EPA joins Trump in maligning journalists

More authoritarian excess:

President Donald Trump’s habit of singling out reporters for attacks is being adopted by his federal agencies, with the Environmental Protection Agency excoriating an Associated Press reporter in unusually personal terms on Sunday after the reporter wrote a story that cast the agency in an unfavorable light.

“Yesterday, the Associated Press’ Michael Biesecker wrote an incredibly misleading story about toxic land sites that are under water,” the statement began. “Despite reporting from the comfort of Washington, Biesecker had the audacity to imply that agencies aren’t being responsive to the devastating effects of Hurricane Harvey. Not only is this inaccurate, but it creates panic and politicizes the hard work of first responders who are actually in the affected area.”

The audacity? That’s a frightening word for a government agency to use about a news story. It implies a violation, a trespassing over boundaries, of a kind that a strong leader might decide to suppress. In short it resembles a threat.

Also? The reporter was not in Washington, or in comfort.

The article in question, which was written by Biesecker and his AP colleague, Jason Dearen, noted that seven toxic Superfund sites around Houston had been flooded during Hurricane Harvey. The Saturday report also noted that the “EPA had not yet been able to physically visit the Houston-area sites,” which the EPA confirmed, arguing the sites were not accessible.

Dearen appears to have reported from on the ground in Texas, and he was not singled out by the EPA statement.

The statement went on to say that “state agencies worked with responsible parties to secure Superfund sites before the hurricane hit.”

It then continued the attacks on Biesecker, saying he “has a history of not letting the facts get in the way of his story” and noting that a July story he wrote inaccurately characterized an interaction between EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and Dow Chemical CEO Andrew Liveris. Biesecker’s story, based on EPA schedules, initially said the two met for half an hour at a Houston hotel.

The meeting was canceled, the two met only for a few minutes, the AP issued a correction.

The bulk of Sunday’s EPA statement was unsigned. It did, however, include one portion attributable to associate administrator Liz Bowman.

“Once again, in an attempt to mislead Americans, the Associated Press is cherry-picking facts, as EPA is monitoring Superfund sites around Houston and we have a team of experts on the ground working with our state and local counterparts responding to Hurricane Harvey,” Bowman’s statement said. “Anything to the contrary is yellow journalism.”

The statement did not point to any specific factual inaccuracies in Saturday’s story, besides accusing Biesecker of leaving out information about the EPA’s other efforts to monitor the toxic land sites, and the AP has not offered any corrections on the piece.

Well it’s great that while Houston pickles in a stew of acids the EPA has plenty of time to issue press releases attacking journalists.

Bowman later followed up with an additional email to POLITICO.

“We understand you are very focused on our press release; we hope you will apply the same focus to the facts, which include that a national reporter from a wire service publishing [sic] inaccurate and misleading stories about the agency and it’s [sic] staff on the ground,” Bowman wrote. “We think that is more important than who drafted a press release.”

The Associated Press on Sunday evening pushed back on the EPA’s claims.

“AP’s exclusive story was the result of on-the-ground reporting at Superfund sites in and around Houston, as well as AP’s strong knowledge of these sites and EPA practices,” it said in a statement. “We object to the EPA’s attempts to discredit that reporting by suggesting it was completed solely from ‘the comforts of Washington’ and stand by the work of both journalists who jointly reported and wrote the story.”

Any bets on how soon the EPA will be tweeting about FAKE NEWS?

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