Editor’s Note: This article was updated at 10 pm EST to include a fresh quote from Speaker Bates.
Indian Country was abuzz with the news that former Arizona State Senator Carlyle Begay (R-Ganado), Navajo, had been appointed as President Donald Trump’ s adviser on Indian affairs. Two small-town Arizona papers, The Navajo Post and the Lake Powell News, seemed to confirm the appointment.
After all, Begay had campaigned hard for Trump during the 2016 election and was in Washington, D.C. as a volunteer transition team staffer. His Twitter account shows he was present during a tribal leader listening session on December 14. He gave an opening prayer during a January 22 service at the National Cathedral, which Trump also attended. The Navajo Nation Republican Party announced the news on Facebook, and U.S. Congressman Paul Gosar, Republican, congratulated Begay on the appointment. The onetime Congressional candidate even posted a picture of himself in D.C. with the line, "It's official.... I'll be working in the White House," on his Instagram account.
There’s just one problem: The news was false. On February 28, the Arizona Republic reported that Begay was not actually on paid staff at the White House.
"Carlyle is not a White House employee," White House Deputy Press Secretary Lindsay Walters emailed the newspaper.
Alexander Chambers, publisher of The Navajo Post, said he obtained the information from the Navajo Republicans.
“They said that Carlyle Begay was President Trump’s new adviser on Indian affairs,” said Chambers. “Little did we know that he was only a volunteer. We were excited to hear it—we believed it.”
On Wednesday March 1 he issued an apology.
“The Navajo Post made a mistake by not properly sourcing and confirming the information by the Navajo Nation Republican Party on facebook in our newspaper and website,” he said in a statement. “We apologize and have corrected the article.”
Attempts to reach Begay, who is listed as vice president of a Phoenix-based Native health policy consulting firm, were unsuccessful. When reached by ICMN, a prominent member of the Navajo Republicans declined comment.
“I just wish him the best of luck,” said Arizona State Senator Jamescita Peshlakai (D-Cameron), who succeeded Begay in the legislature. “He’s a bright young man. It’s just a shame that the White House doesn’t give Carlyle a job. It’s disrespectful to not offer him something after he’s done so much work for them.”
Navajo Nation leadership said Carlyle Begay's work was solid, be he paid staff or not.
“Regardless of whether or not Senator Begay is employed by the Trump Administration, he's doing an outstanding job for the Navajo Nation Speaker's office and for the Navajo Nation Council,” said Navajo Nation Speaker of the Council LoRenzo Bates, who is in Washington, D.C. this week meeting with Interior officials regarding energy issues and efforts to save coal jobs on the Navajo Nation. Carlyle has a wealth of knowledge, is very well connected to leadership, and understands the process.”