Documents Reveal Agency Approved ‘Fox & Friends’ Script and Talking Points, Violating Federal Covert Propaganda Ban and Misleading the American People
Democracy Forward, Restore Public Trust Seek Inspector General Investigation to Determine Scope of Unethical, Unlawful Conduct
Washington, DC— Today, Democracy Forward and Restore Public Trust demanded an immediate investigation into EPA’s role in creating content that was distributed on Fox News without any acknowledgment of the government’s role—a violation of federal laws meant to prohibit the dissemination of government propaganda. The letter, sent to the EPA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) follows recent reports that EPA staff coordinated with ‘Fox & Friends‘ on talking points and eventually approved a script that was read verbatim before an April 2017 interview with the scandal-plagued former Administrator, Scott Pruitt.
Fox News sought–and an EPA official provided—explicit approval of an editorial script read on the air by a Fox News host, without any acknowledgment by the network as to the Agency’s role in creating the content. Federal law prohibits agencies from engaging in “covert propaganda.” The Government Accountability Office has repeatedly concluded that agencies violate this prohibition when they fail to acknowledge their role in creating content that is intended for public dissemination–precisely what EPA did here.
“The public has a right to know whether the Trump Administration’s special relationship with the Fox News Channel has crossed the line from unsavory to unlawful. Federal law bans secret propaganda for good reason: Americans need to know when government officials are pulling the strings of ostensibly private news broadcasts.”
Democracy Forward Executive Director Anne Harkavy
“The Trump administration has a history of deceiving the public, and this is just another glaring example. The American people expect that government officials honor long-established boundaries between the government and the press – and shouldn’t be using the media as its own publicist.”
Caroline Ciccone, Executive Director of Restore Public Trust
The Trump Administration’s special relationship with the Fox News Channel extends beyond the number of interviews the Administration has granted the cable network over other media outlets. The Administration has long relied on Fox News personalities to fill essential government roles including:
- White House Communications Director and former Fox News Co-President Bill Shine. Four senators have expressed concern that Shine may be breaking conflict of interest laws by continuing to receive $7 million in payouts from the Fox Network; and
- U.S. State Department Spokeswoman and former Fox & Friends host Heather Nauert. Nauert is currently President Trump’s nominee for UN Ambassador; and
- White House Director of Strategic Communications and former Fox News correspondent Mercedes Schlapp.
The letter was sent December 13, 2018.
Democracy Forward is a nonprofit legal organization that scrutinizes Executive Branch activity across policy areas, represents clients in litigation to challenge unlawful actions, and educates the public when the White House or federal agencies break the law.
Restore Public Trust is a non-partisan public interest group focused on exposing corruption and malfeasance at the highest levels of government. We strive to educate the public and policymakers on these important issues. We are a critical resource for elected officials investigating public corruption; Americans looking for more information about what their government is or isn’t doing to advocate on their behalf; and journalists examining the alleged malfeasance of government officials.