During Tuesday’s edition of The Beat With Ari Melber and less than 24 hours before EPA administrator Scott Pruitt resigned, guest host Ayman Mohyeldin interviewed Kristin Mink, the teacher who confronted Pruitt at a Washington D.C. restaurant.
Mink has become quite a leftist folk hero, making multiple appearances on cable television. By the time this particular appearance took place, she had changed out of the shirt that she wore during her confrontation with Pruitt and on an MSNBC appearance on Tuesday reading “Your Founding Fathers Owned Slaves.”
Mohyeldin began the segment by highlighting Pruitt’s ethics problems and playing the video of Mink’s encounter with Pruitt. Mohyeldin first asked Mink what prompted her to go over and talk to Pruitt. She said the entire conversation was spontaneous, saying “as soon as I realized that he was there, I knew instantly that I had to talk to him, that I had to use that opportunity.”
After Mink went into great detail about Pruitt’s scandals, Mohyeldin then asked her “Had you ever done anything like this in the past where you’d seen a politician, maybe someone you disagreed with, and confronted them about issues and scandals?”
Mink responded: “I had not. I’ll say this is, this is not my, not my wheelhouse, you know, approaching strangers in restaurants. But you know I saw an opportunity, and I really felt strongly that…I had to take that opportunity.”
Eventually, Mohyeldin brought up the debate about civility, citing the confrontation of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen at a Mexican restaurant and White House Press Secretary’s banishing from the Red Hen Restaurant in Lexington, Virginia.
After discussing how these confrontations have led to a debate about “the role of citizens, if whether or not they should be confronting cabinet members or politicians they disagree with,” Mohyeldin wondered: “Do you think that what you did may have crossed the line, that there is a private moment and a public moment for these officials and you were definitely in that private moment?”
Mink responded that “this whole debate about civility is a waste of time and I wish that the left would stop talking about it because civility is not the issue.”
She argued that the Trump Administration had no business calling for civility: “the whole idea of talking about civility is ridiculous considering who we have as our President who has done so many things that are outside the box of civility and kindness and goodness.” It looks like the idea of “what-aboutism” remains alive and well in American politics.
Mink also defended Maxine Waters’s comments urging people to confront Trump Administration officials, saying “some people on the left have not been supportive of her, and I think that's ridiculous.”
Mohyeldin then brought in The Chicago Tribune’s Clarence Page, whom he asked to weigh in on former Fox News host Eric Bolling’s assertion that “I don’t think anyone out there on either side of the aisle or the middle would say that what Scott Pruitt has been doing is serving the public, it sounds more like…Scott Pruitt is serving Scott Pruitt.” Page described Bolling’s criticism as “well-deserved,” adding “although I’ve editorialized against this sort of a demonstration in public, I can’t say that it wasn’t well deserved in Pruitt’s case.”
The segment concluded with Page arguing that Pruitt should resign, as Mink smiled and gave a thumbs-up. It looks like Page and Mink have gotten their wish as the President announced the resignation of Pruitt on his Twitter page.
To see the relevant transcript, click "expand."
MSNBC's The Beat With Ari Melber
AYMAN MOHYELDIN: Move over, Lotiongate. Scott Pruitt’s ethics problems are getting worse and his own aides are now speaking out. One aide saying Pruitt asked for help to get his wife get a six figure job with the Republican Attorneys General Association, a group Pruitt was actually once chairman of, believe it or not. He asked his 25-year-old staffers to put hotel reservations on their personal credit cards instead of his, then refused to pay them back. Pruitt’s Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations disclosing he kept a secret calendar to hide controversial meetings. Those are just the headlines today. It comes as we see this video going viral, a teacher, Kristin Mink, confronting Pruitt in a restaurant with her 2-year-old son, asking him to resign. Watch.
KRISTIN MINK: Hi, I just wanted to urge you to resign because of what you’re doing to the environment and our country. This is my son. He loves animals. He loves clean air. We deserve to have somebody at the EPA who actually does protect our environment. Somebody who believes in climate change and takes it seriously for the benefit of all of us, including our children. So I would urge you to resign before your scandals push you out.
MOHYELDIN: All right, Kristin Mink joins me now. Kristin, thank you very much for, for joining us.
MINK: Thank you for having me.
MOHYELDIN: I have a lot of questions. I want to start off by asking you, if you can, walk us through what made you approach Scott Pruitt with your son, walk us through that moment.
