Blog ››› ››› KEVIN KALHOEFER
An investigative report by FOX 25 in Oklahoma City revealed that EPA administrator and former Oklahoma attorney general Scott Pruitt lied to a Senate committee about his use of a private email account during his Senate confirmation hearing.
As part of Pruitt’s January 18 confirmation hearing before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) asked Pruitt in writing, “Have you ever conducted business using your personal email accounts, nonofficial Oklahoma Attorney General email accounts, text messages, instant messenger, voicemails, or any other medium?” Pruitt submitted a response that read, “I use only my official OAG [Office of the Attorney General] email address and government issued phone to conduct official business.” During the hearing itself, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) asked Pruitt to explain why a nongovernment email with Pruitt’s name was listed as a business email. Pruitt replied, “There are no other email addresses, if that’s your question, Senator.”
But on February 24, KOKH’s Fox 25 Primetime News at 9 aired an investigative report confirming that Pruitt had in fact used a private email account to conduct official state business. In the segment, investigate reporter Phil Cross reported that an email he had obtained “shows Pruitt was not only receiving copies of official emails but also conducting state business using an email address his office wants to hide,” adding that “[t]he [Oklahoma Attorney General’s] office confirms Pruitt did use a private email account for public business.”
After airing the clip of Pruitt denying his use of a private email account during the Senate confirmation hearing, Cross explained, “Documents recently obtained by FOX 25 indicate his statement was a lie.”
FOX 25’s report aired a week after Cross first revealed that documents obtained from the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office showed Pruitt “may have used a private email account to conduct state business.” Specifically, Cross noted that “on multiple documents both to and from Pruitt the email addresses for Pruitt are blacked out,” whereas “[t]his type of redaction does not occur on the email addresses from Pruitt’s official government email account.”
The findings of FOX 25’s investigative report were subsequently corroborated by The Associated Press on February 27. The AP reported that “[a] review of Pruitt emails obtained by The Associated Press through a public records request showed a 2014 exchange where the Republican emailed a member of his staff using a personal Apple email account,” and added that “Pruitt's use of the private account appears to directly contradict statements he made last month as part of his Senate confirmation.” Both FOX 25 and the AP obtained Pruitt’s emails through public records requests.
Pruitt is also facing scrutiny for a large batch of emails showing that he closely coordinated with fossil fuel companies to undermine federal environmental safeguards. The Center for Media and Democracy had requested those emails more than two years ago, but Pruitt’s attorney general’s office only turned them over after CMD filed a lawsuit and an Oklahoma judge ruled that Pruitt had been illegally withholding the documents. Senate Democrats had called for the Senate Republican leadership to postpone Pruitt’s EPA confirmation vote until the emails were released, but the Republicans refused to do so and he was confirmed by a 52-46 vote.