The Transportation Security Administration has finally admitted what’s been clear for two weeks: its workers are calling out sick because they can’t keep going to work without a paycheck during the government shutdown. “Many employees are reporting that they are not able to report to work due to financial limitations,” a TSA press release acknowledges, and unscheduled absences are up from 3.7 percent a year ago to 6.1 percent now.
As USA Today’s Brad Heath points out, this isn’t just a “nothing to see here, move along” statement. On Jan. 4, Department of Homeland Security spokesman Tyler Q. Houlton denounced reports of TSA workers calling out sick as “#FakeNews,” claiming that “CNN has the cell numbers of multiple @TSA public affairs professionals, but rather than validate statistics, they grossly misrepresented them.” None other than Donald Trump reinforced that claim the next day, calling it a “Great Tweet,” repeating the #FakeNews claim, and calling CNN “a proud member of the Opposition Party.”
Now, after escalating reports of long airport lines and some airports temporarily closing security checkpoints or even terminals because of the numbers of security screening officers who’d called out sick, TSA has stopped trying to deny the obvious: This shutdown is hurting people, and working without pay—paying for gas and tolls and childcare and giving up the chance at a second job—is too much to ask.