Media Downplays Critical Details In Obsession With Trashing Pruitt’s Air Travel

Chris White | Energy Reporter

Many of the recent reports discussing EPA Chief Scott Pruitt’s taxpayer-funded travel largely ignore the massive uptick in death threats leveled against the agency and its officials.

A series of reports from The Washington Post and CBS News earlier this month are painting Pruitt as a Caligula-like figure who prefers luxurious travel over cheaper alternatives. Both reports seriously downplay more reasonable explanations for the pricey travel.

CBS reported Tuesday that Pruitt traveled to Italy in June for meetings at the Vatican and to attend a summit with international energy ministers. The round-trip business-class flight cost at least $7,000, according to the report.

The entire trip — both ways — cost more than $43,000 dollars, according to travel vouchers environmental activist group Environmental Integrity Project obtained.

The agency chief has received a blanket waiver to fly first and business class ostensibly over security concerns, CBS’s report also noted.

The EPA provided CBS News with a certificate justifying Pruitt’s use of a foreign carrier because it was the only available flight “that would get the administrator back in time” for a meeting with President Donald Trump. The trips also presumably allow Pruitt to fly with a retinue of security detail for safety purposes.

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WaPo published a similar report earlier this month, which highlighted, or rehashed, Pruitt’s flight records dating back to Trump’s first year in office. The headline on the outlet proclaimed: “First-class travel distinguishes Scott Pruitt’s EPA tenure.”

The CBS report did not mention the record number of death threats being leveled against the agency — WaPo didn’t do much better. WaPo reported what amounted to a parenthetical reference to the increased danger associated with being a member of the Trump administration.

Threats against officials at the Environmental Protection Agency and Pruitt have spiked 50 percent during 2017, according to an NBC report in 2017.

EPA’s Office of Inspector General launched more than 70 investigations into threats against Pruitt and others at the agency, the Oct. 6 report noted. None of the threats resulted in injuries, but they were deemed legitimate risks to officials.

Most of the threats stem from the politically volatile atmosphere created after Trump started rolling back several of his Democratic predecessor’s climate regulations, according to the report.

Members of Congress suggested shortly after the reports that upping resources and funding for security should be paramount in an increasingly acrimonious political environment.

“It’s critical that inspectors general have the independence and resources necessary to carry out effective oversight of their agencies, especially threats against federal employees,” Democratic Rep. Gerry Connolly of Virginia said in a statement at the time.

The media have had a very combative relationship with Trump’s EPA in the past — the agency and The New York Times, for instance, have exchanged brutal words recently over reports suggesting the Trump administration is in the pocket of the fossil fuel industry.

The EPA blasted TheNYT’s Eric Lipton in 2017 for publishing a series of reports about the agency’s alleged failure to hold polluters accountable. “No matter how much information we give you, you would never write a fair piece,” EPA spokeswoman Liz Bowman told Lipton in an email before he published the story in October.

NYT’s “methodology” for Lipton’s report, Bowman added, “masks the decline of enforcement that occurred over the course of the last administration, which saw a reduction in both the civil and criminal enforcement programs.”

The EPA has not responded to The Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment about the nature of Pruitt’s flight routine, but the agency has noted in the past that it does not publicly comment on issues pertaining to Pruitt’s security.

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