There probably isn’t a more ethical and conservative (small “c”) news organization in America than the Associated Press, so today’s decision by the Environmental Protection Agency to deny the AP entry to a summit on water featuring EPA head Scott Pruitt is an escalation of the showdown between the administration and the free press.
Pruitt has been under fire for lavish spending, housing arrangements in sweetheart deals with industries the EPA is supposed to regulate, a burgeoning security team and raises for political appointees.
He was giving a speech today to talk about chemicals in water, but the Associated Press and CNN were refused entry, according to AP reporter Ellen Knickmeyer.
The @AP, @CNN and E&E all showed up to cover this @EPA meeting on widespread, dangerous contaminants in many drinking water systems around the country. We were all turned away at the door of the EPA building. https://t.co/j8JthyiM3k
— Ellen Knickmeyer (@KnickmeyerEllen) May 22, 2018
“This was simply an issue of the room reaching capacity, which reporters were aware of prior to the event,” an EPA spokesman said.
The Hill said there were empty seats in the press area.
“When the reporter (Knickmeyer) 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 Associated Press reported.
Knickmeyer got her story anyway.
Journalists who wanted to cover the two-day event were limited to only one hour of attendance.
“The Environmental Protection Agency’s selective barring of news organizations, including the AP, from covering today’s meeting is alarming and a direct threat to the public’s right to know about what is happening inside their government,” AP executive editor Sally Buzbee said in a statement. “It is particularly distressing that any journalist trying to cover an event in the public interest would be forcibly removed.”
Later, the EPA reversed course and said the reporters, even those banned, could attend the summit on drinking water, which comes after emails uncovered by news organizations proved the EPA helped delay the release of a study that found PFAs in water supplies are harmful to human health at lower levels than the agency previously thought.