Scott Pruitt
Scott Pruitt

The Environmental Protection Agency's press office was nothing more than a "fake news factory" under former administrator Scott Pruitt, according to the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, a nonprofit alliance of federal, state and local environment professionals.

PEER, which obtained press office emails via a lawsuit lodged by a retirement EPA official, said the documents show that the press shop regularly discredited staffers who criticized the EPA as they either retired from the agency or quit.

The EPA's public affairs team would then pitch the emails, which trashed the exiting officials, to conservative media outlets, the "war room" of the Republican National Committee and the White House press office.

Paula Dinerstein, PEER general counsel who represented Betsy Southerland, an EPA critic who retired from the agency in July after a thirty-year career, said the EPA emails "detail distasteful disinformation campaigns directed against distinguished public servants."

She noted that the EPA withheld documents, claiming deliberative privilege, which PEER presumes contained even sleazier information.

"Fortunately, no amount of phony spin could mask what a horror show Scott Pruitt's EPA tenure was," said Dinerstein.

The authors of the negative EPA emails have left government service.

Former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler is acting EPA administrator.