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MSNBC pundit allowed to keep job after political favors for EPA chief exposed

Hugh Hewitt's law firm represents clients before the EPA, SEC, and Justice Department.

Radio host Hugh Hewitt in Cleveland, Ohio, July 20, 2016. CREDIT: Kirk Irwin/Getty Images for SiriusXM
Radio host Hugh Hewitt in Cleveland, Ohio, July 20, 2016. CREDIT: Kirk Irwin/Getty Images for SiriusXM

Hugh Hewitt, the conservative radio host who works for both MSNBC and the Washington Post, seems to have almost as many ethical problems as his friend EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.

But given that the only perspective he provides is that of a pro-Trump right-wing propagandist — a perspective that is already over-represented by the media — one must question why MSNBC and the Post are content to let these ethical lapses pass with nothing but a minor slap on the wrist.

On Monday, Politico broke the story that Hewitt brokered a meeting last fall between Pruitt and Hewitt’s law firm to clean up a polluted Superfund site near Hewitt’s home in Orange County, California. The story, based on records obtained by the Sierra Club from a Freedom of Information Act request, explains:

Hewitt, a resident of Orange County whose son James works in EPA’s press office, emailed Pruitt in September to set up a meeting between the administrator and the law firm Larson O’Brien, which employs Hewitt and represents the Orange County Water District.

Hewitt is a partner at the law firm; last May, the firm announced that it was opening a Washington, D.C. office because Hewitt had recently relocated to D.C., and because the firm represents “clients before the US Department of Justice, the Securities and Exchange Commission [SEC], and the Environmental Protection Agency.”

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But despite these obvious conflicts of interest, MSNBC and the Post have allowed Hewitt to be a cheerleader for Pruitt, the EPA, and the entire Trump administration.

Indeed, ever since Pruitt “fast-tracked” the cleanup of the Orange County site, Politico notes Hewitt has been a strong defender of Pruitt. In April, for instance, he called the EPA administrator’s ethics controversies “nonsense scandals” on MSNBC and claimed the naysayers were “just trying to stop the deregulation effort.”

Despite all this, on Wednesday, MSNBC merely released a statement saying Hewitt “was given a verbal warning as such activity is a violation of our standards.”

The very same day, however, Media Matters reported on another conflict. Hewitt had repeatedly praised Trump’s efforts to weaken the Clean Water Act on MSBNC without disclosing that “one of his law firm’s clients is an oil and gas company that is currently litigating allegations it violated the environmental law.”

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The Washington Post had similarly let Hewitt write several columns praising Pruitt without disclosing the conflict of interest with Hewitt’s law firm.

When queried by Media Matters, the Post’s editorial page editor Fred Hiatt emailed back that he “was disturbed to learn” about Hewitt’s actions and that Hewitt “has agreed not to write about him going forward and has assured us that similar incidents won’t occur in the future.”

But Hewitt’s firm doesn’t just represent clients in front of the EPA, it also represents them in front of the SEC and Justice Department, and the DOJ is inextricably connected to most of the major reporting on Donald Trump these days.

So, there’s no getting around this conflict.

For some reason, mainstream media outlets believe they are adding needed intellectual diversity by hiring right wing pundits who generally promote anti-science propaganda — as if misrepresenting climate science is an underrepresented view.

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The Atlantic hired right-wing troll Kevin Williamson in late March — even knowing he had tweeted that women who have abortions should be hanged along with their doctors. Amid growing pressure, they ended up letting him go after his first column, which included labeling Democrats an “authoritarian” party on the basis of a phony smear about climate change lawsuits.

The New York Times, too, hired long-time climate science denier Bret Stephens last year, and he promptly ran a widely debunked column on climate change.

The Times has kept Stephens around since he serves the role of an anti-Trump conservative.

Hewitt, however, is nothing but a pro-Trump propagandist — hardly an underrepresented viewpoint in a media world that promotes every Trump tweet as breaking news and whose talk shows are filled with Trump allies.

CNN reported Wednesday that Hewitt himself only became a big Trump supporter after executives at the Salem Media Group, which syndicates his show, complained in the summer of 2016 that some hosts were not “supporting the GOP nominee.”

As the campaign editor for The Hill tweeted Wednesday, “One exec tells Hugh Hewitt to start supporting Trump. All of a sudden, Hewitt writes in the Washington Post that he’s going to support Trump after all!”

The question remains: Why is Hugh Hewitt still working for MSNBC and the Washington Post?