The Houston Chronicle weighs in on the comments made Friday night by NASA administrator Mike Griffin that appeared to many to be an endorsement for the campaign of Rep. Tom DeLay. According to the Chronicle, Griffin said the following at Rotary National Award for Space Achievement event Friday night: “The space program has had no better friend in its entire existence than Tom DeLay. He’s still with us and we need to keep him there.” That’s a more complete quote than what the Galveston Daily News published Monday. (See previous coverage.)
Sounds like an endorsement for the embattled congressman? No, said NASA spokesman Dean Acosta. “He did not make an endorsement and will not get involved in any political campaigns,” Acosta told the Chronicle. “If his words of thanks to Tom DeLay were misconstrued as an endorsement, then he regrets that.” DeLay’s spokesperson added that DeLay also did not consider Griffin’s statement to be an endorsement. NASA Watch also has an email from Griffin, responding to a person upset with Griffin’s perceived endorsement. Griffin told the person, “I did not issue the quote you cite”, referring to the Daily News article. Curiously, Griffin said that the “event was recorded”, but the agency, which is normally very good about posting the administrator’s speeches, has not published a transcript of his remarks Friday, even though it has posted a speech he gave Monday at Mississippi State University.
If Griffin did endorse DeLay, did he violate the Hatch Act, which forbids federal employees from campaigning while acting in an official capacity? Griffin writes in his email that since he is a political appointee, the Hatch Act does not apply to him. However, the Chronicle reports that the Office of Special Counsel, which enforces the Hatch Act, plans to investigate this event.