NEW YORK — The Washington Post has told columnist Hugh Hewitt not to write about Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt after it was revealed that Hewitt helped arrange a meeting with the EPA chief and lawyers interested in cleaning pollution in California.
MSNBC, where the conservative commentator hosts a weekend show, also said Wednesday that it has given Hewitt a “verbal warning” against such activities.
Hewitt, who also has a syndicated national radio show, calls it a non-story.
His interactions with Pruitt were disclosed in documents received by the Sierra Club after a Freedom of Information Act request and first written about in Politico. Hewitt emailed Pruitt to set up a meeting with colleagues in his law firm who represent the Orange County Water District, who want a site in the Anaheim area to get priority for a cleanup.
After the meeting, the site was listed in EPA’s National Priorities list, which makes Orange County eligible for federal help in cleaning it up, according to Politico.
On the radio, Hewitt has been a supporter of Pruitt, who has received negative attention for questionable ethics regarding spending at the EPA.
The issue for the news organizations he also works for is the propriety of him seeking assistance from a government official that he might be talking about in those outlets.
Fred Hiatt, editorial page editor at The Washington Post, said he was disturbed to learn of the story. Hewitt has agreed not to write about Pruitt in the future for the Post, he said.
Hewitt has never written a column solely about Pruitt, Hiatt said. The columnist has given Pruitt, who he has called a friend, a few favorable mentions. In one column last July, Hewitt called Pruitt one of the domestic policy stars of the Trump administration. He’s also called him “very able” and said he’s pursuing a much-needed agenda of rolling back regulations.
Hewitt has disclosed, in his columns, that his son James works at the EPA. He works in the press office there.
Hewitt has told of his friendship with Pruitt and his son’s job on several occasions on MSNBC, spokeswoman Lorie Acio said. Because of those relationships, Hewitt has stopped discussing EPA-related matters on MSNBC. But when network executives learned of Hewitt’s role setting up the meeting, “he was given a verbal warning as such activity is a violation of our standards,” she said.
On his radio show, Hewitt seemed bewildered that it was a story, laughing as he read a description that said he “brokered” the meeting.
“I sent him an email to meet with the Orange County Water District,” he said. “They’re very proud of their plan. There’s nobody who opposes this, by the way. It’s an Obama-era plan. We just wanted to get it going. It’s five square miles of polluted water. Yes, I’m all in favor of cleaning up the Superfund site in my home county.”
He said, “we have real scandals out there. It’s just amazing to me.”