regarding a climate change project.
In her piece for The Daily Signal, Vander Voort outlined Sen. Rand’s Waste Report that investigated the participation of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in the Climate Ready project to help the Philippines address rising sea levels due to climate change. Vander Voort’s article cites the Waste Report, calling the project an ‘egregious exampl[e] of waste within the U.S. government’ as well as a quote from the group Citizens Against Government Waste, who said ‘Sen. Paul’s report clearly illustrates everything that’s wrong with the grant process. Taxpayer dollars are allocated for a purpose that’s not in America’s direct national interest…Taxpayers’ money should only be spent on critical national priorities and must include several layers of oversight requiring specific details on how and where the money will be used.’” [Faith Vander Voort, “Rand Paul Waste Report Highlights $25 Million Climate Change,” The Daily Signal, 06/08/16]
Vander Voort called Rep. Steve King (R-IA) “one of the good ones” and “a man of principle, and I will always be proud to have my name tied to his for the rest of my professional career.”
On December 12, 2015, Vander Voort wrote in a now-deleted a blog entry on her personal website that she ended her time as an intern in King’s office on December 10th. She expressed gratitude to King’s office and stated, “Let me be clear, Congressman King is one of the good ones. In an institution of greed and power, I am extremely honored to have worked for Steve King. He is a man of principle, and I will always be proud to have my name tied to his for the rest of my professional career.” [Faith Vander Voort’s personal blog, via archive.org, 07/18/18]
Vander Voort calls King “a genuinely good guy” and says that she has a “great deal of respect” for him. She wrote she was “extremely proud” to work in his office.
On her blog Vander Voort says “it makes sense for Congressman King to have quality people working for him because he too is a genuinely good guy, and that’s not something you see in politics every day. I have a great deal of respect for Congressman Steve King. He is a truth-teller who has no time for political correctness. Congressman King is an unwavering defender of conservative ideals, even when it’s not the popular thing to do. With that said, I am extremely proud to work in this office.” [Faith Vander Voort’s personal blog, via archive.org, 07/18/18]
Vander Voort, while she was the spokeswoman for Rep. Paul Gosar, accused an environmental group of releasing a statement that was “not only intentionally inflammatory but deliberately factually bankrupt” and accused the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) of “claiming the legislation will be used to build a science-fiction-style solar skyscraper.”
Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) testified before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources regarding one of the bills he sponsored that would turn control of federal land in rural La Paz County over to local authorities and would potentially open it to energy exploration. CBD reviewed Flake’s bill and criticized it for “shameless giveaways to private companies.”
Although the bill did not specify whether land in La Paz County would be targeted for energy exploration, CBD released a statement that the 8,000 acres would be used to build a “2,400 foot ‘solar chimney.’” “Vander Voort called the release ‘not only intentionally inflammatory but deliberately factually bankrupt’ and accused the center of ‘claiming the legislation will be used to build a science-fiction-style solar skyscraper.’” [Joshua Bowling, “Bills would sell federal lands in La Paz County; Flake, Gosar tout energy potential; environmental groups raise objections,” The Arizona Republic, 02/10/18]
Faith Vander Voort defended a change in media protocol that required U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) employees to clear all media inquiries with Interior press prior to interviews.
Interior Press Secretary Heather Swift sent out an email stating standard protocol for a national outlet “‘such as the Washington Post, Discovery, NYT, The Atlantic, CNN, etc. — go through approval. Additionally, topics that are either very controversial or that are likely to become a national story even if a regional reporter is asking …also go through approval.’” A U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) official said in a follow-up email that Swift “’is in the position of clearing interview requests for all bureaus’ within the Department of the Interior, which includes the USGS, the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.”
USGS employees spoke on the condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to speak about the new interview protocol. This new procedure would impact the ability of scientists at USGS to respond to media inquiries in a timely manner and that the public would see less knowledge from the USGS as reporters would seek information elsewhere. The changes in protocol also allows the communication office at Interior to reject interview requests on scientific topics.
