As White House Press Secretary under Donald Trump, Sarah Huckabee Sanders has been accused of lying to cover for the President more than once. Now people on Twitter don’t believe her story about Amazon’s Echo and Alexa allowing her child to order toys without permission — and they’re telling her that, true or not, Sanders should have posted to a personal account, not a government one.
Sarah Sanders took over the official @PressSec account when she took the job, and has used it primarily to promote the President’s policies and to share official statements. However, this isn’t the first time Sanders has used her official account for something personal. On New Year’s Eve, she used it to address her father, former Governor Mike Huckabee, and his role in babysitting sick grandchildren.
Sanders’ tweet addressing Amazon seems to have been taken differently, though, perhaps because it coincides with Trump’s history of lashing out at Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, or perhaps just because it’s a consumer complaint, which most Americans don’t get to boost through government accounts with 2.5 million followers. For some, though, the complaint is that they believe Sanders isn’t telling the truth.
On Sunday, Sarah Huckabee Sanders tweeted that her 2-year-old child had accidentally ordered a $79.99 Batman toy by yelling “Batman!” into the Amazon Echo device repeatedly.
Alexa, we have a problem if my 2 year old can order a Batman toy by yelling "Batman!" over and over again into the Echo pic.twitter.com/7uF0d2fmD8
— Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) January 14, 2018
The first problem? A virtually identical story went viral almost exactly a year ago, and Amazon told Adweek at the time that a true accidental purchase as Sanders describes was very unlikely.
“You must ask Alexa to order a product and then confirm the purchase with a ‘yes’ response to purchase via voice,” said Amazon. “If you asked Alexa to order something on accident, simply say ‘no’ when asked to confirm.”
Experimenting with an Amazon Echo, author Tony Posnanski responded to Sanders to declare her story false, when attempts to replicate only resulted in Alexa expressing confusion.
This is fake news as proven here pic.twitter.com/UDagUWY8c2
— Tony Posnanski (@tonyposnanski) January 14, 2018
The second problem, for many of Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ Twitter followers, is that whether or not her Alexa story is true, they say it doesn’t belong on her official account.
Shouldn't you be tweeting something like this from your personal account? You aren't very professional, are you?
— Denise Geelhart (@jayhawkmommy) January 15, 2018
Alexa, can you track @PressSec inappropriate use of an official Twitter account? Thanks.
— ????️IAmTheStorm????️???? (@traciemom) January 14, 2018
The public was also very quick to call out Press Secretary Sanders for going after a company her boss has previously attacked.
How very interesting that you use your official Twitter to disparage a company that your boss has massive problems with because Jeff Bezos also owns the Washington Post. Do you get a bonus for that? #whatethics?
— nwhepcat (@nwhepcat) January 15, 2018
The only surprise here is she didn’t call it the WaPo-Alexa.
— 45 Polemic (@45Polemic) January 14, 2018
Trump’s own most recent Twitter attack on Amazon was almost three weeks ago, when he asserted that the U.S. Postal Service was losing money due to not charging Amazon enough for package delivery — though the postal service is a government agency, not a for-profit company, and Quartz reports that package delivery actually was one of the boosted revenue sources for the USPS this year.
Why is the United States Post Office, which is losing many billions of dollars a year, while charging Amazon and others so little to deliver their packages, making Amazon richer and the Post Office dumber and poorer? Should be charging MUCH MORE!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 29, 2017
Despite tweeting many times since the Amazon Echo complaint, Sarah Sanders has not responded to accusations of making up a false story, questions about whether her official account was the place for a personal complaint, or queries about whether Trump’s views on Amazon influenced her post. She did not tag Amazon’s official Twitter account, customer support account, or Echo account to request a response, and hasn’t said whether she was able (or tried) to cancel the order. However, Time published advice last year to prevent children from using the Echo to make accidental or intentional purchases without permission.
If Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ toddler is making purchases, Amazon (through the Time article linked above) advises, she can go into her app settings and turn off voice ordering, or set a confirmation code that would be required to complete a purchase.