Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) offered a harsh dose of reality to embattled EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt during a Senate hearing on Wednesday.
Pruitt, whose tenure with the agency has been plagued by scandals like rampant spending, dodged questions from senators on topics from unapproved raises for staffers to his unprecedented (and expensive) security detail.
In response to one of his lavish habits ― he flies only first or business class because of security concerns, according to Pasquale Perrotta, who recently resigned as Pruitt’s head of security ― Leahy mocked Pruitt.
“What a silly reason you had to fly first class,” Leahy said. “Because of a danger to you, you had to fly first class … Nobody even knows who you are.”
Pruitt’s office maintained that he received death threats, but details on those claims are murky at best. Perrotta wrote in a memo last year that disapproving passengers were “lashing out” at Pruitt and that first or business class accommodations would prevent such encounters.
“Oh, somebody might criticize you?” Leahy continued. “You got security people that we’ve never seen before. But you have to fly first class? Oh, come on.”
“According to EPA’s assistant inspector general, Scott Pruitt has faced an unprecedented amount of death threats against him and his family,” said EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox in a statement last month.
Pruitt’s flying habits and 24/7 security detail have cost taxpayers since he began leading the EPA. A weeklong trip to Italy last summer cost taxpayers $120,000.