Interior Deputy Press Secretary Faith Vander Voort responded in an email that “the characterization that there is any new policy or that it for some reason targets scientists is completely false.” Vander Voort did not respond to a question asking what prompted the change in protocol and stated that Interior’s communications office follows the media guidelines set in 2012 by the Obama administration.
[Rong-Gong Lin II, “Clearance before airing; A new Trump administration directive tightens rules for federal scientists talking to reporters; some worry about a chilling effect,” The Los Angeles Times, 06/25/18]
Faith Vander Voort defended new Interior Department guidelines that required USGS employees to “submit their presentation titles for review” before attending conferences to ensure that their attendance would “advance the department’s priorities.”
After media reports that USGS employees to “submit their presentation titles for review” by the Interior Department before attending conferences to ensure that their attendance would “advance the department’s priorities,” Vander Voort replied in an email that due to budget limits at the Department, they could “only ‘afford to send people who have a meaningful role at the conference….if taxpayer dollars are being spent to send someone to a conference, we’d like some degree of confidence that their attendance will advance the department’s priorities.’” [Rong-Gong Lin II, “Clearance before airing; A new Trump administration directive tightens rules for federal scientists talking to reporters; some worry about a chilling effect,” The Los Angeles Times 06/25/18; Sarah Kaplan, USGS scientists face new scrutiny; Conference work must first be OK’d,” The Washington Post, 06/25/18]
Faith Vander Voort claimed environmental groups are “only interested in wasting taxpayer dollars on frivolous litigation.”
After the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rejected arguments by the Western Organization of Resource Councils and Friends of the Earth that the government was obligated by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to “update its environmental impact statement in light of new scientific evidence on the role of coal in climate change,” Department of Interior Secretary Faith Vander Voort said, “‘for the second time, a federal judge proved that the environmental special interest groups are only interested in wasting taxpayer dollars on frivolous litigation. The department will continue to run a responsible coal leasing program that supports jobs and economic vitality for rural communities.’” [JP Casey, “US appeals court upholds lease of federal land for coal mining,” Mining Technology, (06/20/18)]
After two Congressmen called for an investigation into whether Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke violated the Hatch Act and called for a separate inquiry regarding the National Park Service scientific integrity policy, Vander Voort defended Zinke saying, “‘The Secretary works closely with career ethics officials and lawyers at all times to ensure that his conduct complies completely with all laws, rules, and regulations.'”
Congressman Raul Grijalva and Congressman Donald McEachin, on April 5th, 2018, wrote a letter to the US Office of the Special Counsel to ask “for an investigation into whether Zinke broke the act when he traveled Florida to hold a press event with Florida GOP Gov. Rick Scott to announce he would exempt Florida from the new plans to expand offshore drilling off the US coast.” They argued that while the event “‘involved matters related to (Interior’s) work, several facts may signify that the real reason for holding the event was to further Rick Scott’s campaign and not to advance the Department’s mission.’”
In response to CNN’s reporting on Grijalva and McEachin’s letter, Vander Voort responded, “’The Secretary works closely with career ethics officials and lawyers at all times to ensure that his conduct complies completely with all laws, rules, and regulations.’” [Clare Foran and Sara Ganim, “Democrats call for investigations into Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, National Park Service,” CNN, 04/06/18]
In a since-deleted October 10, 2015 blog post, Vander Voort claimed that a Muslim “could never serve” as President of the United States “because their own religion strictly prohibits them from taking an oath to anything other than Allah.” According to Vander Voort, that incumbent would be a “shoddy” Muslim or be impeached as “Shariah Law and the United States Constitution are not compatible.”
