early and often

Scott Pruitt Brags About Media Attacks on His Rampant Corruption

Scott Pruitt wants to go back to Washington, where he distinguished himself so recently. Photo-Illustration: Intelligencer; Photos: Getty Images

Former EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, who is running for the U.S. Senate in Oklahoma, certainly has chutzpah. He lasted less than 18 months at the EPA but become a sort of legend, as the Economist memorably put it: “Washington will be a duller place in his absence — so relentless and uproariously grubby were the scandals his roving eye for a freebie and Napoleonic sense of self-importance kept landing him in.”

He was indeed an amazingly energetic scandal machine, as I noted when he finally resigned in July 2018:

… today Axios listed 17 major Pruitt scandals. And earlier this week the Cut published a list of 15 Pruitt howlers, with considerable detail, ranging from his weirdly elaborate (and expensive) security arrangements to his taste for lavish official travel to his low-cost condo rental from an energy lobbyist to his use of EPA resources and staff to seek a high-paying job for his wife.

It was as though Pruitt was appointed by Donald Trump to illustrate every conceivable vice of the swamp he was supposedly elected to eradicate.

Fast-forward a few years, and Pruitt is back in his native Oklahoma, where he served as attorney general before heading to Washington. He’s running for the U.S. Senate seat James Inhofe is giving up, and has to deal with the Falstaffian figure he cut during his last gig in D.C. if he wants another extended residence at public expense. So what does he do? Run an ad bragging about the criticism he received from the godless liberal media, of course:

It’s an impressive feat in misdirection. After accusing the New York Times and Washington Post of trying to “cancel” him, he proclaimed “I’m back!” to “protect the unborn” and “restore energy independence” and “protect religious liberty,” etc., as though these cookie-cutter conservative totems were the beefs the enemies of the people had with him. He even says he wants to “stop government spending,” which is pretty rich coming from a guy who spent $105,000 on first-class travel in just a year, while tripling the cost of his security detail, installing a $43,000 phone booth in his office, and indulging a taste in fancy pens, among other things.

Pruitt’s chest thumping over his unsavory media reputation is reminiscent of the tactic southern politicians of my Georgia childhood deployed when they got caught fleecing the public treasury. They’d attack the “lying newspapers” and even boast they had pulled a fast one over the city slickers. One journalist famously called it the “If you ain’t for stealing, you ain’t for segregation” M.O. In Pruitt’s case, the message seems to be “If you ain’t for abusing your office, you ain’t for MAGA!” Let’s hope the voters of Oklahoma aren’t that easy to fool.

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Scott Pruitt Brags About Media Attacks on His Corruption