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DHS denies CNN report that hundreds of TSA agents working without pay during shutdown are calling in sick
The Department of Homeland Security on Friday denounced a CNN report that found hundreds of Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers are calling out sick as they work without pay during the ongoing partial government shutdown.
"More #FakeNews from @CNN. Security operations at airports have not been impacted by a non-existent sick out," Department of Homeland Security spokesman Tyler Houlton tweeted Friday evening.
"CNN has the cell numbers of multiple @TSA public affairs professionals, but rather than validate statistics, they grossly misrepresented them," he claimed.
CNN's report, which was based off of several interviews with unnamed TSA and union officials, noted that callouts had notably increased at New York's John F. Kennedy Airport, Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport and North Carolina's Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham airports.
CNN Communications responded to Houlton's remarks in a tweet of its own.
"CNN spoke to numerous TSA & union officials & cited data provided by unions for our report. TSA itself put out a statement acknowledging increased call-outs after we published," the statement said. @spoxdhs & @realdonaldtrump may not like the truth but that won't stop us from reporting. #FactsFirst"
Sources described the callouts to CNN as protests over a paycheck delay resulting from the TSA's lapse in funding amid the partial government shutdown. A union official, however, told the network that officers are calling out sick for practical reasons, such as not being able to afford child care while their paychecks are up in the air.
A TSA spokesperson acknowledged that absences have increased recently, but insisted security will not be affected.
"Security effectiveness will not be compromised and performance standards will not change," the spokesperson said Friday in a statement to The Hill. "Wait times may be affected depending on the number of call outs."
The spokesperson added that "screening wait times remain well within TSA standards" and that 99.8 percent of more than 2.2 million passengers on Thursday had wait times of less than 30 minutes.
Approximately 25 percent of the government shut down on Dec. 22, including the Departments of Homeland Security, Agriculture, Treasury, Commerce, Justice, Interior and State. Hundreds of thousands of federal workers have either been furloughed or forced to work without pay for the time being.