clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

This Fox News interview was surprisingly tough on Scott Pruitt

The network grilled the EPA administrator on one of his many alleged ethical violations.

Scott Pruitt interview on Fox News
No longer a safe harbor.
Fox News
Umair Irfan is a correspondent at Vox writing about climate change, Covid-19, and energy policy. Irfan is also a regular contributor to the radio program Science Friday. Prior to Vox, he was a reporter for ClimateWire at E&E News.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt faced an unusually testy interview Wednesday with Fox News’s Ed Henry about one of the official’s most recent alleged ethical infractions.

The Atlantic reported this week that the EPA used its authority under the Safe Drinking Water Act to give two of Pruitt’s closest aides big pay bumps after the White House declined to authorize raises.

In a heated exchange, Henry pressed Pruitt on why he bypassed the White House to get a total of $84,000 to two staffers who have worked with him since he was attorney general of Oklahoma. Pruitt said he only found out about the salary decision Tuesday and didn’t know who made the decision.

“You don’t know? You run the agency. You don’t know who did this?” Henry asked.

“I found out about this yesterday, and I corrected the action,” Pruitt said.

It’s a dramatic shift for a network that was once mostly safe territory for Pruitt, who has given more interviews to Fox than all other major media networks combined. He frequently finds refuge in conservative media outlets and uses them to promote his deregulatory agenda while ignoring questions from other reporters (including this one). Fox has previously given little airtime to Pruitt’s alleged indiscretions compared to other networks.

But Pruitt has been challenged on Fox News before. Fox News’s Chris Wallace questioned him aggressively a year ago about the EPA’s rollbacks of regulations around climate change.

And earlier this week, as the agency tried to stage a low-profile announcement on its highly controversial plan to roll back a major Obama-era environmental regulation on greenhouse gas emissions from cars, Fox tipped off other outlets about the event.

Losing a friendly port is another blow this week for Pruitt, who is under investigation for additional indiscretions: his high-priced luxury travel arrangements and a cushy condo deal involving a fossil fuels lobbyist, who could have used it to trade favors.

But just as environmental groups have launched a concerted campaign to get Pruitt out of office, his allies have launched a counteroffensive to keep him there.

The White House, for its part, still has Pruitt’s back. Somewhat. President Donald Trump gave Pruitt a reassuring call earlier this week. But asked about Pruitt’s mounting ethics concerns, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said on Wednesday: “The president thinks that he’s done a good job, particularly on the deregulation front. But again, we take this seriously, and we’re looking into it, and we’ll let you know what we find.”

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for Vox Recommends

Get curated picks of the best Vox journalism to read, watch, and listen to every week, from our editors.