The Union of Concerned Scientists and other fact-based organizations have objected to Donald Trump’s nomination of Iowa’s Sam Clovis, a non-scientist, to be the top scientist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). But Clovis may be a better fit in the Trump-era USDA than his critics suspect, since the department is now saying some of Clovis’ old radio show rants were based on “solid research and data.”
Prior to joining Trump’s presidential campaign in August 2015, Clovis was best known for hosting “Impact with Sam Clovis” on KSCJ-AM in Sioux City. It was a standard rightwing radio talk show that gained Clovis a following among the tea-party wing of Iowa’s Republican Party, while he was teaching business and public administration at Morningside College, a small liberal arts school. On Wednesday, CNN published a story based on several posts Clovis published on the show’s official blog in 2011 and 2012.
In the posts, Clovis accuses the “Amoral Left” of wanting to “to enslave people in a way of life that drains the very heart out of an individual,” and disparages progressive African American leaders as “race-traders” [sic].
In a January 2012 post, Clovis called President Obama “inherently dishonest, a pathological liar” and “a Maoist, anti-colonialist who is also a pathological narcissist.” The Obama administration’s reliance on well-established science and respected academic research led Clovis to accuse it of “conducting a nefarious, sinister propaganda campaign against the citizens they have sworn to protect.” Clovis also wrote a post claiming the Obama administration might decide to assassinate American conservatives.
“Possible? You bet,” Clovis concluded in that October 2011 post. “Probable? Who knows.” [sic]
None of these claims is surprising to anyone acquainted rightwing talk radio during the Obama years. Nor is it surprising that none of these claims has any basis in fact. But what was surprising was the official USDA response when CNN asked the department for a comment on Clovis’ claims.
A spokesperson for the USDA said, “Dr. Clovis is a proud conservative and a proud American. All of his reporting either on the air or in writing over the course of his career has been based on solid research and data. He is after all an academic.”
It’s unprecedented for a federal government agency to issue a statement describing baseless insults aimed at a U.S. president as “based on solid research and data.” Or to offer an implicit defense of wild, fact-free claims, like ones Clovis made about the “nefarious, sinister” actions and intentions of President Obama’s administration.
Little Village contacted the USDA and asked it if was now the department’s official position that the claims in Clovis’ posts were based on solid facts, but has not yet received a reply.
This post will be updated when the USDA replies.