NY Times Forced to Backtrack on Scott Pruitt Hit Piece with ‘Important’ Correction

Scott Pruitt
The Associated Press

On Saturday, The New York Times had to backtrack on a key item in a piece published a day earlier that laid out a blistering attack on EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.

The four-byline piece by Eric Lipton, Steve Eder, Lisa Friedman and Hiroko Tabuchi attacked Pruitt on the grounds he was using instructing aides to perform tasks for Pruitt’s “personal life.”

The error was in a portion featured prominently in the original Times story. It accused the Pruitt of working to help his daughter, McKenna Pruitt, secure admission into the University of Virginia School of Law through the aid of former Virginia House of Delegates Speaker William Howell.

According to the Times, Pruitt’s request came after accepting the job as EPA administrator, which suggested he was using his position as the means for the favor.

However, the letter written on McKenna Pruitt’s behalf by Howell was written on November 1, 2016 — a full week before Donald Trump was elected president.

The Times has since deleted it from its article.

Deleted passage as follows:

As an example, Mr. Pruitt, shortly after taking the E.P.A. job, reached out to the former speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates seeking help for his daughter, McKenna, in securing admission to the University of Virginia School of Law. William Howell, the former speaker, appears on Mr. Pruitt’s official E.P.A. calendar, and he confirmed in an interview that he was approached by Mr. Pruitt and subsequently wrote a letter to the school’s dean on the daughter’s behalf.

Mary M. Wood, a spokeswoman for the university, declined to comment on the letter, which has not been previously reported, citing student privacy. Mr. Howell said he doubted his letter tipped the scales for Ms. Pruitt. A spokesman for Mr. Pruitt said that he and Mr. Howell had known each other for two decades and that “letters of recommendation are normal process for an application to law school.”

Separately, at least three E.P.A. staff members were dispatched to help Ms. Pruitt obtain a summer internship at the White House, the current and former staff members said.

In a tweet on Saturday night, co-author Lipton announced the Times had issued the “important correction” by acknowledging the error.

Correction as follows:

Correction: June 16, 2018

An earlier version of this article included an item that erroneously described Scott Pruitt’s use of his position at the Environmental Protection Agency for personal matters. While a Virginia lawmaker, William Howell, said he wrote a letter of recommendation to the University of Virginia Law School on behalf of Mr. Pruitt’s daughter, McKenna, he actually wrote it while Mr. Pruitt was the attorney general of Oklahoma. After publication of the article, additional research by a legislative aide, Mr. Howell said, showed he had incorrectly stated the date of the letter, which he said was actually written on Nov. 1, 2016, more than three months before Mr. Pruitt was confirmed as E.P.A. administrator, in February 2017. The law school, which had declined to comment for the article because of privacy concerns, issued a statement on Saturday saying Ms. Pruitt had given the school permission to confirm that she had been offered early admission in late November 2016 and that the “application was evaluated according to our usual admissions procedures.” The material about Ms. Pruitt’s application has been removed from the article.

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