On her personal blog Vander Voort defended HUD Secretary Ben Carson from criticism over comments he made about Muslims, “to his defense, a devout Muslim could never serve in the Oval Office of the United States of America, not because of exclusion or discrimination, but because their own religion strictly prohibits them from taking an oath to anything other than Allah. That being said, if a Muslim were to be elected president, they would either be a shoddy and inconsistent Muslim or subject to impeachment the moment they took office because Shariah Law and the United States Constitution are not compatible.”
In the same blog post Vander Voort appears to claim in that “anchor babies” are not U.S. Citizens but rather “illegal aliens.”
Vander Voort wrote “I watched a Buzzfeed video the other day suggesting a series of alternative names we could use instead of ‘anchor babies’ because Mexicans find it offensive. One suggestion of an alternative title was ‘Americans’. I’m sorry Buzzfeed, but you need to re-read the 14th amendment to the Constitution of the United States because those babies are illegal aliens. Not Americans. Why do we strive to make a fancy and comfortable title for someone who entered our nation illegally? Because heaven forbid we offend them. Here, let’s grant them amnesty while we’re at it.”
Faith Vander Voort is active on Twitter, and has posted tweets supporting the Trump administration and Rep. Paul Gosar, her former boss.
You’re lying to yourself if you can’t acknowledge how many campaign promises @POTUS has kept in his #First500days. Proud of this Administration. Really proud.
[Tweet by Faith Vander Voort, 06/4/18, accessed 07/18/18]
Tweeted: “Loved being your full-time hype man, Dr. G” in a quote tweet of Rep. Paul Gosar’s tweet acknowledging Vander Voort’s move to the Department of the Interior.
[Tweet by Faith Vander Voort, 03/08/18, accessed 07/18/18]
Vander Voort tweeted a picture of Donald Trump giving a thumbs up in his meeting with Kim Jong-Un, saying: “Speechless. Proud of our POTUS.”
[Tweet by Faith Vander Voort, 06/12/18, accessed 07/18/18]
Vander Voort wrote a pre-2016 election opinion piece for Azusa Pacific University’s newspaper, The Cause, on November 4th, 2016 discussing what she would believe her hypothetical daughter would face should Hillary Clinton win the election.
In her column, Vander Voort wrote, “My daughter will grow up outwardly rejecting the God-ordained gift of love between a man and a woman because she belongs to a nation where women paint men as pigs. But inwardly, she will sincerely believe that she is incapable of greatness without a man going before her.”
She continued, saying, “my daughter will quickly master when to leverage her femininity to her advantage and when to pretend it is merely a social construct rather than something God blessed her with. Her femininity will be used to seek special treatment rather than equality.
My daughter will view the Constitution solely as a faded piece of paper rather than the supreme law of the United States of America. Her land of the free will be slave to big government and grand overreach, and her home of the brave will celebrate violent riots of masked marchers and looters. Her military will no longer be the strongest in the world, and the servicemen who risk their lives for her freedom will receive Vietnam-era homecomings.”
[Faith Vander Voort, “My daughter’s America,” The Clause, 11/06/16]
In a deleted entry dated October 1, 2015 on her blog, Vander Voort wrote Planned Parenthood was “heralding the ‘war on women’” and “preaching that we should all be offended that some people would actually consider a fetus inside the womb a child.”
She then discusses Planned Parenthood and abortion, saying this is in the news as “Planned Parenthood and pro-choice crusaders are heralding the “war on women” and preaching that we should all be offended that some people would actually consider a fetus inside the womb a child. Our voice for the voice-less seems to violently offend their ‘right to choose.’”
Vander Voort created an image spread highlighting the Unauthorized Spending Accountability Act, which was intended to reduce government spending.
As part of her portfolio on her website, Vander Voort created an image regarding Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers introducing the Unauthorized Spending Accountability Act. Social media posts are shared as part of the image, with text including “our job is to stand up for you, and we have your back,” and the image of people with their backs to the camera.
[“Design,” Faith Vander Voort personal website, accessed 07/19/18]
Vander Voort has claimed that the US is in an “era political correctness,” and, in 2015 wrote a blog post to deride political correctness with the title of “Did I Offend You?” The blog post has since been deleted.
