The spokesperson for EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is under fire after he called a reporter a “piece of trash” when she called him asking for a comment on a story she was working on about the latest scandal to hit Pruitt’s office.
Jahan Wilcox, 35, told The Atlantic writer Elaina Plott, “You have a great day, you’re a piece of trash,” she said on Twitter on Wednesday. Plott was asking for an EPA statement about her scoop that top Pruitt aide Millan Hupp had resigned from her position director of scheduling and advance amid the recent scandals. Wilcox did not comment about the story. Pruitt and administration officials have not commented about the uproar over Wilcox’s response to Plott.
Here’s what you need to know about Jahan Wilcox:
1. Wilcox Was Responding to a Story About an EPA Administrator Who Used Public Time to Search for a Used Trump Hotel Mattress for Scott Pruitt
Jahan Wilcox was being asked about the latest scandal to hit the Environmental Protection Agency and its administrator, Scott Pruitt. Millan Hupp, a 26-year-old top aide to Pruitt who had worked for him in Oklahoma when he was attorney general there, is resigning after reports about her role in those scandals. Hupp was one of two aides given a major salary boost even after the White House refused Pruitt’s request for raises, The Atlantic reports.
Hupp also recently testified before the House Oversight Committee and said she spent her time on the clock at the EPA performing personal tasks for Pruitt, including calling the Trump Hotel in Washington D.C. to ask about buying a used mattress for her boss, according to The Atlantic. Portions of her testimony were made public and a source told The Atlantic, Hupp’s resignation comes because she was “tired of being thrown under the bus by Pruitt.”
While Wilcox only responded by calling the reporter “trash,” Pruitt did issue a comment to The Atlantic about Hupp, saying, “Millan has been a valued member of the EPA team from day one, serving an integral role in our efforts to take the President’s message of environmental stewardship across the country. I’ve had the opportunity to know Millan for the last several years as a colleague, friend and trusted partner. She has done outstanding work in all of her endeavors here and will be sorely missed. I wish her all the best.”
Journalists have condemned Wilcox for his comment about The Atlantic reporter Elaina Plott. About the comment made by Wilcox, The Atlantic editor-in-chief Jeffrey Goldberg tweeted Wednesday, “Always a good day when our reporters get under the skin of classless flacks.”
2. He Has Had Run-Ins With the Press in the Past, Including Threatening to Call the Cops on Reporters at a Pruitt Event in North Dakota
Wilcox has had previous run-ins with the press during his time at the EPA. In August 2017, Wilcox threatened to call the police on reporters in Grand Forks, North Dakota, as Pruitt held meetings at the University of North Dakota, according to the Grand Forks Herald:
When two Herald reporters went to the EERC (Energy and Environmental Research Center) before the start of the event, they were asked by representatives of Pruitt to leave the grounds before EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox threatened to call police, whom he referred to as ‘security.’
A UND Police officer then arrived to insist the building and its grounds were private property before demanding the reporters move away from the center’s front door. An officer had earlier told a pair of protesters the same thing, asking them to cross a road away from the center. The EERC is not private property and is owned by UND.
University officials later said the area is not private, but the EERC is a restricted area. Liz Bowman, another EPA spokesperson, issued a statement saying, “This bipartisan event with the community’s farmers was closed to the press so people can contribute without worrying about reporters in the room and how they may characterize their contributions.”
The incident led National Press Club President Jeff Ballou to say his organization was “looking into” the incident and expressed concern about it.
Wilcox has also sent tense emails to reporters asking for comment, as documented in The Washington Post.
In March 2018, he told the ABC News in a comment about a story on Pruitt’s spending $43,000 on a phone booth, “This is old news; because in September of 2017 we thoroughly discussed why this secure communications line was needed for the Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.”
Washington Post media reporter Erik Wemple tweeted about the latest Wilcox comment, “That’s just more of the same nastiness from the EPA press shop, and Wilcox specifically. It appears to be an exercise in cue-taking from the White House, whose occupant never tires of blasting the press. Why not take that act to new extremes? But one other point: These recriminations from the EPA press office have been going on for months, and where has it gotten them? More piercing, dead-on accurate scandal coverage, not to mention a dozen federal probes of Pruitt. So, perhaps it’s time for a change of tone?”
The media and EPA officials also clashed last month when the agency blocked reporters from several news outlets from attending a national summit where Pruitt was speaking, according to CNN. An Associated Press reporter who was denied entry to the building was grabbed by security guards and forcibly removed from the building. It is not clear if Wilcox was involved in that effort.
3. Wilcox Joined the EPA Staff in March 2017 After Working for Several Republican Politicians & Organizations
Jahan Wilcox has worked for the EPA since March 2017, according to his financial disclosure statement.
According to online records, Wilcox was paid a salary of $131,767 in 2017. His official position is strategic communications advisor.
Wilcox came to the EPA after working for North Dakota Governor Doug Bergum as communications director from July 2016 to December 2016, according to his resume. He has worked for several Republican politicians, including U.S. Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa, Virginia gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli, Senator Roger Wicker, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senator Norm Coleman. He has also worked for the Republican National Committee, the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the Nevada Republican Party.
4. Wilcox Worked for Marco Rubio’s Presidential Campaign & Tweeted During the Republican Primary He Was #NeverTrump
Wilcox worked for Senator Marco Rubio’s presidential campaign from June 2015 to April 2016, according to his resume. He was the campaign’s director of rapid response.
In a March 2016 tweet during the Republican primary campaign, Wilcox tweeted a link to a story about his then-boss, Rubio, and added, “#NeverTrump.”
He also tweeted out several attacks on Trump on Rubio’s behalf. In one tweet, he said, “Marco responds to the @RealDonaldTrump Clown Show.” In another, he wrote, “@RealDonaldTrump sounds like a Democrat as he defends Planned Parenthood.”
5. He Graduated From St. Norbert College in Wisconsin in 2005
Wilcox graduated from St. Norbert College in Wisconsin in 2005, according to his resume. He is a Minnesota native.
His Twitter account features several tweets about his favorite football team, the Minnesota Vikings, and his profile states simply, “SKOL,” the Vikings team chant.