On Thursday morning, NBC’s Today and CBS This Morning were in full panic mode over Donald Trump nominating Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to be administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, labeling him an “environmental disaster” and the equivalent of “putting an arsonist in charge of fighting fires.”
Co-host Matt Lauer opened the Today show with this outlandish declaration : “Environmental disaster? Controversy sparked by President-elect Trump's pick to run the EPA....The ongoing lawsuit against the very agency he's tapped to lead. And his position on climate change putting a dark cloud over his nomination.”
In the report that followed minutes later, correspondent Peter Alexander proclaimed: “And today, growing outrage over Trump’s latest administration pick....Democrats, blasting Pruitt as a climate change denier, are now lining up to oppose him.” Soundbites ran of Democratic senators condemning the choice. Rhode Island’s Sheldon Whitehouse sneered: “It's a sickening and saddening choice.” Hawaii’s Brian Schatz warned: “This is certainly a four-alarm fire. This is a really the worst-case scenario.”
Alexander then teed up a clip of Environmental Defense Fund president Fred Krupp worrying: “Pruitt’s career has been spent undermining the agency he's been chosen to lead.”
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On CBS This Morning, co-host Charlie Rose introduced viewers to Pruitt by similarly reciting Democratic denunciations: “The top Democrats in Congress are bashing Mr. Trump for choosing Scott Pruitt to lead the Environmental Protection Agency....Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer says Pruitt’s views are out of touch with reality. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said, quote, ‘the head of the EPA cannot be a stenographer for the lobbyists of polluters and big oil.’”
Correspondent Major Garrett piled on by touting: “The Sierra Club said, ‘Having Pruitt in charge of the EPA is like putting an arsonist in charge of fighting fires.’”
Co-host Gayle King liked that nasty attack so much that she repeated it during a discussion with USA Today’s Susan Page at the top of the 8 a.m. ET hour. Page fretted that the appointment of Pruitt showed that Trump “plans to follow through on his campaign promises to really curtail the EPA, curtail some of these steps the Obama administration has taken on climate change.” King remarked: “Major Garrett said in his piece, it’s like putting the arsonist in charge of the fire department.” Page agreed: “Yes, exactly.”
On Wednesday, NBC’s Nightly News and CBS Evening News began the barrage against Pruitt with similar hit pieces.
Here are excerpts from the December 8 coverage on the NBC and CBS morning shows:
7:00 AM ET TEASE:
MATT LAUER: Environmental disaster? Controversy sparked by President-elect Trump's pick to run the EPA.
SEN. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE D-RI]: It's a sickening and saddening choice.
LAUER: The ongoing lawsuit against the very agency he's tapped to lead. And his position on climate change putting a dark cloud over his nomination.
7:07 AM ET SEGMENT:
MATT LAUER: President-elect Trump heads to Iowa today, it's the third stop on his post-election thank you tour. This as the latest pick for his administration comes under fire. NBC’s national correspondent Peter Alexander is just a few blocks from us here at Trump Tower. Peter, good morning to you.
PETER ALEXANDER: Matt, good morning to you. That latest pick among Donald Trump's most controversial. Just this morning, announcing his selection to head up the EPA as the Oklahoma Attorney General, a friend and ally of the oil and gas industry, signaling Trump’s plans to dismantle President Obama’s efforts to combat climate change.
ALEXANDER: And today, growing outrage over Trump’s latest administration pick, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt as head of the EPA, an agency he's currently suing. Democrats, blasting Pruitt as a climate change denier, are now lining up to oppose him.
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Trump’s Controversial Cabinet Picks; President-Elect Picks Up Pace of Appointments]
SEN. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE D-RI]: It's a sickening and saddening choice.
SEN. BRIAN SCHATZ [D-HI]: This is certainly a four-alarm fire. This is a really the worst-case scenario.
ALEXANDER: Environmental groups, too.
FRED KRUPP [ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENSE FUND]: Pruitt’s career has been spent undermining the agency he's been chosen to lead.
ALEXANDER: Trump’s transition team remains unswayed.
KELLYANNE CONWAY: Attorney General Pruitt has great qualifications and a good record as the AG of Oklahoma.
CBS This Morning
7:07 AM ET
CHARLIE ROSE: The top Democrats in Congress are bashing Mr. Trump for choosing Scott Pruitt to lead the Environmental Protection Agency. The Oklahoma Attorney General is an EPA critic and a climate change skeptic.
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: A New Environment; President-Elect Selects Oklahoma AG to Run the EPA]
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer says Pruitt’s views are out of touch with reality. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said, quote, “the head of the EPA cannot be a stenographer for the lobbyists of polluters and big oil.”
7:08 AM ET
MAJOR GARRETT: Spotted earlier at Trump Tower, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, who Mr. Trump nominated to head the Environmental Protection Agency. Pruitt has previously sued the EPA to block what he called excessive regulation of natural resources.
SCOTT PRUITT [JANUARY 30, THE FEDERALIST SOCIETY]: I think the greatest impediment we have in the country today as far as economic growth is not tax policy, it's regulatory policy.
GARRETT: On his Linked-In page, Pruitt calls himself “a leading advocate against the EPA's activist agenda,” and in an op-ed this past May, he wrote the “debate over global warming is far from settled.” The Sierra Club said, “Having Pruitt in charge of the EPA is like putting an arsonist in charge of fighting fires.”
8:02 AM ET
CHARLIE ROSE: USA Today's Washington bureau chief Susan Page is with us. Welcome.
SUSAN PAGE: Hey, thanks, great to be back.
ROSE: So what can we –
GAYLE KING: Just sit right down, Susan Page.
ROSE: Susan Page just parachuted in.
KING: She did.
ROSE: So what can we say about how this administration is shaping up, including this latest pick for the EPA?
PAGE: Well, we have these mixed messages because Donald Trump has signaled, in the interview with Time and the interview he did with The New York Times, a more moderate stance or willingness to change positions on some things like even climate change, meeting with Al Gore, yesterday with Leonardo DiCaprio, who’s been an activist on environmental issues. And yet, his appointment of Scott Pruitt, the Oklahoma Attorney General, as head of the EPA indicates he plans to follow through on his campaign promises to really curtail the EPA, curtail some of these steps the Obama administration has taken on climate change.
KING: Major Garrett said in his piece, it’s like putting the arsonist in charge of the fire department.
PAGE: Yes, exactly. Because even if –
KING: He was quoting someone else.
ROSE: Yeah, quoting the...
KING: Yes, he was quoting someone else.
ROSE: ...Sierra Club.
PAGE: Even if Donald Trump has said maybe there’s some connectivity when it comes to climate change, Scott Pruitt has taken – been a leader in the effort to roll back those EPA regulations on power plants, on the promise to withdraw from the Paris Accord.
ROSE: So what is it about? On the one hand, he sees Al Gore, on the other hand, he appoints Scott Pruitt to the EPA?
PAGE: So I think Donald Trump is the least ideological president we’ve elected in modern times. At least he’s not clearly a conservative Republican on issues including free market economics. But if he appoints to these key jobs people who have a clear agenda, a clear ideological agenda, they’re the people who are going to be in charge on this day to day. And things like the Education Department with Betsy DeVos, or the EPA, or some of these other agencies that – Tom Price at HHS would be another example. He clearly has ideas about changing medicare that may not be Donald Trump's ideas but he's going to be in there every day.