A New York Times story that contradicted claims of wrongdoing against U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt was quietly edited after publication to remove lines that challenged the talking points of environmental activist groups.

The Feb. 22 story was about thousands of newly released e-mails from Pruitt’s time as Oklahoma attorney general, showing communications between his office and the state’s energy industry. Environmental activists claim those discussions about how to challenge environmental regulations issued by the Obama administration should disqualify Pruitt from leading the EPA.

The Sierra Club, for example, claims Pruitt is “unfit to serve” and the e-mails released this week “are as bad as we thought,” according to the group’s executive director Michael Brune. The Natural Resources Defense Council, another group that strongly opposed Pruitt’s nomination, said the e-mails “confirm his critics’ worst fears.”

But when it was first published, the Times story reached a very different conclusion. “Despite the large volume of correspondence between Mr. Pruitt’s office and the industry players, the emails are unlikely to cause Mr. Pruitt significant new problems,” the newspaper reported. “They do expand on email exchanges or topics that previously had been disclosed.”

Conservative and libertarian news outlets RedState and Reason picked up on the Times’ reporting almost immediately. The Indiana Law Blog also quoted the same two sentences from the newspaper’s report.

The e-mails “turned up nothing that is particularly surprising or corrupt,” wrote Ronald Bailey, the science correspondent for Reason. “It turns out that an elected Republican politician was in frequent contact with constituent companies who wanted to make known their concerns about the impact of federal regulations on their businesses,” Bailey said.

Using the e-mails to attack Pruitt is “another tiresome example of selective political outrage” by activist groups that had very close ties to senior EPA officials during the Obama administration, Bailey concluded.

But at some point after publication, the Times removed the two sentences that undercut the talking points of Sierra Club, NRDC and other critics of the new EPA Administrator. While a correction note was posted for another change made to the story, there was no explanation for the deletion of those two lines.

Danielle Rhoades Ha, a spokesperson for the Times, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Western Wire.


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