On Sunday, The New York Times, America’s newspaper of record, had to retract a report about Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Scott Pruitt using his position at the EPA to help his family life. The Times reported that Pruitt used the EPA to get his daughter McKenna accepted into law school, when in reality she was accepted long before Pruitt stepped foot into the EPA.
“An article on Saturday about senior staff members at the Environmental Protection Agency who said they frequently felt pressured by Scott Pruitt to help in nonwork matters included an item that erroneously described Mr. Pruitt’s use of his position for personal matters,” the Times admitted Sunday.
Even the correction did not explain exactly what had been misreported, however. Instead, the correction explained that a Virginia lawmaker, William Howell, admitted to writing a letter of recommendation fo the University of Virginia Law School on McKenna’s behalf. The key issue was timing. “He actually wrote it while Mr. Pruitt was the attorney general of Oklahoma,” the Times admitted.
Since the Times report has been corrected, PJ Media found the original text for the false claim:
As an example, Mr. Pruitt, shortly after taking the E.P.A. job, reached out to the former speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates seeking help for his daughter, McKenna, in securing admission to the University of Virginia School of Law. William Howell, the former speaker, appears on Mr. Pruitt’s official E.P.A. calendar, and he confirmed in an interview that he was approached by Mr. Pruitt and subsequently wrote a letter to the school’s dean on the daughter’s behalf.
The correction did not address what the meeting between Pruitt and Howell did actually concern, if indeed it appeared on the EPA schedule. When Pruitt did reach out to Howell, it was long before he became EPA administrator.
After further research by a legislative aide, Howell admitted that he had incorrectly stated the date of his letter of recommendation for McKenna Pruitt. The letter was actually written on November 1, 2016, more than three months before Pruitt was confirmed as EPA administrator in February 2017.
“The law school, which had declined to comment for the article because of privacy concerns, issued a statement on Saturday saying Ms. Pruitt had given the school permission to confirm that she had been offered early admission in late November 2016 and that the ‘application was evaluated according to our usual admissions procedures,'” the Times correction explained.
The article laid out numerous times when Pruitt directed staffers to help in personal matters “and obtain special favors for his family.” According to the report, whistleblower Kevin Chmielewski said Pruitt instructed staffers to “see what you can do” about getting McKenna Pruitt a clerkship at the White House Counsel in the summer of 2017.
The most well-known scandal involved Pruitt asking aides to contact Republican donors to get his wife a job.
While these scandals may indeed be bad for Pruitt, The New York Times should not misrepresent the situation.
This is not the first time the Times had to issue a correction in a story about Pruitt, however. Last August, The New York Times reported that a widely available public climate report was secret, and likely to be quashed by the Trump EPA. The paper had to make an embarrassing correction. In October, the Times reported that Pruitt had “almost no meetings with environmental groups or consumer or public health advocates,” while admitting in the article that he met with quite a few (at the time, Pruitt had met with no fewer than 25).
Chmielewski himself, the whistleblower responsible for quite a few New York Times “scoops,” has proven less than reliable.
The Times had to make another embarrassing correction in May, after reporting that Pruitt’s former security detail head, Nino Perrotta, had met with assistant Inspector General Patrick Sullivan over drinks. According to an email from Henry Barnet, director of the EPA’s Office of Criminal Enforcement, Forensics and Training, Perrotta was not drinking beers with Sullivan that day — but Chmielewski was!
The Times eventually admitted the error, writing that “Mr. Sullivan said that Mr. Perrotta had been invited but did not attend that gathering and that he has never met for drinks with Mr. Perotta, though he acknowledged that the two men met for lunch several months later at another restaurant near the E.P.A. headquarters.”
Pruitt may have instructed aides to help his wife find work — she had to move from Oklahoma to Washington, D.C., after all, and the military and the State Department have programs to help spouses find work after moving. After The Washington Post broke the story about Pruitt’s wife, Fox News host Laura Ingraham and National Review called for Pruitt’s removal. Whether or not Pruitt should go, it is ironic to see the media so quick to judge an EPA head after treating Obama’s EPA leaders with kid gloves.
The New York Times should avoid making false accusations against Pruitt, and perhaps reporters there should reconsider just how much to trust Chmielewski. Unfortunately, it seems there are few things liberals fear more than a conservative at the head of the EPA, and their daggers are out for Scott Pruitt.