It’s hard to believe that EPA administrator Scott Pruitt took any action that might be considered ethically shady. But sometimes, even your heroes let you down.
Politico reported on Monday night that Pruitt had prioritized work on a Superfund cleanup site after a meeting brokered by MSNBC host Hugh Hewitt, who has continued to defend Pruitt as he navigates an ever-expanding universe of scandals.
As Politico reports:
Hewitt, a resident of Orange County whose son James works in EPA’s press office, emailed Pruitt in September to set up a meeting between the administrator and the law firm Larson O’Brien, which employs Hewitt and represents the Orange County Water District. Pruitt had been planning to meet with the lawyers in California a month earlier, but cancelled the trip to undergo knee surgery.
“I’ll join if the Administrator would like me too or can catch up later at a dinner,” Hewitt wrote in his Sept. 18 message. Hewitt added that the issues surrounding the Superfund site were “Greek to me but a big deal in my home county.”
Pruitt’s aides returned the email almost immediately and set up a meeting, in a bout of enthusiasm usually reserved for oil and gas lobbyists.
Weeks later, the EPA, which under Pruitt has emphasized Superfund cleanups while sidelining other traditional duties, put the Orange County site on a list of areas to address. Pruitt then proposed placing the site on the agency’s National Priorities List, which could make it eligible for further federal funding down the line.
In keeping with Pruitt’s unprecedented secrecy, the meeting with Hewitt’s lawyers was never disclosed to the public; it was uncovered by the Sierra Club through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. Documents obtained by the group also showed that Pruitt went out of his way to avoid unfriendly questioning at events, among other revelations.
As Pruitt’s problems have piled up, Hewitt, a conservative voice at MSNBC, has consistently stood by him, labeling the charges against him as “nonsense.”
In an email to Politico, Hewitt said that Pruitt was a friend, but that he did not work with him. On Twitter, he called the newly revealed meeting a “non-story, and said that he had often mentioned his friendship with Pruitt on air.
Pruitt faces at least 11 separate investigations over behavior that ranges from renting a cut-rate room from an energy lobbyist’s wife to repeatedly flying first-class, supposedly to avoid frightening threats like the time someone drew a mustache on a picture of his face.
The New York Times reported on Monday that President Trump was finally tiring of Pruitt’s endless distractions, and is being urged by advisers to fire him.
But the Politico report also raises another employment-related question: