Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt lashed out at media outlets’ reporting negative stories about him, in which facts “have been so twisted that they do not resemble reality,” during his opening remarks at a congressional hearing Thursday.
“Facts are facts and fiction is fiction, and a lie doesn’t become truth just because it appears on the front page of a newspaper,” Pruitt told lawmakers during a hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. “Much of what has been targeted towards me and my team has been half-truths or, at best, stories that have been so twisted that they do not resemble reality.”
He is under fire for allegedly excessive travel expenses and security costs, along with reports that he spent $50 per night staying in a lobbyist’s wife’s condo for a few months during 2017 and procured raises for two of his staffers without getting prior White House approval.
Pruitt raised eyebrows for his $68,000 air travel — some of which included first-class seats — hotel stays and other expenses from August 2017 through February 2018. Pruitt’s trip to Italy to attend the G-7 Summit and tour the Vatican in June 2017 cost $120,000.
Mainstream media outlets that rushed to criticize Pruitt’s supposed misuse of tax dollars have shown little interest in providing readers with important contextual information on expenses run up by his two predecessors under former President Barack Obama.
Former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy’s international travels cost $629,743 between 2013 and 2016. Former EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson’s international travels cost $332,113 between 2009 and 2012. By comparison, Pruitt’s 2017 international travels cost approximately $160,000.
“I am here and I welcome the chance to be here to set the record straight in these areas,” Pruitt told the lawmakers. “And let’s have no illusions about what is really going on here. Those who have attacked the EPA and attacked me are doing so because they want to attack and derail the president’s agenda and undermine this administration’s priorities.”
“I’m simply not going to let that happen,” Pruitt added. Even so, the hashtag, #BootPruitt, was trending on Twitter Thursday.
Pruitt said that he wanted to address the “very troubling media reports over the last few weeks,” saying that he was “not afraid to admit that there’s been a learning process” for him as EPA administrator. Pruitt emphasized that he wanted to correct any faults that Congress ultimately found with him while ensuring they aren’t repeated.
“There is consequential and important work being done at the EPA since the beginning of the Trump administration, both in terms of improved environmental outcomes, as well as substantial regulatory reform,” Pruitt said, noting that the EPA is “stripping burdensome” regulations “at an unprecedented pace.”
“We are doing this while inspiring confidence in the American people that it is government going to work with them as opposed to against them to achieve harmony between jobs and growth and environmental stewardship,” Pruitt said.
The EPA administrator praised President Donald Trump for setting “an ambitious goal for the EPA under his administration” by demanding “comprehensive regulatory reform.” Pruitt proudly reported that the Trump administration has “saved the American people almost $8 billion dollars in regulatory savings” in just one year, including $1 billion of savings with the EPA.
“It is indisputable that we have made enormous progress in advancing President Trump’s reform agenda and bringing back decades of regulatory overreach that was unnecessary, burdensome, and ultimately harmful to hardworking Americans across the country,” Pruitt said.