Fox & Friends baselessly linked three purported "whistleblowers" as on-screen text claimed they were "silenced" by the Obama administration.
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On the July 1 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-hosts Steve Doocy, Gretchen Carlson and Brian Kilmeade baselessly linked three purported "whistleblowers": recently dismissed Corporation for National and Community Service inspector general Gerald Walpin, Environmental Protection Agency research analyst Alan Carlin, and Amtrak inspector general Fred Weiderhold, whose retirement was announced by Amtrak on June 18. While talking about Weiderhold's resignation, Fox & Friends also aired on-screen text that read: "America's Endangered Species. Watchdogs Silenced by Administration." However, the hosts of Fox & Friends cited no evidence that the Obama administration had anything to do with the resignation of Weiderhold, who serves at the discretion of Amtrak's chairman of the board, Thomas Carper, a Democrat who was first appointed by President Bush to the Amtrak board on November 15, 2007.*
Moreover, Carlin and Walpin have nothing to do with Weiderhold. Carlin is not a "whistleblower"; the report he co-authored that Fox News is claiming was improperly excluded from an EPA report on greenhouse gas emissions has been criticized by climate scientists. As for Walpin, the White House provided a list of reasons for his termination, which included a complaint filed by the acting U.S. attorney over his conduct.
Weiderhold's retirement came after a report he commissioned yielded conclusions critical of Amtrak management. On February 11, Weiderhold retained an independent law firm to, according to the law firm, "review and analyze several Amtrak policies and practices relating to oversight of OIG [Office of Inspector General] audits, investigations, and operations." The firm's report concluded that the OIG's work was "being substantially impaired" by Amtrak officials:
Amtrak OIG's independence and effectiveness are being substantially impaired by a number of policies and practices at the corporation relating to Law Department oversight of OIG investigations, OIG personnel matters, and OIG funding.
These policies and practices constitute significant impairments to the Amtrak OIG's effectiveness and its actual and perceived independence under the standards of the Inspector General Act, 5 U.S.C. app. 3 ("IG Act") as well as published guidance of the Office of Management and Budget ("OMB") and the Government Accountability Office ("GAO").
The law firm, Willkie Farr & Gallagher, submitted its report to Weiderhold on June 18. Amtrak released a statement on June 18 announcing that Weiderhold had resigned after 35 years of service.
As The Wall Street Journal reported, "citing concerns about oversight at the publicly funded [Amtrak] corporation at a time when it is set to spend more than $1 billion in federal stimulus funds," the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee "launched an investigation" into Weiderhold's resignation on June 29. In their letter to Amtrak Chairman Thomas Carper, Reps. Edolphus Towns (D-NY) and Darrell Issa (R-CA), the chairman and ranking member of the House Oversight Committee, cited the independent report Weiderhold had commissioned and stated:
According to press reports, the Inspector General retired abruptly on June 18, 2009, after he presented this report to Amtrak officials. We understand that Amtrak has appointed a former Amtrak human resources executive, with no experience in the Inspector General community, to serve as acting Inspector General.
These reports cause us grave concern about the circumstances surrounding the Inspector General's departure. We are further concerned that the board and management of Amtrak have compromised the effectiveness of the Inspector General by interfering with the independence and authority that Congress has explicitly granted to the Inspector General by statute.
The letter did not in any way suggest that the White House played a role in Weiderhold's retirement. According to the Goverment Accountability Office, "[t]he Amtrak IG is appointed, and may be removed, by the head of Amtrak." Carper currently serves as the chairman of the board of Amtrak. Bush appointed Carper, a Democrat from Illinois, to Amtrak's Board of Directors in November 2007, and the Senate approved Carper's nomination in March 2008.* The Amtrak board of directors, comprised of Bush administration appointees, "unanimously agreed to name" Carper as chairman of the board on January 30, 2009. Prior to joining the Amtrak board, Carper served as mayor of Macomb, Illinois.
According to the Wall Street Journal report, Amtrak has denied any " 'relationship between the timing of Mr. Weiderhold's retirement' and the report critical of Amtrak management."
As Media Matters has noted, the EPA has reportedly said Carlin "is not a scientist," and Gavin Schmidt, a climate modeler at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, has pointed to "a number of basic flaws" in Carlin's report, including "the complete lack of appreciation of the importance of natural variability on short time scales, the common but erroneous belief that any attribution of past climate change to solar or other forcing means that CO2 has no radiative effect, and a hopeless lack of familiarity of the basic science of detection and attribution." Additionally, in an interview with TPMMuckraker published July 1, Carlin acknowledged of his report, "I didn't have time to fix all the problems -- and they still aren't fixed." Carlin reportedly claimed that he produced his report over the span of "a few days," whereas he "normally write[s] research papers and reports, which take six months to a year." Carlin also stated that he similarly provided global warming reports to the EPA when President Bush was in office but that "[t]o the best of my knowledge, the Bush administration never followed up on my ideas."
