EPA chief claims he needs first-class flights to avoid 'unpleasant' interactions with taxpayers in coach
It seemed like it could be the great mystery of our time: What unspecified threats require Environmental Protection Agency Secretary Scott Pruitt to fly almost exclusively in business or first class? A spokesperson told CBS News on Tuesday that "due to security concerns" the secretary "has a blanket waiver to fly in first or business class," a decision that has increasingly come under scrutiny as President Trump's Cabinet draws concerns over their expensive travel.
In one case, taxpayers footed the bill for Pruitt's round-trip business-class flight to Italy, which cost at least $7,000 and was "several times the cost of what was paid for other staffers who accompanied him on the trip," CBS News adds.
Pruitt offered a glimpse into his air troubles in an interview with The New Hampshire Union Leader on Tuesday, when he said: "Unfortunately ... we've had some incidents on travel dating back to when I first started serving in the March-April timeframe." He added: "We live in a very toxic environment politically, particularly around issues of the environment" and said he was "not involved" with decisions such as those that led to $90,000 spent on his travel during a period in June.
"Those are all made by the [security] detail, the security assessment in addition to the chief of staff," he said.
At last, on Wednesday, Pruitt gave a definitive — and relatable — answer:
WASHINGTON (AP) — The head of the Environmental Protection Agency has broken months of silence about his frequent premium-class flights at taxpayer expense, saying he needs to fly first class because of unpleasant interactions with other travelers.
— David Eggert (@DavidEggert00) February 14, 2018
Still, refusing to fly with people who can only afford coach is not a great look, to say the least. HuffPost's Igor Bobic points out that Pruitt is "a public servant, paid by those some travelers." Jeva Lange