Memo To Media: EPA Official's Comments Applied Only To Lawbreakers

››› ››› SHAUNA THEEL

Several media outlets have distorted comments by an EPA official, falsely suggesting that he said "oil companies should be crucified." In fact, the official was using an analogy, which he has since apologized for, to describe a common approach to regulatory enforcement: making examples out of those who break the law.

EPA Official Was Referring To Companies That Broke The Law

Weigel: Official Referred To "Companies That Broke The Law," Not Oil And Gas Companies At Large. Slate's Dave Weigel noted that a reporter asked White House spokesman Jay Carney: "if somebody is saying we should crucify the industry, why is that person still working at the EPA?" Weigel responded:

One theory: He didn't say this was his philosophy toward oil companies. He said it was his philosophy toward companies that broke the law. Here's a fuller version of the quote, which was in the video Inhofe originally put up. (It's been taken down because of a claim by David McFatridge.)

It was kind of like how the Romans used to conquer little villages in the Mediterranean. They'd go into a little Turkish town somewhere, they'd find the first five guys they saw and they would crucify them. And then you know that town was really easy to manage for the next few years. And so you make examples out of people who are in this case not compliant with the law. Find people who are not compliant with the law, and you hit them as hard as you can and you make examples out of them, and there is a deterrent effect there. And, companies that are smart see that, they don't want to play that game, and they decide at that point that it's time to clean up.

[Slate, 4/27/12]

Fox's Van Susteren: Official Was Referring To Companies "That Were Basically Doing Things Illegally ... That's A Big Difference." On Fox News' On The Record with Greta Van Susteren, Greta Van Susteren clarified that regional EPA administrator Al Armendariz said he "was going after oil companies that were basically doing things illegally. He was not and -- not going after those that were doing things lawfully":

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN: When I read that, I was likewise, I thought, why is the EPA administrator saying something like that? I went back to look at the video, and it was on a Forbes website. And what he said -- I'm assuming this is the same video, in the year 2010, is that he said the reason that he wanted to aggressively go after the oil companies, he said he wants to make examples out of people not complying with the law.

He was going after oil companies that were basically doing things illegally. He was not and -- not going after those that were doing things lawfully, and doing what prosecutors do every single day across the country, which is, you know, you go after the people who are not complying with the law and you hope others get the message.

So that's the way I -- when I studied the video, that's what I saw it as.

SEN. JAMES INHOFE: Yes, the problem with that is -- and I said on the Senate floor -- I used three examples. In all three examples, they were complying with the law. The problem was -- let's use Range Resources --

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, that's a big difference. I mean, if they're complying with the law and he's going after them, if they -- if it's ultimately found to be compliant, is different than if they're not complying, but he's --

INHOFE: Exactly.

VAN SUSTEREN: But his -- his aggression in the statement was that the non-compliant one -- at least that's what he said.

[...]

VAN SUSTEREN: Would you agree with me if the company is doing something unlawful, they should be aggressively gone after, if they're not doing something unlawful, they should be left alone?

INHOFE: Yeah, absolutely. [Fox News, On The Record with Greta Van Susteren, 4/27/12]

Media Falsely Suggest Official Targeted All Oil And Gas Companies

CNN's Blitzer: Official "Impl[ied] He Wanted To, Quote, 'Crucify The Oil And Gas Industry.'" CNN's Wolf Blitzer incorrectly claimed that Armendariz implied he wanted to "quote, 'crucify the oil and gas industry'" rather than polluters:

WOLF BLITZER: An EPA official in trouble for implying he wanted to, quote, "crucify the oil and gas industry." Lisa Sylvester has that and some of the other top stories in the SITUATION ROOM. Lisa, what do you have?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Wolf. Well, the official is apologizing for what he's calling a poor choice of words when he said this back in 2010.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AL ALMENDARIZ, EPA OFFICIAL: It's kind of like how the Romans used to conquer the villages in the Mediterranean. They'd go into little Turkish towns somewhere, they'd find the first five guys they say. They crucified them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SYLVESTER: The EPA issued a statement saying the following, it is deeply unfortunate that in the 2010 video, an EPA official inaccurately suggests we are seeking to make examples out of certain companies in the oil and gas industry. It does not reflect our record. The clip of the speech was posted online by a Republican senator critical of the EPA. [CNN, The Situation Room, 4/26/12, transcript via Nexis]

Politico Edits Official's Comments To Omit References To Companies In Violation Of The Law. A Politico article did not include Armendariz's references to companies in violation of the law, printing an ellipsis in place of the remarks in bold:

It was kind of like how the Romans used to conquer little villages in the Mediterranean. They'd go into a little Turkish town somewhere, they'd find the first five guys they saw, and they would crucify them. And then you know that town was really easy to manage for the next few years. And so you make examples out of people who are, in this case, not complying with the law, find people who are not complying with the law and you hit them as hard as you can and make examples out of them. It's a deterrent effect there. And companies are smart, they see that, they don't want to play that and they decide at that point that it's time to clean up. And that won't happen unless you have someone out there making examples out of people. So you go out, you look at an industry, you find people who are violating the law, you go aggressively after them. And we do have some pretty effective enforcement techniques, the fines can get very high very, very quickly. So what these companies respond to is both their public image but also financial pressure, so you put some financial pressure on a company, you get other people in that industry to clean up very quickly. So, that's our general philosophy. [Politico, 4/26/12]

