We can add another troubling moment in the tenure of embattled EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. He and his spokesman Jahan Wilcox barred some press from a summit where Pruitt was speaking. A security guard even physically shoved a female reporter from the Associated Press out of the EPA building according to the outlet. After public outcry, the EPA reversed course and allowed those outlets barred to enter. The name Jahan Wilcox may be familiar to you. According to reports, he was the Communications Director for Doug Burgum for North Dakota.
In a public financial disclosure report filed by Wilcox and published by ProPublica upon entering the EPA, it was reported that he worked for Doug Burgum’s campaign from August of 2016 to December of 2016. His reported salary was $125,000 to be the campaign’s Communications Director. Not a bad gig if you can get it. Following Burgum’s campaign, Wilcox was appointed to the EPA as a Strategic Communications Advisor.
One year after Wilcox started with Burgum, he returned to North Dakota with his new boss, Pruitt. I was the first to report Pruitt’s events were closed to the public and the press. The second stop on Pruitt’s ND trip which was accompanied by Burgum was in Grand Forks. There, Grand Forks Herald reporters were told to leave the public campus of UND or else security would be called. Who told the reporters they’d face security if they didn’t leave? Reportedly Jahan Wilcox.
Did Burgum hire him because he liked this approach? You may recall in December of 2016, on his first day on the job as Governor, Burgum held a press conference but refused to take any questions from journalists. Instead, he would release a video about his position on the then-unfolding situation of the Dakota Access Pipeline protest.
During Pruitt’s North Dakota visit, Burgum, Hoeven, Cramer, and right-wing media all went along in catering to his press demands. Here is the thing, Burgum and Hoeven didn’t learn from that mistake. Two months later, they did the same thing in Fargo regarding a discussion on the Fargo Diversion. They demanded the press leave the meeting.
The barring of the press and public seem to have escalated as of late. We are quick to point to Pruitt as the poster child of secrecy in public office. Yet, there are examples right here at home. Some journalists I’ve talked to point out how difficult it is to get Governor Burgum to take a moment for them. I find it interesting that a spokesman brings these two examples even closer together.