Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke at an event Kansas on Friday, where he fielded a question from a Kansas State University physics professor who asked a very good question.
"As you know, there have been an exodus of scientists across many of the federal agencies. This exodus has been driven largely because the results of their work has been suppressed. Indeed, recently a well-regarded physicist/chemist Dr. Rod Schoonover left the U.S. Department of State due to the suppression of even a security-cleared version of his assessment on the impact of climate change on national security. I add parenthetically that, in my opinion, the Department of State can ill afford the loss of any good scientists."My question is: Do you support the suppression of scientific reports from within the U.S. Department of State? If not, how did this happen? And if so, why?"
Pompeo was less impressed with the question than I was.
"Well, it won't shock you that I disagree with most of what you just said. Of course, no one supports the absence of science. I would argue that this State Department -- indeed, this administration -- has relied on science far more than the previous administration, and I would argue more than any administration in history. [...]"We turn to scientists and facts-based approaches to every single difficult challenge we face every day."
I realize the cabinet secretary was able to say all of this with a straight face. That's part of the problem. The idea that the Trump administration has set a historically high bar, relying on science in ways that exceed every administration in the history of the country, is completely bonkers.
Indeed, the timing of Pompeo's comments was almost comical: the same day the Kansas Republican praised Team Trump's handling of science, Trump's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration threw National Weather Service scientists under the bus for daring to tell the public truths the president didn't like.
The ridiculous incident signaled to scientists throughout the government that there's an expectation their work will be in accordance with the White House's political vision.
Alas, Friday wasn't an especially unusual day. As you've probably seen Rachel report on the show in recent months, the administration has also gone to absurd lengths to force out career scientists at the USDA whose work has proved inconvenient to the White House.
What's more, Trump's choice to be the chief scientist at the USDA wasn't actually a scientist.
Similarly, Politico reported in June, "The Trump administration has refused to publicize dozens of government-funded studies that carry warnings about the effects of climate change, defying a longstanding practice of touting such findings by the Agriculture Department's acclaimed in-house scientists."
EPA scientists have hardly fared any better, not just on the climate crisis, but also on issues such as exposure to potentially dangerous chemicals.
What's more, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy was largely empty for quite a while after Trump took office. It finally received a Senate-confirmed director this year, after the office was vacant for two years.
By any sensible measure, the Trump administration is among the worst ever seen for respecting, valuing, and following science. For Pompeo to publicly insist the opposite is a reminder of the secretary of State's non-existent credibility.