MINK: Well, as soon as, as soon as I realized that he was there, I knew instantly that I had to talk to him, that I had to use that opportunity. I feel strongly that it is my right as a citizen. I pay his bills. I’m a taxpayer. It’s, it’s my responsibility as a mother. So I knew right away that I wanted to approach him.
MOHYELDIN: I know that we see a little bit of Pruitt’s reaction in the video but give us more of the context. Did he say anything to you throughout that at all? Did anyone around him say anything to you? How did, how did Pruitt react, how would you describe his reaction?
MINK: Well, as I walked up to him, he, you know, smiled and he said hello, and you know, as I asked for, you know, if he was indeed, Mr. Pruitt and he smiled and, you know, I don’t know if he thought, you know, that maybe I was like a super fan of his who spotted him across the restaurant. You know, but he gave me a friendly, a friendly hello there. You know, and then of course I suggested that he resign. And then he stopped smiling. You know. And then he looked kind of annoyed, I’ll say, at that point. And then as I started listing off some of his scandals and named some of the specifics there, then his demeanor really changed. He stiffened up and he looked angrier and more uncomfortable.
MOHYELDIN: Did he at any point say anything to you about any of the comments that you were making to him?
MINK: No, he didn’t. He stayed silent through the entire thing. He had no defense, no explanation, no apology, no confirmation of his impending resignation.
MOHYELDIN: Okay, so he seemed to be pretty confident that he’s going to be resigning, maybe you know something that we don’t know. Maybe he told you something. Let me play you this sound byte from president trump talking about Scott Pruitt last month.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Scott Pruitt is doing a great job within the walls of the EPA, I mean, we’re setting records. Outside, he’s being attacked very viciously by the press. And I’m not saying that he’s blameless, but we’ll see what happens.
MOHYELDIN: So obviously you disagree with President Trump’s assessment of what he’s doing and how he’s doing his job. Give us a sense of what are some of the complaints that you have against Scott Pruitt as the Head of the EPA? You listed some of the scandals that he was involved in.
MINK: Well, first of all, I’ll just say quickly that it’s, it’s almost funny if it wasn’t so tragic to see our President, President Trump, saying, you know, I’m not saying he’s blameless when here is a man who is entirely to blame for the situation at hand; for the decisions that are being made by the EPA, so I mean that’s just really ludicrous. So good job, Trump. But yeah so, we’ve got, we’ve got the scandals, we’ve got his misuse of taxpayer dollars, more of which is still coming out now. Even his aides are speaking out now against him. It’s time for you to go, Scott Pruitt. Yeah, he’s spending taxpayer dollars on things like first class fights, on tactical pants, a $1,500 pair of tactical pants. What do you need tactical pants for, Scott Pruitt?
MOHYELDIN: I got to ask you really quickly, Kristin. You seem to obviously know a lot of the details involving Scott Pruitt. I assume you’re obviously politically aware, not just from reading the news, but very vested in all of this. Had you ever done anything like this in the past where you’d seen a politician, maybe someone you disagreed with, and confronted them about issues and scandals?
MINK: I had not. I’ll say this is, this is not my, not my wheelhouse, you know, approaching strangers in restaurants. But you know I saw an opportunity, and I really felt strongly that I, that I had to take that opportunity. I’ve been involved in, you know, some protests and things of that nature. But this was nothing planned. This wasn’t something that I was approaching, you know, even as an activist, or anything like that. I really was coming to this as a mother, you know, I was there with my child. And this is a huge concern that I have for, for my child’s future, for the future of all of our children for the next generation. And here is the man who is actively sacrificing our children’s water, their clean air, our natural resources. This man is actively sacrificing those things for personal gain and it disgusts me and I’d like to see him out of his position.
MOHYELDIN: Let me widen the conversation a bit to something that has been somewhat taking place. You’re probably aware with Sarah Suckabee, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, excuse me, going to the Red Hen Restaurant and being asked to leave. Kirstjen Nielsen was at a restaurant, the Homeland Security Secretary, and protesters approached her there as well. And it’s ignited this debate about civility, and about the role of citizens, if whether or not they should be confronting cabinet members or politicians they disagree with. And I wanted to get your thoughts about the issue of civility. Do you think that what you did may have crossed the line, that there is a private moment and a public moment for these officials and you were definitely in that private moment?
