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Burnett to Tony Perkins: You're cherry-picking

Tony Perkins, the president of the conservative Family Research Council, tells CNN's Erin Burnett that Scott Pruitt is only trying to protect himself.

Posted: Apr 9, 2018 12:07 PM
Updated: Apr 9, 2018 12:10 PM

Evangelical leader Tony Perkins defended Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt on Friday against a growing list of ethics controversies, saying he does not believe "there's anything there."

"The President has been very clear that these things are problematic as you look at them on their face," Perkins told CNN's Erin Burnett.

Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, argued that the controversies and allegations should be put in context. He cited security concerns to defend Pruitt in one of the controversies.

"I've spoken to a number of these Cabinet secretaries who are being threatened and harassed when they get on planes and they're flying in coach," he said. "He's getting eight times the number of threats his predecessor got."

Pruitt defended his first-class travel in February by saying it was for security purposes, citing the "toxic environment" in politics and implying he was less likely to face threats in a first-class crowd.

"This is how vicious things have become in the polarized political environment," Perkins added. "So I think you have to look at that all in the context of personal security."

Perkins, a supporter of President Donald Trump's socially conservative policies, said in January that the evangelical community has given the President a "mulligan" when it comes to his personal behavior.

Citing Perkins' evangelical background, Burnett asked about concerns that Americans may have with Pruitt's list of ethics scandals.

"Do you, though, understand the concerns some might have?" Burnett asked. "They say you're speaking for evangelicals. As a man of faith, a man who defends morals and character. And we are seeing someone who appears to be compromised on that front, but ... it doesn't seem to bother you. Why?"

Perkins said he did not see a problem with the EPA chief trying to protect himself.

"What about the condo?" Burnett countered.

"I don't know all the facts in the condo," Perkins said.

In late March, ABC News reported that Pruitt stayed in a condo co-owned by Vicki Hart, a lobbyist whose husband, J. Steven Hart, works for a firm that has lobbied on energy issues. A Bloomberg report said the deal on the condo gave Pruitt a price of $50 a night for a bedroom, and only on nights when he slept there.

Perkins continued to argue that he couldn't comment on condo controversy because he didn't know the details.

Burnett told Perkins, "It feels like you're cherry-picking."

Perkins denied he was being selective with Pruitt's controversies, but went on to highlight the EPA chief's success at accomplishing the Trump administration's agenda.

"The President likes him," he said. "It's been good for business. The left is upset with him. They're going to find anything they can. And if there's anything there, I believe it will come out."

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