MSNBC Verbally Warned Host Hugh Hewitt About Standards Violation After EPA Meeting Reveal

Hugh Hewitt - H - 2016

The networked faced calls for Hewitt to be disciplined after it was revealed that he helped broker a meeting with EPA administrator Scott Pruitt.

MSNBC said on Wednesday that it gave Saturday morning show host Hugh Hewitt a "verbal warning" after learning a day earlier that he helped broker a meeting between EPA administrator Scott Pruitt and lawyers representing a California water district, which the network said is a "violation" of the company's standards.

The revelation came from a batch of emails that were released as part of a Freedom of Information act lawsuit.

"Hugh Hewitt disclosed several times to MSNBC viewers that he has a friendship with EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and also that Hewitt’s son works for the agency," a network spokesman said on Wednesday. "As a result of those relationships, Hewitt stopped discussing EPA-related matters on MSNBC. However, after the network learned Tuesday that Hewitt set up an EPA meeting in the fall, he was given a verbal warning as such activity is a violation of our standards.”

Hewitt has called the issue a "non story" and suggested that coverage of the revelation has been overblown. But, this week, some media-watchers called for Hewitt to be disciplined for what some perceived as a conflict of interest, considering the host's defense of the embattled EPA head. Hewitt is also a partner for a law firm that has business before the EPA, among other government agencies.

The conservative radio host got a light slap on the wrist on Tuesday from The Washington Post, which employs him as a contributing columnist. "I was disturbed to learn this morning that Hugh Hewitt had intervened with EPA administrator Scott Pruitt on behalf of Hewitt’s law firm as he was writing about Pruitt in a column for The Washington Post," editorial page editor Fred Hiatt said. "Hewitt, who has not written about Pruitt since September, has agreed not to write about him going forward and has assured us that similar incidents won’t occur in the future.”

The network, which has been riding intense, never-ending interest in the Trump administration to high ratings, also faced criticism over its handling of another recent controversy, the revelation that host Joy Reid likely wrote a series of homophobic blog posts more than a decade ago.

MSNBC let Reid's team, including a lawyer and a cyber security expert, handle the response. On her April 28 show, Reid addressed the revelation and largely put the story to bed by apologizing for some of her past language, without claiming authorship of the problematic blog posts. Her lawyer had said on April 25 that the FBI was investigating "potential criminal activities surrounding several online accounts, including personal email and blog accounts, belonging to Joy-Ann Reid."