The Environmental Protection Agency administrator’s habit for taking costly first-class flights using taxpayer money has caused significant controversy over the last few days. The EPA insists Pruitt can’t fly coach for security reasons, but hasn’t elaborated. Information about why first class is safer than coach, or what kinds of threats they believe first class will protect Pruitt from, will have to be obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests, an EPA spokesperson said.
But a report last month in E&E News revealed some of the threats made against Pruitt in 2017—and the cost of protecting him. Pruitt has 24/7 security detail, which “cost $832,735.40 in salary and travel expenses for his first quarter at the agency,” E&E reported. “If that spending keeps pace for Pruitt’s first year at EPA, his security detail will cost more than $2 million.”
Here are the threats cited by E&E, which obtained the information through a FOIA request:
- An Arkansas woman sent a “threatening post” on Twitter directed partially at Pruitt. The woman later said she had been “drinking watching the Rachel Maddow show” and was sorry.
- An Ohio man sent Pruitt an “obscene postcard” which contained no specific threat. The man later apologized.
- About a week before Pruitt was sworn in, a woman “became loud and disorderly” in the EPA headquarters lobby. As a security officer tried to console her, she grabbed his weapon, and during a tussle she “discharged the weapon into the arm rests of the chairs.” The officer was able to retrieve the weapon and arrest her. She was later found to have a “severe mental disorder” and was ordered hospitalized.
These are not the only threats made against Pruitt or the EPA. They’re just the only ones that have been made public so far. Pruitt reportedly does get far more threats than previous EPA administrators did, and he said in October that “it’s not just me—it’s family.” The EPA won’t comment on specific threats, but perhaps it should, because it’s hard to see why taxpayers should be footing the bill for millions in security and thousands in first-class flights based on the information available.
Update: Pruitt speaks! Associated Press correspondent David Eggert reported Wednesday afternoon that the administrator said he needs to fly first class to avoid, in Eggert’s words, “unpleasant interactions with other travelers.”