The media’s endless coverage of the many ethics scandals facing Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt distracts from his real crimes: Pruitt’s policies will put up to 100,000 lives at risk in the United States, make millions of children sick, and destroy a livable climate.
So if he does keep his job, the real scandal will continue. And even if he does get fired or resigns, it won’t be over the real danger to Americans — dirtier air and water.
Each day the media swarms over the latest of Pruitt’s ethical lapses with dozens of print and TV stories. And certainly his myriad sweetheart deals with lobbyists and his mendacity at the taxpayers’ expense deserve attention. But the far more important scandal — his toxic and immoral policies — has been drowned out.
Even Pruitt’s own EPA released analysis in November that shows, by itself, his effort to undo Obama’s climate plan could result in up to 100,000 premature deaths over the next few decades while causing millions of asthma attacks in kids.
And those numbers don’t even factor in what happens from all of Pruitt’s other efforts to suspend or gut Obama-era rules that protect our clean air, clean water, and livable climate. Yet the media continues to be largely silent on the devastating impacts to public health and well-being of what Pruitt is doing.
The result has been a spate of media coverage that glosses over the impact of Pruitt’s policies.
For instance, an NPR story on Monday was headlined, “Trump Touts Pruitt’s ‘Great Job,’ But EPA Rollbacks Have A Long Road Ahead.”
This story does not discuss a single negative impact on Americans or their children from Pruitt’s current and proposed efforts. It merely notes that while Trump has defended Pruitt in the wake of the scandals, changing some environmental rules take a long time.
Similarly, CNN’s Saturday piece, “Trump defends Scott Pruitt: ‘Scott is doing a great job!’” also fails to discuss any negative impacts of his policies. Worse, it re-posts Trump’s tweet where the President falsely claims “Record clean Air & Water while saving USA Billions of Dollars” without any debunking or context.
But not only is Pruitt undoing clean air and water policies, those efforts don’t save the USA billions of dollars. Instead, they save some big polluters money, while shifting the cost to average Americans who get sicker, miss work, and pay higher health care bills.
The media likes stories about ethics lapses because it can explain them easily without having to deal with what some consider complicated and controversial stuff like science and public health.
But it’s the moral lapses and toxic policies that will do the real harm in the end. And while Pruitt claimed this February he’s just following God’s plan as laid out in the Bible to “harvest the natural resources,” Pope Francis disputed such a view three years ago, saying, “A Christian who doesn’t safeguard creation, who doesn’t make it flourish, is a Christian who isn’t concerned with God’s work.”
What’s more, in his 195-page climate encyclical, the Pope connected the immorality of our destructive environmental policies to the growing lack of respect for ethics.
“We must regain the conviction that we need one another, that we have a shared responsibility for others and the world, and that being good and decent are worth it,” the Pope wrote. “We have had enough of immorality and the mockery of ethics, goodness, faith and honesty.”