Walpin's suspension from his position as inspector general was announced on June 11. The Obama administration provided a list of reasons for Walpin's June 11 termination, including but not limited to the board of the corporation's concerns over Walpin's behavior and conduct, as well as a complaint filed by acting U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of California Lawrence G. Brown regarding Walpin's actions during his investigation into the misuse of AmeriCorps grants given to a nonprofit organization in Sacramento, California. In his April 29 letter, Brown alleged that Walpin and his staff "did not include" or "disclose" relevant information regarding the case to Brown's office; that Walpin repeatedly discussed the case in the press after being advised "under no circumstance was he to communicate with the media about a matter under investigation"; and that Walpin's "actions were hindering our investigation and handling of this matter."
Media Matters has previously noted that on-screen text aired during the June 17 edition of Fox & Friends asserted as fact that Walpin was "fired for protecting taxpayers."
From the July 1 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
DOOCY: Yesterday, we were telling you a little bit about a guy from the EPA who had written a report that was critical of the global warming consensus in the federal government.
KILMEADE: Yeah. He said it wasn't happening.
DOOCY: He said that the temperature's been going down. His report was then discounted and not included in the EPA's final thing. And then remember about a month and a half ago that fellow by the name of Gerald Walpin? He was the inspector general of AmeriCorps, and he was calling into question some of Barack Obama's pals, in particular, the now-mayor of Sacramento and how they had -- he had mis-- and his organization -- had misspent hundreds of thousands of dollars. Well, now we're learning that another whistleblower, a fellow who -- by the name of Fred Weiderhold who's the inspector general at Amtrak, suddenly got abruptly retired after he made some critical comments.
CARLSON: It's all in the words, isn't it? It's all in how this happens. He wasn't fired. He wasn't let go. He was retired. But why? Well, some people are questioning this this morning because apparently he was looking into money and the way in which it was being spent at Amtrak. Remember, Amtrak is pretty much government-funded, and I believe it received a lot of the stimulus money.
KILMEADE: 1.3 million.
CARLSON: All right, so questions would be, of course, for taxpayers, how was that money being used? And if you're the inspector general, remember, these are people who have no political ties, apparently. They are there to be the watchdog of what's going on and how these organizations are spending your money. Now, this guy looking into Amtrak, told to retire.
KILMEADE: Yeah. Senator [Chuck] Grassley [R-IA] said look out for this. A lot of people are scared when they come up with this 80-page report that said how bad Amtrak is run, even though I have a great time when I'm on there --
KILMEADE: -- and the food's semi-good, and I often tip the guy at the end. At least it's edible -- a bit of a surprise.
DOOCY: The conductor?
KILMEADE: Yeah, the conductor. I usually tip my conductor.
DOOCY: He is the guy at the end.
KILMEADE: Yeah, he's got a little --
CARLSON: He's talking about the waiter who's bringing his drinks.
KILMEADE: Right, no, he's usually -- the conductor usually brings my drinks. It's good. Anybody with a vest.
KILMEADE: But here's the deal. This guy's fired. He has no idea why. The other guy that visited us last week, Gerald Walpin: fired. They questioned his sanity; they said he's too old. Now this guy, Alan Carlin, his job -- he's fired by saying there might not be any global warming.
CARLSON: No, he was not fired. His report was not admitted into the final analysis --
CARLSON: -- but he still has his job.
KILMEADE: And he's gotta not feel too strongly about it, judging by the track record. [Rep.] Darrell Issa [R-CA] on the House side and Senator Grassley are all saying we want explanations for these actions. And who knows, maybe if Senator Jim DeMint [R-SC] does come in and talk about his book, we could ask him when he sits on the couch.
DOOCY: He's going to be here in just a minute, but ultimately -- and I think Grassley, the senator from Iowa said these interventions have systematically violated the letter and spirit of the Inspector General Act. Remember, the inspector generals are out there looking out for us. And yet, if they gotta worry about whether or not they are going to be abruptly retired because they are critical of the system, and in the particular case regarding the Amtrak guy, he also blew the whistle on the fact that they apparently have retained a number of outside law firms, and they are shielded from the inspector general's reach. So, in other words, they bring in these outside law firms, and they -- the government watchdog can't keep an eye on them because they're from outside. Interestingly enough, Michelle Malkin sums it up this way. She's got a great column about this today. She said "watchdog out, lapdog in."
KILMEADE: Lapdog in, yep. Absolutely.
CARLSON: Who would want to be an inspector general now? That's the big question. And fear of retaliation. Let's talk about some new polls that are out.
Correction: This item originally stated that the Amtrak inspector general serves at the discretion of the Amtrak president and CEO, a position currently held by Joseph H. Boardman, a former Bush administration official. In fact, the Amtrak inspector general serves at the discretion of the chairman of Amtrak's board of directors, a position currently held by Carper. Media Matters for America regrets the error.