Mainstream media outlets lambasting Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt’s recent travel costs said nothing when his predecessors under former President Barack Obama ran up much bigger bills on their official trips.
Expenses for Pruitt (pictured above) totaled $68,000, including air travel — some of it in first-class seats — hotel stays and other expenses from August 2017 through February 2018, according to documents requested by House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) and obtained by The Washington Post.
Before those costs, Pruitt’s trip to Italy to attend the G-7 Summit and tour the Vatican in June cost $120,000. These figures and more threw many media outlets into a tizzy as they held the EPA administrator accountable for taxpayer dollars.
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But these same outlets showed a marked lack of interest in comparing Pruitt’s travel expenses with former EPA Administrators Gina McCarthy and Lisa Jackson to add context to their reporting.
“Reporters have been worked up in a tizzy over Trump Cabinet members’ travel costs,” Michael Reed, research director and deputy communications director for the Republican National Committee, said in a Thursday statement.
Reed pointed to data that showed McCarthy’s international travels between 2013 and 2016 cost taxpayers $629,743 — while Jackson’s international travel costs between 2009 and 2012 totaled $332,113. By comparison, Pruitt’s 2017 international travels cost $160,000.
Reed noted that Pruitt, in particular, “has drawn considerable criticism, with dozens if not hundreds of stories in recent months excoriating the agency for supposed lavish travel arrangements and security costs.”
The Huffington Post published an article on Tuesday called “Scott Pruitt Went to Italy, and It Only Cost Taxpayers $120,000.” The Daily Beast wrote Tuesday, “Scott Pruitt Spent $105,000 on First-Class Flights.” The New York Daily News published a piece Wednesday titled “EPA chief Scott Pruitt exhausted $120,000 in taxpayer money to pay for Italy trip,” noting that Pruitt “has been burning through taxpayer money like an SUV guzzles gas.”
Reed pointed to articles from Time and CNN reporting on Pruitt’s travel bills that taxpayers footed, noting that neither article mentioned the cost of Obama’s two EPA administrators’ travels. Neither CNN nor Time responded to LifeZette’s requests for comment before this story’s publication.
“The truth is Obama’s EPA administrators spent far more on international travel than Mr. Pruitt. That’s pretty important context, right?” Reed continued. “But for some reason, in order to get that context, you’d only be able to read it” in conservative media outlets such as Fox News, the Washington Free Beacon, Hot Air, and LifeZette.
EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox told the Washington Free Beacon in a statement Wednesday, “The double standard couldn’t be more clear: Under Barack Obama’s EPA, the media chose not to report on expenditures to protect the EPA administrator for international travel or the costs of their trips, but under the Trump administration the costs to protect our government officials [are] somehow scandalous.”
Dan Gainor, vice president of business and culture for the Media Research Center, told LifeZette in an email that the media’s targeting of Pruitt “for a short-term cost could be misleading.”
“Politicians travel as part of their job, but how often and where is variable. It costs more to travel to Morocco, as Pruitt did, than Minnesota. Journalists would be better off comparing annual costs,” Gainor said, noting that in order “to do an analysis fairly, they need to take into account the threats that Pruitt and other members of the current administration have been under.”
The Wall Street Journal reported in November 2017 that Pruitt receives fives times as many threats as his predecessor received, including “explicit death threats.”
“Liberals also aggressively harass [Pruitt] when he travels. That’s why his costs are so high, because liberals are putting his life at risk and harassing him when he travels,” Gainor said. “The left-wingers who are whining about his expenses are the type of people who are causing those costs to be so high. And the media don’t want to tell us about it.”