Kristin Mink, the Washington, D.C., mom who confronted then-EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt while he was eating lunch this week, had a simple message for others frustrated with government officials: “Speak out.”
“Turning up the heat works,” Mink said in a phone interview on Thursday. “I think that I was one little tiny piece of so many people working to get Scott Pruitt out of office. There’s been so much investigative journalism, action from so many activists and then me, a pissed-off mom.”
Pruitt resigned Thursday following months of ethical scandals that prompted more than a dozen federal investigations into his leadership at EPA. The former Oklahoma attorney general faced a near-constant onslaught of criticism over his frequent use of first-class travel, the installation of a $43,000 phone booth in his office and a sweetheart rental deal for a condo owned by the wife of an energy lobbyist, among other issues.
His deputy, former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler, will serve as acting administrator of the agency beginning Monday.
Mink, a schoolteacher and mother of a 2-year-old son, set social media ablaze earlier this week after she posted a video of her calmly asking Pruitt to resign while he was eating lunch at a Washington restaurant.
“This is my son. He loves animals. He loves clean air. He loves clean water,” Mink says in the clip to a stony-faced Pruitt. “Meanwhile, you’re slashing strong fuel standards for cars and trucks for the benefit of big corporations. We deserve to have somebody at the EPA who actually does protect our environment, somebody who believes in climate change and takes it seriously for the benefit of all of us, including our children. I would urge you to resign before your scandals push you out.”
While Mink’s suggestion wound up becoming reality, she said she doesn’t believe EPA is being handed over to someone that will switch gears anytime soon. Rather, some worry Wheeler, a Capitol Hill insider, will be far more effective than Pruitt at carrying out President Donald Trump’s anti-environment agenda.
“We can’t be too excited about this for too long because he’s being replaced by a coal lobbyist,” Mink said. “We’re not going to get somebody that’s heading the EPA that’s going to protect our clean air … we’re not going to get that with the president and Congress as it is now.”
She urged others in her position, the “pissed-off moms,” to continue to speak out against White House policies, saying, regardless of nerves, “it’s always worth it.”
“Remember, these are your employees, and you have a right to voice your opinions to them,” she noted. “If you see someone out there and they’re doing a great job, tell them. If you see someone who you don’t agree with, speak to them, too. And take a video.”