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President Donald Trump recently told reporters the head of his Environmental Protection Agency is being "attacked very viciously by the press." He was likely referring to mainstream media outlets that have chronicled allegations of self-dealing and wasteful spending at EPA for months on end.
But now a growing number of conservative publications and at least one prominent Fox News host say those reports leave the president with only one choice: to show EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt the door.
The latest shoe dropped on Wednesday, when the Washington Post reported that Pruitt tasked an aide with contacting Republican donors to find a job for his wife. Since it was revealed in late March that Pruitt rented a Capitol Hill condo linked to an energy lobbyist, he has faced a near constant flow of reports detailing questionable expenses and allegations of workplace retaliation, leading to several new investigations and bringing the total number of outstanding probes to about a dozen.
The Post's latest story prompted Laura Ingraham, host of the Ingraham Angle on Fox News, to tweet that Pruitt's bad judgment is hurting Trump. "GOTTA GO," she said.
Later on Wednesday, the National Review also cited that story and several others to conclude that Pruitt should be replaced. According to the cornerstone of conservative thought, "we are now at a point where a good week for Pruitt sees only one report of behavior that is bizarre or venal."
"This is no way for any public official to treat taxpayers," it said.
The Weekly Standard was fairly quick to call for Pruitt's ouster. A month ago, the magazine's editors alleged mainstream media had it out for him, but they acknowledged he had invited their scorn by showing a "pattern" of "profligacies" and offenses that did not justify his firing alone, but together constituted a "major political problem."
"As those who view the environmentalist movement with skepticism, we find the whole thing deeply regrettable," the editors wrote. "But we reject the common assumption that public officials should get a pass so long as they hold the right policy opinions, whatever those opinions are."
Pruitt has spearheaded Trump's drive to roll back President Barack Obama's landmark climate and environmental regulations. Trump has consistently praised that work, which includes efforts to revise fuel economy standards for autos and rewriting rules meant to limit emissions from power plants.
But the growing chorus from conservative corners of media threatens to turn public opinion decidedly against Pruitt and to erode his currency with Republican lawmakers, few of whom have explicitly called for him to resign.
In a podcast interview posted on Wednesday, Ingraham informed Republican Sen. James Inhofe, Pruitt's longtime friend and fellow Oklahoman, that top Republicans told her the EPA chief is hurting Trump's standing. She said Pruitt has "bad judgment after bad judgment after bad judgment" and asserted that if Trump wants to drain the swamp, his deputies have to forego personal benefits or else everyone looks bad.
"Let me say this," said Inhofe, "and it hurts me to say this, but I agree 100 percent with you."
Asked if Pruitt should step aside, Inhofe said, "I've seen these things. They upset me as much as they upset you, and I think something needs to happen to change that."
"One of those alternatives would be for him to leave that job. I would say this, that there's a guy behind him, Andrew Wheeler, who's really qualified too. So that might be a good swap," he said, referring to EPA's deputy administrator.
Inhofe later told a Daily Beast reporter that he is not calling on Pruitt to resign or for Trump to fire him.
Correction: This story originally referred to a Washington Post op-ed, which was incorrectly attributed to the Washington Examiner. That reference has been removed.