This post was updated on 6/1/18.
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt has given an exclusive interview to Sinclair Broadcast Group chief political analyst Boris Epshteyn, a former Trump aide. Pruitt has demonstrated a clear preference for right-wing media outlets, including Fox News, The Daily Caller, and the Washington Free Beacon, so by sitting for an interview with Sinclair, a conservative media company that is the largest TV station owner and operator in the country, he continues his retreat into the right-wing echo chamber.
The interview was aired in two short segments. The first was released on May 30 and ran on at least 35 of Sinclair's local TV news stations in at least 20 states. The second segment was released on June 1 and will also be shown on Sinclair stations around the country. A longer, 12-minute version of the interview has been published online.
Media Matters has chronicled Sinclair’s aggressive approach to promoting its conservative agenda, which includes forcing local stations to air “must-run” segments like the one below. If Sinclair is successful with its plan to acquire Tribune Media, it will greatly expand its reach, infiltrating the largest media markets in the country. Like other conservative media outlets, Sinclair has given cover to Trump and provided his allies and administration officials with a platform to spread White House propaganda. Epshteyn's softball interview with Pruitt is a perfect illustration of this symbiotic dynamic at work.
Here is Sinclair's “Bottom Line with Boris” segment that was posted on May 30:
BORIS EPSHTEYN (SINCLAIR CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST): EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has dealt with his share of controversies in his time at the agency. The criticisms have centered on issues such as pay raises for his subordinates and alleged misuse of taxpayer funds to pay for travel and security. Here is what Administrator Pruitt had to say:
SCOTT PRUITT (EPA ADMINISTRATOR): Well, look, I care so much about taxpayer money. It’s what I’ve done historically when I served at the state level. It’s important that serving in this capacity that everyone is a good steward of taxpayer money. But these distractions, these issues that we’ve dealt with, largely, I think, have emanated from the great work that we’ve been doing. In the first year of the Trump administration, a billion dollars in savings with respect to regulatory cost savings. And, at the same time, environmental outcomes are improving. So, there’s a lot of change taking place at the agency and how we do our work, for the better. And I think that’s caused -- I knew this would be noisy, I knew it would be competitive, Boris, I knew there would be competition, if you will. And I think some of that’s driven, as you put it, some of these issues that have arisen. But, look, it’s important we respond. And I've spent over six hours of testimony with Congress answering those questions; we’ve provided documentation. We’re doing what we need to do there to get beyond it and to focus on the agenda and still getting things done in the midst of it. I’ve actually made some of those changes. So I’m trying to learn from this process and make sure that the agency applies different checks and balances in the future, but continue to focus on getting results at the same time.
EPSHTEYN: So you’re making some of those changes to make sure that there’s more oversight?
PRUITT: Absolutely. Absolutely. And we should. But that’s something that we should endeavor to achieve in the future and now. But also focus on the agenda. And so both are important.
EPSHTEYN: Here’s the bottom line: Scott Pruitt is standing strong in his job. He’s calling for more accountability at the agency and insisting that controversy is not distracting him from carrying out key parts of President Trump’s agenda.
And here is the transcript for Sinclair's “Bottom Line with Boris” segment from June 1:
BORIS EPSHTEYN: It has been a year since President Trump pulled the United States out of the Paris climate agreement. Administrator of the EPA Scott Pruitt talked about why that was the right decision and what the benefits have been for the American people.
SCOTT PRUITT: The president put America first in that he’s committed to that. He talked about promises made, promises kept. He’s done that across the board -- from trade policy to national security to economic policy. And this is the same with the Paris decision. I mean, when you look at the Paris accord and what it represented for this country, it put America last, not first, and the president was courageous to do something about it when he made that decision last June in the Rose Garden. And the reason it was the wrong decision for this country is that we’re already leading the world in CO2 reduction. We’re already making changes through innovation and technology to see our CO2 footprint drop. Between the years 2000 and 2014, Boris, we cut our CO2 footprint by almost 20 percent.
EPSHTEYN: So looking back a year later now, was it the right move?
PRUITT: Absolutely. I mean, we continue to see CO2 reduction. Our economy is growing. I indicated to you in the opening comment about a billion dollars in cost savings with respect to regulatory savings at the EPA alone. The entire Trump administration, $8 billion in the first year. Now think about that: the regulatory savings across the full executive branch, 8 billion dollars in savings, at the EPA alone, a billion [dollars]. And we’re improving environmental outcomes. So, it’s demonstrative that you can do what’s good for the environment, but also do what’s commonsensical on the regulatory side and achieve both a growing economy and positive outcomes for the environment.
EPSHTEYN: Here’s the bottom line: The United States was never truly a party to the Paris Agreement. The Obama administration did not follow the constitutional steps for a treaty in entering that agreement. The Senate never had the opportunity to vote on it. A year later, the decision to leave the agreement has been proven to be correct both for constitutional and policy reasons.