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By Julie Kelly
[First published at American Greatness.]
Funny what happens when a Republican wins the White House. The media mob suddenly develops an interest in transparency and fiscal responsibility. This week—in a story that has been developing over several months—all eyes are on the Environmental Protection Agency.
For eight years, President Obama’s two EPA administrators—Lisa Jackson and Gina McCarthy—received very little scrutiny from major news organizations. Reporters and opinion writers overlooked their misconduct at the EPA: excessive travel costs; blatant disregard of congressional oversight and lying to Congress; deleted texts and phony email accounts; colluding with activists who sought to use the agency to impose their costly, ideological agenda.
When the U.S. Supreme Court stayed the agency’s Clean Power Plan in 2016 because it exceeded administrative authority—the first time the court blocked a major EPA rule—no one called for McCarthy’s resignation or even criticized her role in writing the bad regulation. The editorial boards at the New York Timesand Washington Post didn’t demand that McCarthy step down after she apologized for the disastrous Gold King Mine spill in Colorado, where 3 million gallons of toxic sludge befouled a river system spanning three states.
When McCarthy defended her agency’s role in the Flint water crisis, the Washington Post described her as some sort of hero: “She stood up to often-furious questioning at a congressional hearing that included Republican calls for her resignation, asserting that under the law her agency had done all it could to protect Flint’s residents.”
Time and again, sympathetic scribes in the mainstream media gave the EPA chiefs a pass.
But that drastically changed on December 7, 2016, when Donald Trump nominated Scott Pruitt to be his EPA administrator. Pruitt, the former Oklahoma attorney general, was an outspoken critic of the agency and sued the EPAseveral times in his role as the Sooner State’s top lawyer. His appointment was a Southern-styled boot-kick to the far-left scientific establishment and the environmental lobby, signaling an end to their unchecked power grip at the EPA.
The unrelenting media assault on Pruitt is yet another tale of contrasts between how the Washington press corps covers the Trump Administration versus how it covered for the Obama Administration. One quick example: The New York Times, which has a particularly vicious vendetta against Pruitt, has published 395articles, columns, and editorials about the current EPA chief since November 9, 2016: Nearly all are negative. The Times has churned out dozens of stories about Pruitt’s travel expenses, including his purchase of first-class airline seats for foreign trips. (Jackson and McCarthy did, too. The pair tallied over $1 million in travel costs on international junkets, according to a report last month in the Washington Free Beacon.)
But from March 2013 until November 2016, the Times only ran 156 articles that mentioned McCarthy. While she received some tepid criticism from the paper for her mishandling of the Flint water crisis, most of its coverage was nebulous if not glowing.
One puff piece described McCarthy as “a listener and a saleswoman” with a “salty sense of humor and a history of negotiating with polluting industries.” Even though that same article referenced McCarthy’s “regular cross-country road trips that are both listening tour and sales pitch,” the Times’ reporters didn’t bother to ask how she traveled or demand to see any expense reports. In fact, the only Times article that raised McCarthy’s travel schedule is buried at the end of a piece on Pruitt’s travel:
Gina McCarthy also traveled frequently to her home in Boston. A spokeswoman estimated that Ms. McCarthy traveled home roughly every other weekend during her term. She said Ms. McCarthy paid for the travel. Ms. McCarthy’s travel could not be immediately verified because her travel records are not publicly available.
Exactly. Her travel records were not publicly available because no one asked for them.
Now ponder a lengthy Times piece on Pruitt’s official schedule. Eric Lipton and Lisa Friedman reviewed 320 pages of Pruitt’s schedule from February through May of last year, then accused the EPA chief of holding “back-to-back meetings, briefing sessions and speaking engagements almost daily with top corporate executives and lobbyists from all the major economic sectors that he regulates—and almost no meetings with environmental groups or consumer or public health advocates.”
Midway through the story, Lipton and Friedman briefly mention how they reviewed one year of McCarthy’s official schedule and concluded it “also demonstrated a partisan bent.” McCarthy “held a disproportionate number of meetings with Democratic lawmakers and environmental groups, particularly in the summer of 2014, when the administration was making the case for sweeping climate-change regulations.”
That’s it. Although McCarthy handled most of Obama’s arm-twisting and bureaucratic chicanery to impose his unlawful climate change agenda, the Times could only muster a few brief paragraphs about her meeting and travel schedule over a four-year period. After she was gone.
So it’s no surprise that McCarthy found a safe space on the Times’ editorial page last week to blast Pruitt for his recent announcement to end the use of “secret science” at the EPA. The insular scientific establishment—which portrays any outside request for accountability as an “attack of science”—is furious that Pruitt will no longer allow burdensome and unnecessary federal regulations to be buttressed by independent research that is not publicly available.
Pruitt, quite logically, told The Daily Caller that the EPA must “make sure their data and methodology are published as part of the record. Otherwise, it’s not transparent. It’s not objectively measured, and that’s important.”
In an interview with the Hoover Institution, Pruitt further defended his move:
We have rules that we’ve adopted as an agency, historically, where we’ve contracted science out to a third party, and as the third party provides the findings and the conclusions, they don’t provide the data and the methodology that was used to reach the conclusion. We just simply made the change that if we contract out any particular third party to undergird rules, we’re going to make sure that the data and methodology is transferable and can be viewed by the public to ensure that it’s been done right.
But McCarthy, who has been accused of withholding potentially biased data from Congress, wants the research kept under wraps.
“But don’t be fooled by this talk of transparency,” she wrote in her Times op-ed. “[Pruitt] and some conservative members of Congress are setting up a nonexistent problem in order to prevent the E.P.A. from using the best available science. These studies adhere to all professional standards and meet every expectation of the scientific community in terms of peer review and scientific integrity.”
(Pruitt’s action is based on legislation sponsored by House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, the Texas Republican and longtime McCarthy critic.)
None of the Left’s non-stop condemnation of Pruitt has anything to do with fiscal restraint or solid science. Pruitt has been a one-man wrecking crew at the EPA, dismantling Obama’s cherished climate change legacy, repealing the Clean Power Plan, dismissing activist-scientists who feed at the public trough, and ending the practice of “sue and settle,” a tactic used by special interest groups to force the agency to enact regulations they demand.
There is no greater threat to the reach and power of the federal government than Pruitt right now, and the Left not only wants him gone, they want him destroyed. (Thanks to the media’s despicable coverage of Pruitt, he and his family are facing an unprecedented number of death threats.)
The anti-Trump mob is also terrified at the prospect that Pruitt would replace Attorney General Jeff Sessions at the Justice Department, where he would undoubtedly apply the same smash-mouth approach and uncover God-knows-what. They want him so damaged that he’d never survive a Senate confirmation hearing.
It is difficult to calculate how hypocritical the media has been in covering this administration versus the previous one. But its collective coverage of the EPA and Scott Pruitt in particular has to be the most appalling—and destructive—example yet.