Published: Thu, May 24, 2018
People | By Leon Thompson

EPA Bars Some Reporters From Attending Scott Pruitt Speech

EPA Bars Some Reporters From Attending Scott Pruitt Speech

"When the reporter asked to speak to an EPA public-affairs person, the security guards grabbed the reporter by the shoulders and shoved her forcibly out of the EPA building", the AP said Tuesday.

EPA spokespeople maintained at the time that limiting reporter attendance was not in violation of the Federal Advisory Committees Act - which has a special emphasis on open meetings and public input.

A climate reporter for Politico tweeted Tuesday that a security guard joked about how he told an AP reporter she could not film as she was being kicked out of the agency building.

Pruitt, who drew scrutiny from lawmakers after EPA emails released this month showed that the agency had intervened in the publication of a new government study on the contaminants, convened what he called a national summit on the chemicals.

According to the article, EPA Spokesman Jahan Wilcox explained that there was not enough room for the reporters, who were not on an invitation list to cover the hearing. As Mother Jones' Rebecca Leber reported, there have been at least two previous incidents in which journalists were either escorted out of Pruitt events or forced to leave by police.

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Environmental groups and some lawmakers have accused Pruitt of meeting more often with industry representatives, conservative political groups and lobbyists than with ordinary people affected by dangers that the EPA regulates.

When reached by phone and asked about the Associated Press report, Wilcox declined to comment to CNN beyond his original statement, which said he was "unaware of the individual situation that has been reported".

AP executive editor Sally Buzbee said in a statement that it's "particularly distressing that any journalists trying to cover an event in the public interest would be forcibly removed".

CNN, a frequent target of criticism by President Donald Trump, said the EPA had not responded to its queries Monday about the meeting. One Associated Press reporter, Ellen Knickmeyer, was even shoved out of the room. A handful of other reporters from other news organizations, however, were allowed inside the event for Pruitt's opening remarks after having been previously invited by the agency the day before. CNN and E&E News attended the afternoon session, too. In a surprise move, the EPA Tuesday announced plans to pursue new regulations on a class of chemicals used to make things like Teflon and Scotchgard. The media organizations were later given access to cover the summit which, more importantly, discussed new EPA regulations on hazardous PFAS chemicals, the subject of a Department of Health and Human Services agency report the EPA and the White House attempted to suppress earlier this year. "I don't know any information about this specific incident". She pushed back on a question about whether there are any instances where the White House believed it was appropriate to physically handle a reporter.

"I think their candor will be very important", she says.

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