The first thing you see outside California Democratic Rep. Ted Lieu’s Washington office is a piece of paper taped to his nameplate that says, “Alternative Fact Free Zone, Period.”
The sign is meant to poke fun at White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s now infamous pronouncement about the crowd size at President Donald Trump’s inauguration and it is indicative of Lieu’s approach on social media in response to Trump’s prolific and provocative tweets.
Lieu, in his second term representing the Golden State’s deep-blue 33rd District, writes his own tweets on his personal account @TedLieu, where he regularly blasts the president’s comments.
“They want voices out there that just tell it as it is,” Lieu said of the American people. “Sometimes, I use humor because I believe in revealing truth in a way that other forms cannot. And otherwise it’s too dark all the time.”
Lieu frequently hits the Trump administration when he thinks it’s being dishonest, or on topics related to the investigation about Russian interference in the 2016 election — the last part of his Twitter bio reads, “I don’t take orders from Vladimir Putin.”
“Usually, what happens is I’ll read or see something and then it’ll make me angry,” the California Democrat said. “Then I’ll sort of pause and then think about it, and then figure how can I best highlight that particular issue to the public.”
Lieu said, so far, he has not heard from the president about his tweets.
“Kellyanne Conway has replied to me,” he said. Sebastian Gorka, part of Trump’s national security team who is a serious advocate for the administration on cable TV, follows Lieu.
“But I don’t follow him back, just to be passive-aggressive,” he said.
At times, though, Lieu might speak a little too loosely through his extemporaneous tweets.
Last week, when news broke of the suicide of Republican operative Peter Smith, who had said he’d been trying to retrieve Hillary Clinton’s deleted emails to help Trump, Lieu tweeted that the suicide note Smith reportedly left behind seemed “awfully suspicious.”
That tweet led to some backlash, and not just from conservatives.
Brendan Nyhan, professor of government at Dartmouth College, compared Lieu’s insinuation to Republican conspiracy theories about the suicide of Vince Foster, President Bill Clinton’s deputy White House counsel who committed suicide in 1993.
Conspiratorial left on the rise. Remember Vince Foster? Democratic member of Congress insinuating foul play with no evidence https://t.co/XmwmS9TIVd
— Brendan Nyhan (@BrendanNyhan) July 14, 2017
Irresponsible tweet from a sitting Member of Congress. https://t.co/ZZDfMTWXcY
— Brittany Prime (@BLPrime) July 14, 2017
Lieu drew a contrast between himself and the president, saying his tweet was his initial reaction in reading stories about Smith’s death.
“But since then, I’ve not done any other tweets about it. There’s no other information and obviously, I know nothing else about the investigation,” he said. “Whereas the president, he would write even more tweets.”
For the most part though, Lieu said he tries to be as accurate as possible and posts links accompanying his tweets.
“If I tweet out ‘Trumpcare will cause 22 million people to lose coverage,’ I try to make sure that it is as accurate as it can be,” he said.
For the most part, Lieu said his criticism of Trump is because he is “a bully.”
“When he bullies private citizens, the disabled, reporters, the free press, the judiciary, I’m going to stand up to him,” the congressman said.