POLITICS

HHS Official Ximena Barreto Resigns After Scandal Over Anti-Muslim Comments

She resigned less than eight months after her appointment as the department's deputy director of communications.

A Department of Health and Human Services official who shared bigoted memes and peddled conspiracy theories on social media prior to assuming office has resigned, a spokeswoman for the department confirmed to HuffPost on Sunday.

Ximena Barreto, who originally joined the department as deputy director of communications in December 2017, was placed on leave in April following separate reports from Media Matters and CNN about her inflammatory social media posts from 2016 and early 2017.

Barreto, a fringe right-wing pundit, publicly apologized for the posts and was permitted to return to HHS in a role outside of the public affairs office. An HHS representative did not immediately respond to a query about her most recent position.

The scandal re-emerged last month when Mediaite reported on a tweet in which she called CNN’s story about her old posts a “smear campaign.”

Barreto was escorted off HHS headquarters’ premises Friday, Politico reported, citing a person with knowledge of the matter.

Barreto used her personal website and social media accounts to attack Islam, calling the religion a “cult” that has “no place” in the U.S., according to multiple reports. She also promoted conspiracy theories, including “Pizzagate,” which accused Hillary Clinton and other top Democrats of running a child sex ring from a pizza shop in Washington, D.C. 

In May 2017, she retweeted an image saying that America’s forefathers would have “hung” Clinton and former President Barack Obama for treason. Roughly three months later, she shared an image of Obama labeled as a “Muslim terrorist.”

Prior to her HHS position, Barreto worked for Trump’s presidential campaign in California in 2016, according to CNN.

Barreto is one of several Trump administration officials to leave their positions after media outlets combed through their social media accounts. Todd Johnson, a former aide to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, resigned as a Defense Department staffer after CNN reported on his past racist and Islamophobic posts.

In September 2017, William C. Bradford resigned as the head of the Department of Energy’s Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs after racist and anti-Semitic tweets he shared in 2016 surfaced.

Barreto did not immediately return HuffPost’s request for comment.

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