The U.S. Catholic bishops’ organization announced Thursday that it had replaced its public affairs director — a woman who triggered debate last month with tweets enthusiastically backing President Trump and striking out at Democrats, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.) and Sen. Kamala D. Harris (Calif.).
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops announced Thursday that church and politics veteran Chieko Noguchi is its new head of public affairs, a position that speaks for the Catholic Church in the United States. For the past 10 years, Noguchi worked in communications for the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, under Cardinal Donald Wuerl. Noguchi also worked for then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.).
Neither Noguchi nor her new boss, USCCB Chief Communications Officer James Rogers, would confirm Thursday why Noguchi’s predecessor, Judy Keane, left. Last month, when controversy about Keane’s pro-Trump tweets erupted, Rogers told The Washington Post that she was on leave and hinted at some displeasure.
[ The spokeswoman for America’s Catholic bishops stirs criticism among Catholics with pro-Trump tweets ]
“The bishops, not staff, set the conference’s federal policy positions,” Rogers said in mid-July. “We should be mindful not to create confusion as to where the bishops might be on any particular federal policy issue. The conference is nonpartisan and does not endorse political candidates. We take this very seriously. Judy is on leave this week.”
Keane, a longtime communications professional from Arizona, has since taken down her Twitter account and was not reachable immediately for comment Thursday.
Keane, Rogers emailed The Post, “will not be returning to her duties at the USCCB so that she may pursue new professional opportunities.”
Noguchi declined to comment on why Keane left, emailing The Post that she is “humbled and honored to have this opportunity to work for the bishops’ conference in carrying out their communications mission.”
Keane was director of the conference’s Office of Public Affairs since 2016, and during that time shared the controversial tweets and “likes” on her personal account, @JkeanePr, which identified her as “Dir. Public Affairs, US Conference of Catholic Bishops … Opinions expressed are my own.”
Among the tweets that started gaining attention in July was one from May 29 that responded to Gingrich’s criticism of former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.
“Lowest unemployment rate EVER, incredibly robust economy under Pres. Trump — is that also fictional? Facts are stubborn things beyond a typo. Read all accomplishments here,” she wrote. She linked to a site listing what it called the president’s “accomplishments” including: “Trump takes ‘shackles’ off ICE, which is slapping them on immigrants who thought they were safe,” “Rescinded DACA” and “it’s a bloodbath at the State Department.”
Keane appeared to respond to CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer’s criticism of the president April 15: “@wolfblitzer actually Wolff the Prez does know what he’s talking about re: buildings and fire safety codes. Ever hear of Trump Tower? Hotel? Casino?”
In March, she responded to a tweet about Harris promising a raise for teachers with the following: “She’ll be promising all kinds of things to get elected. Then she’ll raise taxes so hard-working Americans have to pay for it all. No thanks.”
On July 1, she liked a retweet by conservative television host Laura Ingraham about Ocasio-Cortez that insulted the congresswoman:
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez deserves 'Nobel Prize in stupidity,' Holocaust survivor says https://t.co/AUVWGZf85Y
— Laura Ingraham (@IngrahamAngle) July 1, 2019 Keane came to Washington from Arizona, where she was a high-level public relations executive for decades, according to a 2016 article by the Catholic News Service, which is run by the bishops’ conference. She previously served as director of media relations and strategic communications for Arizona State University, manager of public affairs and communications for Arizona’s public health-care system and as the volunteer services manager at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona, CNS reported.
It was not clear what the U.S. bishops thought about the spokeswoman’s tweets, though some longtime church communications professionals questioned Keane’s tone as partisan. Catholic media noted that the conference in 2016 pushed out a Catholic News Service editor for tweets sympathetic to gay rights.
LINK ORIGINAL: Washington Post