Pruitt tries to explain his taxpayer-financed first-class flights

Image: Director of Environmental Protection Agency Scott Pruitt is sworn in by Justice Samuel Alito (not pictured) at the Executive Office in Washington
Director of EPA Scott Pruitt is sworn in by Justice Samuel Alito (not pictured) at the Executive Office in Washington, U.S. U.S. February 17, 2017.

There's a common thread that connect several of the controversies surrounding EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt; anxiety about critics of his work.

Pruitt has an around-the-clock security detail, apparently because he's concerned about his personal safety. He's had his office swept for surveillance devices, apparently because he's worried about spies. He's used our money to construct "a secure, soundproof communications booth," apparently because he's afraid of his colleagues hearing his conversations. He reportedly prevents the EPA's custodial staff from entering his office on their own, apparently because he's concerned about his trash. He's requested copies of emails from EPA employees because he's worried about what people are saying about him and Donald Trump.

And now we know Pruitt likes to spend taxpayer money on first-class travel because, well, I'll just let the Oklahoma Republican explain.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said Tuesday that the first class and military flights he takes at taxpayer expense come as a result of the "level of threat" he faces on planes."Unfortunately ... we've had some incidents on travel dating back to when I first started serving in the March-April timeframe," he told the New Hampshire Union Leader in an interview Tuesday, during a visit to the state."We live in a very toxic environment politically, particularly around issues of the environment," he continued, adding: "We've reached the point where there's not much civility in the marketplace and it's created, you know, it's created some issues and the (security) detail, the level of protection is determined by the level of threat."

The comments coincide with a CBS News report about Pruitt taking a very pricey international flight to Italy last summer.

Now, I'll concede I have no idea what kind of threats the EPA chief has received. I also don't know what kinds of experiences he had on flights. Pruitt said he's "had some incidents," and I'll take him at his word.

What's less clear to me is what this has to do with his flight upgrades. I feel like there's a disconnect between the question and the answer.

The apparent threats Pruitt has received helps explain his security detail, but what does this have to do with first-class flights? Is the implication that there's a "toxic environment politically" in coach?