Mobile Menu - OpenMobile Menu - Closed

Congresswoman Betty McCollum

Representing the 4th District of Minnesota

McCollum Condemns EPA’s Inappropriate Personal Attack on Journalist

September 12, 2017
Press Release

Congresswoman Betty McCollum (DFL-Minn.), Ranking Member of the House Interior-Environment Appropriations Subcommittee, today wrote to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt condemning the EPA’s personal attacks on an Associated Press journalist.

“While disagreements between journalists and public affairs professionals are routine, the EPA’s September 3, 2017 public statement personally attacking the Associated Press’ Michael Biesecker represented an inappropriate use of taxpayer resources to castigate our free press for simply doing its job,” Congresswoman McCollum wrote.

On September 3, after the Associated Press reported on flooding at Superfund sites in the Houston area in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, the EPA’s Office of Public Affairs released a public statement entitled “EPA Response To The AP's Misleading Story” that repeatedly castigated the AP’s Michael Biesecker in harsh, personal terms. The EPA statement also appeared to obscure several key facts about the EPA’s response to Hurricane Harvey.

“It should go without saying that obscuring facts to mislead the public and unleashing ad hominem attacks on journalists is unacceptable conduct on the part of a federal agency,” Congresswoman McCollum wrote. “In the future, I hope you and your colleagues will act in a more professional manner and refrain from such unacceptable personal attacks.”

A PDF copy of Congresswoman McCollum’s letter is available here. The full text of Congresswoman McCollum’s letter is below:

Dear Administrator Pruitt:

I write to express serious concerns about a recent public response issued by the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Public Affairs that personally attacked a journalist covering your agency.

While disagreements between journalists and public affairs professionals are routine, the EPA’s September 3, 2017 public statement personally attacking the Associated Press’ Michael Biesecker represented an inappropriate use of taxpayer resources to castigate our free press for simply doing its job.

Moreover, I am concerned that the EPA’s response to the Associated Press’ September 2, 2017 story muddled key information, presented an incomplete picture, and created a misleading impression for the American people. Specifically:

  • The EPA’s response stated that “through aerial imaging, EPA has already conducted initial assessments at 41 Superfund sites – 28 of those sites show no damage, and 13 have experienced flooding.” However, the response did not mention that the EPA had not physically visited all of the Superfund sites in the Houston area because they were not accessible by response personnel.
  • The EPA’s response stated “EPA and state agencies worked with responsible parties to secure Superfund sites before the hurricane hit.” However, the response made no mention of flooding at the sites that had ostensibly been secured by the EPA.
  • The EPA’s response accused Mr. Biesecker by name of “reporting from the comfort of Washington.” However, the response did not mention that Mr. Biesecker’s co-author was able to use a boat to document the condition of one flooded Houston-area Superfund site and accessed others with a vehicle or on foot.

It should go without saying that obscuring facts to mislead the public and unleashing ad hominem attacks on journalists is unacceptable conduct on the part of a federal agency.

In the future, I hope you and your colleagues will act in a more professional manner and refrain from such unacceptable personal attacks.

Sincerely,

/s/