The Environmental Protection Agency has grudgingly released partial schedules showing how Administrator Scott Pruitt has been spending his time, but many of his media interviews were omitted -- including at least 12 interviews with right-wing media.
Journalists, activists, and members of Congress have been pushing the EPA for months to release Pruitt's calendar. Pruitt's predecessor, Gina McCarthy, and other past EPA administrators had their calendars posted publicly. Reporters and representatives of public interest groups have filed dozens of requests under the Freedom of Information Act for access to part or all of Pruitt's schedule. In response to one such request from E&E News, the EPA in June released a version of the administrator's schedule for February 21 to March 31, albeit with numerous redactions. Then last week, the agency posted to its website a skeletal outline of Pruitt's schedule for April 3 to September 8.
Media Matters identified 13 media interviews Pruitt gave that were not accounted for on these publicly released schedules, and 12 of these interviews were with conservative or right-wing outlets.
The more recent, bare-bones schedule lists 52 occasions on which Pruitt gave interviews to media outlets over the five months covered. For 51 of them, the outlets are not specified; the events are simply listed as “media interview” or “media interviews.” (The only outlet named on this schedule is The Associated Press.) But even these vague listings of media interviews don't encompass all of Pruitt's media appearances, Media Matters has found. We identified six media interviews Pruitt gave that were omitted from the calendar:
- an April 26 appearance on the David Webb Show, a conservative talk radio program;
- a May 11 interview with the Daily Signal, the media arm of the conservative Heritage Foundation, which was published on May 15;
- a May 17 appearance on Fox News' Fox & Friends;
- a May 17 appearance on Fox Business Network's Varney & Co.;
- a June 2 appearance on The Hugh Hewitt Show, a conservative talk radio program; and
- an August 10 appearance on WBAP News Talk in Texas.
The more detailed schedule that the EPA had earlier released for February 21 to March 31 did list some specific media outlets the administrator spoke with, including Fox News, CNBC, and CNN, but Media Matters identified another six interviews that were omitted:
- a March 26 appearance on ABC's This Week;
- a March interview with Breitbart, which the website published on March 28;
- a March 28 appearance on Fox & Friends;
- a March 28 appearance on Fox News' Hannity;
- a March 29 appearance on The Hugh Hewitt Show; and
- a March 29 appearance on Varney & Co.
One more media appearance was not listed on public schedules because EPA didn't share any of Pruitt's calendar information for April 1-2:
- an April 2 appearance on Fox News Sunday.
Pruitt has shown a strong preference for right-wing media. As Media Matters documented previously, Pruitt appeared 12 times on Fox News during his first six months in office, twice as many times as he appeared on CNN, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, and NBC combined. The hosts at Fox and other right-wing outlets often ask Pruitt softball questions, giving him a comfortable platform from which to repeat his favorite talking points and push items on his agenda. Pruitt made some of his earliest mentions of his idea to create a sham red team/blue team exercise on climate science on The Savage Nation, a fringe right-wing talk show hosted by conspiracy theorist Michael Savage, and on the Breitbart News Daily radio show.
In addition to national TV and radio programs, Pruitt also gives interviews to conservative local programs, like a talk radio show in North Dakota. These kinds of appearances are more difficult to track and tally, so it's unclear how many such interviews Pruitt has given and how many have been included on or omitted from his publicly released schedules.
The EPA under Pruitt has been unprecedented in its secrecy, as The New York Times, The New Republic, and other outlets have reported. Journalists and advocates are continuing to push for the release of Pruitt's full calendar, emails, and other information about how the agency and its administrator operate.
The omission of so many media appearances from Pruitt's public calendar is yet another sign of a pervasive and troubling lack of transparency at the EPA.