Exclusive — As Ethics Scandal Plagues Wire, Associated Press Files Official Government Request Digging for Dirt on Breitbart News

Matthew Boyle

The Associated Press has filed an official government document request with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) digging for dirt on Breitbart News, Breitbart News has learned. The revelation comes as the newswire service struggles to handle an ethics problem plaguing the outlet and continues to refuse to hold its staff to journalistic ethics standards.

EPA correspondent for the AP Michael Biesecker, Breitbart News has discovered, has filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request digging for communications between Breitbart News and EPA press office staff.

“Pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act, The Associated Press requests copies of all emails and text messages sent or recieved [sic] by Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt’s staff and EPA Press Office staff with Breitbart News reporter Matthew Boyle,” Biesecker’s FOIA request, a copy of which is available in an online document request forum put together by the government reads, adding:

In addition, please provide any emails or text messages between members of Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt’s staff and EPA Press Office staff discussing contacts with Boyle. The documents are requested in the public interest as part of news gathering efforts and not for commercial usage. In the event that fees cannot be waived, please inform me of the total charges in advance of fulfilling my request. Thank you in advance for your prompt attention to this request. Sincerely, Michael Biesecker, Associated Press.

Biesecker filed this FOIA request on August 10, 2017, two days after Breitbart News uncovered emails demonstrating that the New York Times was soliciting—with the help of EPA government union organizers from the AFGE—leaks to hurt President Donald Trump’s administration and particularly EPA administrator Scott Pruitt.

“Freedom of Information Act requests are a standard reporting exercise,” Associated Press spokeswoman Lauren Easton told Breitbart News on Wednesday.

Easton has not answered when asked why filing FOIA requests digging for potential communications between government employees and a competitor news outlet is, as Biesecker wrote in his request to the government, “in the public interest as part of news gathering efforts.”

Easton was responding to a press request sent to AP Washington Bureau Chief Julie Pace about her role in this matter and why Biesecker has not been held accountable for prior transgressions against journalistic integrity. Pace has continually refused to answer questions on this matter–particularly why Biesecker has not been disciplined–for weeks, and therefore, is not standing up for accurate reporting in her newsroom.

Breitbart News’s investigation on the front of the Times‘ leak cultivation process triggered the media, as the emails demonstrated how many in media cultivate government leakers and named many government employees whom the union leader coordinating with the Times’ Coral Davenport emailed as potential leakers.

At first, the Times—through spokeswoman Danielle Rhoades-Ha—brushed off Breitbart News’s investigation into the Davenport and union official leak cultivation emails as something that simply “demonstrates the process of reporting and gathering facts.”

But later, in comments to the Hollywood Reporter, Rhoades-Ha admitted the Times was scared by the Breitbart News investigation, saying, “Stories like this can have a chilling effect on precisely the type of investigative journalism that holds government power to account.”

The Times was hardly the only media outlet to express concern about the Breitbart News investigation. The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple, for instance, wrote an entire piece about it. And now, clearly, the Associated Press’s Biesecker is filing official government document requests in what appears to be a clear connection back to the Breitbart News investigation.

Biesecker has a troubling history of inaccuracy in his role as an EPA correspondent for the AP. In fact, in June, another Breitbart News investigation caught Biesecker inventing an imaginary meeting, one Pruitt never had, to attack the Trump administration—a piece the AP had to correct and retract, then issue an entirely new story. Biesecker inaccurately claimed that Pruitt had met with Dow Chemical’s CEO before making a policy decision that affected Dow’s products. It turns out that no such meeting ever transpired.

Julie Pace, the Washington Bureau Chief of the Associated Press, has refused to answer multiple inquiries for weeks as to whether Biesecker will be or has been held accountable for his inaccurate reporting. Biesecker’s mistake is similar to a mistake that cost three senior officials at CNN—including the network’s investigative reporting unit chief, a Pulitzer Prize-winning editor, and a Pulitzer Prize-nominated reporter—their jobs earlier this summer. Clearly, as evidenced by his official document request here on August 10—which came more than a month after the Breitbart News investigation into his fake news imaginary Pruitt meeting scandal—he has not been held accountable.

Pace has not answered a renewed request sent on Wednesday for comment on why the Associated Press is not holding its staff accountable to journalistic ethics and standards.

But back then, even AP Executive Editor Sally Buzbee admitted that Biesecker’s actions were problematic.

“AP had obtained official EPA schedules indicating a meeting had occurred between EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and Dow Chemical CEO Andrew Liveris and wrote a story saying that such a meeting had occurred,” Buzbee said in a July 1, 2017, statement. “When it became clear that the formal meeting had been canceled, and that the two instead had a brief greeting, AP wrote a new story and corrected the error. AP standards demand accuracy. When mistakes of fact are made, we correct them.”

But again, Biesecker has faced no accountability or consequences for his actions.

The Associated Press had to terminate another correspondent, freelancer Melanie Plenda, this year after a separate but related Breitbart News investigation found that she violated journalistic ethics by sneaking into a closed-press New Hampshire Republican Party fundraiser featuring Kellyanne Conway. Plenda misreported several details from the fundraiser, including significantly underestimating crowd size, forcing the AP to issue a major correction to its reporting. In addition, Plenda had earlier publicly pledged allegiance to the anti-Trump “resistance” on social media. But it appears that Biesecker is allowed to operate without regard for the same standards that apply to everyone else.

These revelations about the latest developments in the journalistic ethics scandal plaguing the Associated Press—that Biesecker has not been held accountable, that Washington Bureau Chief Julie Pace is not stepping up to do anything about it, and that he is now digging for dirt on other news organizations—comes as President Trump ripped the media for this very type of behavior in Phoenix, Arizona, on Tuesday night.

“So the — and I mean truly dishonest people in the media and the fake media, they make up stories,” Trump said at the rally as part of a lengthy rant against the press. “They have no sources in many cases. They say ‘a source says’ — there is no such thing.”

Biesecker did exactly that, as Breitbart News has shown. And Pace has stood by him, as has the entire Associated Press, after he was caught making up meetings that never happened.


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