Limbaugh: Official Wanted To Crucify "Legitimate American And International Corporations." After playing Armendariz's full comments, Rush Limbaugh said:

LIMBAUGH: That's how this guy wanted to deal and was dealing with oil and gas companies, legitimate American and international corporations. He hates them, he wants to subjugate 'em, he wants to crucify 'em, just because he can. And he's bragging about how to do it. That's who they are, my friends. This is who the American left is, the worldwide left. That is their plan and their philosophy and their approach for everybody and everything they disagree with. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 4/26/12]

Fox's Baier: Official Said "Oil Companies Should Be Crucified." On Special Report, Bret Baier twice played a selection of Armendariz's remarks that did not make clear that he was referring to companies in violation of the law, not all oil companies. Baier later said "An EPA official appointed by President Obama said that his philosophy, talking to other EPA folks was that enforcement is like the Romans conquering villages, saying that oil companies should be crucified." During the subsequent panel discussion, no one made clear that Armendariz was specifically referring to companies in violation of the law. [Fox News, Special Report, 4/26/12 and 4/26/12]

Fox's Henry: Official "Is Saying We Should Crucify The Industry." A reporter asked Jay Carney "if that is your policy, and if the president's approach going back to the '08 campaign was about hope and change and setting a new tone -- setting a new tone, and if somebody is saying we should crucify the industry, why is that person still working at the EPA?" According to Energy in Depth, a project of the Independent Petroleum Association of America, that reporter was Fox News correspondent Ed Henry. [White House Press Briefing, 4/26/12, transcript via Nexis]

Fox's Bolling: "Obama Has Been Crucifying Oil Companies For Three Years." On Fox News' The Five, Eric Bolling played a portion of Armendariz's comments that didn't make clear that he was referring to companies in violation of the law, before adding "Well, that comment set off a fire storm from Americans who suspected all along that the EPA has had an agenda to crucify oil companies." Bolling then played a clip of Jay Carney explaining that this is not representative of the administration's policies before saying "Hold on there, Jay-bo. President Obama has been crucifying oil companies for three years," following that with video of President Obama calling for an end to oil subsidies. At no point did anyone on the show make clear that Armendariz was referring specifically to companies in violation of the law. [Fox News, The Five, 4/26/12]

Liz Cheney: We Need Policies That "Support Business, Not Crucify It." From Fox News' Hannity:

SEAN HANNITY: I think that Carter's right. I think Carter just about -- well, all right. Let me -- you know, Liz, to me, this election is probably most like Reagan/Carter, and as much as you know, liberalism on display, class warfare, the rhetoric is the same. And the results of the Carter administration, very similar to what we see with Obama.

LIZ CHENEY, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Right. Well, and you know, "The Wall Street Journal" reported this morning Sean that the American people are more deeply concerned about the long-term prospects of our nation than they have been at any time since the 70s. But I actually think Barack Obama is even worse. You know? I think you've got now, you've seen an unprecedented assault on American freedom and liberties from the oval office whether it's what we saw today with let's crucify business, to these restrictions on how our families can operate on family farms, to attempts to limit our freedom of religion. You know, I would post it here that this President that we have in the oval office now is much more radical, even than Jimmy Carter and in that sense, more dangerous to the nation.

[...]

CHENEY: Imagine what that recovery would look like if we had actually had in place policies that understood you need to support business, not crucify it. [Fox News, Hannity, 4/26/12]

Drudge: "EPA Official: 'Crucify' Oil & Gas Companies." From the Drudge Report:

[Drudge Report, accessed 4/26/12]

Fox Nation: "EPA Official On American Energy Companies: 'Crucify Them!'" Fox Nation linked to a Washington Free Beacon article, but has since taken the post down:

[Fox Nation, 4/25/12] [Washington Free Beacon, 4/25/12]

Wash. Times: "Obama Crucifies Business: EPA Official Reveals Administration Strategy On Oil And Gas." A Washington Times editorial titled "Obama crucifies business: EPA official reveals administration strategy on oil and gas" reported that Armendariz was talking about his "rather brutal 'general philosophy' when dealing with the fossil-fuels industry." [The Washington Times, 4/25/12]

Michelle Malkin Edits Official's Comments To Omit References To Companies Violating The Law. In a post at the National Review Online, Michelle Malkin omitted Armendariz's references to companies in violation of the law. Malkin interpreted Armendariz's remarks to mean: "In other words: Suck up, fly left, or face prosecution. The goal isn't a cleaner environment. The goal is political incitement of fear." [National Review Online, 4/27/12]

FoxNews.com Op-Ed Suggests Official Was "Launching A Crusade Against Oil And Gas Companies." In a FoxNews.com op-ed, Phil Kerpen of American Commitment said that "The EPA is supposed to protect the environment, not crucify industries that which it dislikes. But as the sensational video that recently surfaced shows, all too often the agency does the latter." At no point did Kerpen make clear that Armendariz was referring to companies that violated the law. Indeed, Kerpen said "Armendariz seems unconcerned about the economic impact of launching a crusade against oil and gas companies. [...] The Armendariz approach is the opposite of how regulators should behave. They should try to protect our health and safety while allowing businesses to succeed and expand. They shouldn't crucify." [FoxNews.com, 4/27/12]

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