On October 10, 2015, Vander Voort wrote in a deleted blog entry that “Americans today are looking for every opportunity they can find to be offended about something… literally anything. This era of political correctness we live in has resulted in an ‘I’m offended’ culture where truth is demonized. It’s watered down and molded into something we can live with because the truth can be terrifying.”
In the following paragraph of her blog Vander Voort says “leftists in the media and academia pulled out their go-to ‘PC’ card, and rather than engage in a dialogue about what he said, told Muslims they are entitled to be offended and then turned to the rest of us saying, ‘shame on you’ for being ‘offensive.’”
Vander Voort supports blocking commentary on a public official’s social media page. When she worked for Rep. Gosar, Vander Voort defended his decision to block Facebook users if they “‘don’t adhere to our policies.’”
Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) defended his decision to block followers on his Congressional Facebook page, saying “‘if you think a block on Facebook is infringing upon your constitutional right to petition the government, you are sorely mistaken.’” Gosar said he blocked posters who wrote about off-topic discussions or used words and phrases including profanity, name-calling, personal attacks, and “known factual inaccuracies.”
Gosar also wrote “‘…quite frankly, we don’t care if a Facebook ‘block’ offends you.’”
Vander Voort said that Gosar’s comment policy was clearly posted on the Facebook page and “‘A lot of members of Congress have these disclaimers that say these are our rules, please follow it. And we abide by it…We have no problem blocking people who don’t adhere to our policies.’” She said she did not have an exact number of blocked users but that they numbered in the “hundreds.”
She said the staff at Gosar’s office had dealt with abusive comments for years and that it had escalated with the upcoming GOP health care bills. As one example, Vander Voort cited “‘a stretch when Mr. Gosar was commonly called terrible and offensive things, like ‘Hitler.’ Of course, that isn’t tolerated.’”
Vander Voort specifically commented on threats on social media, stating “’It just goes to show that threats on Facebook and other forms of social media to someone’s life or someone’s well-being are actual threats,” she said. “And it needs to be seen that way.’”
[Bob Christie, “Rep. Gosar tells blocked Facebook followers, ‘I don’t care,’” Associated Press, 06/10/17; Ronald J. Hansen, “Gosar fires back at his critics on social media; Lawmaker: I’ll block users on Facebook who post ‘hostile,’ ‘crass’ things,” The Arizona Republic, 07/08/17]
Vander Voort wrote a column titled “I wish Milo [Yiannopolous] the very best.”
In a deleted blog post from February 27th, 2017, Vandver Voort wrote that while “struggled to gauge my own feelings” regarding Yiannopoulos, she felt “he brought many tough issues to light, some of which I have agreed with. For an example, he tore apart modern-day ‘feminism’ and called it out like the hypocrisy it is.” She wrote “I wish Milo the very best.”
[Faith Vander Voort, “I wish Milo Yiannopoulos the very best,” The Daily Nerv, 02/27/17]
Vander Voort called Steve Bannon “the Man Behind the Curtain and Donald Trump is the microphone.”
As part “The Depolorables” series that appears to have been deleted from her website, Vander Voort profiled members of the Trump administration, including Steve Bannon. After relating her experience about watching The Wizard of Oz and being fascinated by the man behind the curtain, Vander Voort wrote, “with blatant bravado, the old man used a microphone behind a facade to maximize his potential. Maximize his power. Steve Bannon is the Man Behind the Curtain, and Donald Trump is the microphone. Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.”
Vander Voort can be seen holding a printed version of her series that is autographed by Trump on her website. Although the full series appears to have been deleted, the section on Fox News reporter Jesse Waters can also be seen on the “Design” page of the site. [Faith Vander Voort, “The Deplorables: A series by Faith Vander Voort, accessed via archive.org, 07/19/18, “Design,” Faith Vander Voort personal website, accessed 07/19/18]