This is the mark of dictatorship, folks:
President Donald Trump’s habit of singling out reporters for attacks is being adopted by his federal agencies, with the Environmental Protection Agency excoriating an Associated Press reporter in unusually personal terms on Sunday after the reporter wrote a story that cast the agency in an unfavorable light.
“Yesterday, the Associated Press’ Michael Biesecker wrote an incredibly misleading story about toxic land sites that are under water,” the statement began. “Despite reporting from the comfort of Washington, Biesecker had the audacity to imply that agencies aren’t being responsive to the devastating effects of Hurricane Harvey. Not only is this inaccurate, but it creates panic and politicizes the hard work of first responders who are actually in the affected area.”
Biesecker was “guilty” of pointing out the fact that seven Superfund sites around the city of Houston have been flooded as a result of Hurricane Harvey, and that while the EPA claimed the sites were currently inaccessible, reporters from the AP were able to tour them simply by using boats or even on foot. From the original story:
The Associated Press surveyed seven Superfund sites in and around Houston during the flooding. All had been inundated with water, in some cases many feet deep.
On Saturday, hours after the AP published its first report, the EPA said it had reviewed aerial imagery confirming that 13 of the 41 Superfund sites in Texas were flooded by Harvey and were “experiencing possible damage” due to the storm.
The statement confirmed the AP’s reporting that the EPA had not yet been able to physically visit the Houston-area sites, saying the sites had “not been accessible by response personnel.” EPA staff had checked on two Superfund sites in Corpus Christi on Thursday and found no significant damage.
AP journalists used a boat to document the condition of one flooded Houston-area Superfund site, but accessed others with a vehicle or on foot. The EPA did not respond to questions about why its personnel had not yet been able to do so.
For this, Biesecker, a veteran AP reporter has been singled out and attacked by an official arm of our government, in the persona of Liz Bowman, Assistant Administrator of the EPA and its spokesperson, who issued the agency’s statement. Bowman’s statement not only tries to refute his story, but actually takes the extra step of attempting to smear Biesecker himself:
[Bowman’s statement] continued the attacks on Biesecker, saying he “has a history of not letting the facts get in the way of his story” and noting that a July story he wrote inaccurately characterized an interaction between EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and Dow Chemical CEO Andrew Liveris. Biesecker’s story, based on EPA schedules, initially said the two met for half an hour at a Houston hotel.
The EPA statement (which does not even attempt to contravene the facts stated in the AP story) also contains a blanket condemnation of the entire AP agency:
“Once again, in an attempt to mislead Americans, the Associated Press is cherry-picking facts, as EPA is monitoring Superfund sites around Houston and we have a team of experts on the ground working with our state and local counterparts responding to Hurricane Harvey,” Bowman’s statement said. “Anything to the contrary is yellow journalism.”
The AP is standing by its story.
Under Trump, our Government is being transformed into a weapon to attack the press.
And if that doesn’t horrify you, then nothing will.
This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.