A reporter was grabbed and shoved by a security guard at the EPA headquarters in Washington on Tuesday while trying to attend a meeting on water contaminants. Reporters from multiple organizations were barred from attending.
The meeting took place after recently discovered emails from the agency showed that the White House and the EPA hoped to block a federal study on a water-contamination crisis after a Trump aide said it would cause a “public relations nightmare.”
The scandal led to Tuesday morning’s hearing, with Pruitt set to address what he now calls a “national priority.”
But reporters from The Associated Press, CNN and the environmental news organization E&E were barred from the meeting, the outlets said.
When an AP reporter attempted to pass through a security checkpoint inside the building, she was grabbed by the shoulders by a security guard and shoved out of the building, the AP reported. EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox told the reporters they had not been invited and there was no space for them.
“She was not invited,” he told NBC News. “We provided them with a livestream.”
He alleged that a reporter threatened negative coverage if she wasn’t invited.
“It is particularly distressing that any journalist trying to cover an event in the public interest would be forcibly removed,” AP’s Executive Editor Sally Buzbee said in a statement.
When asked if it was appropriate for a security guard to forcibly grab a reporter, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said only that she would not discuss “random hypotheticals.”
Pruitt is a “laughingstock,” Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said during a Senate hearing with the EPA chief earlier this month. Pruitt was in the hot seat over numerous allegations of ethical violations committed by him. Ethics watchdogs and federal investigators have been investigating Pruitt’s reliance on first-class air travel, unapproved raises for staff, taxpayer-funded trips to Disneyland and the Rose Bowl and unprecedented round-the-clock security protection, among other scandals.
Pruitt reportedly said he flies first or business class only because of security concerns. Leahy mocked him during the Senate hearing.
“What a silly reason you had to fly first class,” Leahy said. “Because of a danger to you, you had to fly first class ... Nobody even knows who you are.”