The headquarters of the Environmental Protection Agency in Washington. (Matt McClain/ The Washington Post)
Media critic

It’s just another day at the Environmental Protection Agency, meaning that spokesman Jahan Wilcox told Elaina Plott of the Atlantic, “You have a great day, you’re a piece of trash.”

From all appearances, Plott drew that insult by doing one of the most dastardly things that can be done under President Trump: report unwelcome news. “A top aide to Scott Pruitt, Millan Hupp, resigned from the Environmental Protection Agency, according to a source briefed on the matter and documents reviewed by The Atlantic. Her last day will be Friday,” wrote Plott. The tidbit is significant because the 26-year-old Hupp, director of scheduling and advance for EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, was hovering in her boss’s ethical blind spots — for instance, she was assigned to assist with personal tasks such as searching for housing and finding a used mattress.

Hupp has testified before the House Oversight Committee about her evolving job description. That committee and others might consider turning their focus on Wilcox, who personifies Pruitt’s anti-media attitude. Calling Plott a “piece of trash,” after all, represents only a natural extension of his office’s previous interactions with reporters seeking information from the EPA’s press office. As detailed in a previous post, the history consists, in part, of the following:

  • The EPA barred certain outlets from a summit at the EPA building, including an AP reporter: “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,” reported the AP.
  • The EPA used a press release to unleash a personal attack on the AP’s Michael Biesecker for . . . reporting the news.
  • The EPA banished Biesecker from its master email list: “He’s more than welcome to visit our website,” said an EPA official.
  • The EPA gave this comment to the New York Times for an investigative story: “No matter how much information we give you, you would never write a fair piece. The only thing inappropriate and biased is your continued fixation on writing elitist clickbait trying to attack qualified professionals committed to serving their country.”
  • The EPA press office scolded New York Times reporter Eric Lipton as he sought confirmation on personnel news. “If you want to steal work from other outlets and pretend like it’s your own reporting that is your decision,” noted Wilcox.
  • The EPA wouldn’t confirm to a Times reporter that Pruitt would be appearing in Hazard, Ky., to announce a major policy initiative.
  • The EPA gave this comment to E&E News:

Expect more such examples to pile up. Decades of experience analyzing bureaucracies and the ways of Washington aren’t required to conclude that Wilcox is involved in an enormous cue-taking exercise here. He sees President Trump bashing the media, calling it “fake news”; he sees White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders scolding the media for alleged bogus reporting; he sees the crowds at rallies roaring for media slams; and he sees little incentive to moderate his vile treatment of reporters. Who’s going to brush him back?

After the EPA barred those outlets from the recent summit, Sanders was asked about the agency’s actions. “Certainly we’ll look into the matter. I’ve seen the reports. I know EPA has put out a statement. At this point I’d refer you to them,” she responded.

Thanks, Ms. Sanders, for referring us to people who view us as “trash.”

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