MINK: Well, let me say this first, is that I think this whole debate about civility is a waste of time and I wish that the left would stop talking about it because civility is not the issue. Here you have people who are speaking up. There’s no violence involved. You know, this is literally people voicing what it is they care about to the people whose salaries they pay. Right? So if they want to then turn that conversation away from the issues, and to, oh, it’s not the right time, it’s not the right place, you’re not doing your job. If you’re doing your job properly as a civil servant, you want to hear from the people who are paying your taxes. You want to hear from the people who you’re supposed to be supporting and taking care of. So the issue here is not civility. And the whole idea, obviously, this shouldn’t even need to be said, but the whole idea of talking about civility is ridiculous considering who we have as our President who has done so many things that are outside the box of civility and kindness and goodness. So it’s ridiculous to even spend time on this. You know, and I know that Representative Maxine Waters, you know, made some comments about this, and that some people on the left have not been supportive of her and I think that’s ridiculous. We should not be spending time nitpicking people who want to criticize others for simply speaking out about what they believe in. And I think that it’s my, it’s my right as a citizen, it’s my responsibility as a mother, and the same thing goes for everybody else in America.
MOHYELDIN: All right. Kristin, I want to ask you to stick around with me just a little bit. I want to bring in Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page into this conversation. Clarence, it’s great to have you with us. First, let me play for you what conservative political commentator Eric Bolling said today about Pruitt. Take a listen.
ERIC BOLLING: You’re a public servant. You’re serving at the behest of the President, but you’re also serving the public. I don’t think anyone out there on either side of the aisle or the middle would say that what Scott Pruitt has been doing is serving the public, it sounds more like he’s, Scott Pruitt is serving Scott Pruitt.
MOHYELDIN: What is your reaction to that, Clarence? What’s your assessment of how Scott Pruitt is doing and when you’re hearing conservative commentators like that also saying Scott Pruitt is not serving anybody but Scott Pruitt?
CLARENCE PAGE: Yeah, it’s kind of a different experience for me to hear Eric Bolling criticizing a fellow conservative like that. But I can’t say it’s not well deserved. Everyone knows about Scott Pruitt’s behavior and his attitudes have been like. Here’s a man, a former Attorney General, who has one head for the law, another for ethics. He seems to be entirely blind or tone deaf to ethics, certainly. And we’ve seen this repeatedly. And here we have a situation where he is being confronted by a citizen out there in the regular dining world. And although I’ve editorialized against this sort of a demonstration in public, I can’t say that it wasn’t well deserved in Pruitt’s case.
MOHYELDIN: So to be clear, what do you make of what Kristin did and what others have done with other members of this administration, be it Kirstjen Nielsen or Sarah Huckabee Sanders?
PAGE: Well, I’m old enough to remember the original sit-ins down in North Carolina that started the ‘60s phase of the civil rights movement. And it’s ironic to me that in the old days, you protested by sitting down in a restaurant, and now you protest by interrupting somebody else’s meal. However, this is a natural consequence of the atmosphere that we’re living in these days. A lot of people are very angry for a lot of different reasons and don’t feel like they should hold back from at least conveying how they feel. Kristin is quite right, this was a peaceful, nonviolent expression. And it’s one that I hope we can find better ways for the public to be able to communicate with our leaders than having to interrupt their dinners. But I certainly understand why people are doing it this way.
MOHYELDIN: Kristin, I wanted to ask you, do you feel that one of the reasons why you had to confront Scott Pruitt is that other avenues for you may be closed or you felt that his voice, that you wouldn’t have access to him in any other way? I mean do you feel that this a national moment for these types of disruptions and protests to take place?
MINK: I mean, this is the way to have our voices heard right now. You know, Democrats don’t have a whole lot of power in government right now, as you can see. And those are my representatives. So this is the way that I have to have my voice heard. Now I will say, Scott Pruitt, if you’re watching, I would love to sit down at a time when I’m not interrupting your lunch, and we can have a perfectly civil conversation about it if you want to have a talk at another time and you would like to, you know, grant me access in that way, I would love to sit down and talk with you in more detail. I’ll buy you lunch.
MOHYELDIN: Kristin, he may actually take you up on that; the way he’s been asking for favors. Let me ask you though, Kristin, why the need to film it? Why did you feel the need to film this and then put it online? Was it your intent to have it go viral?
MINK: Oh, I mean, I did not anticipate it going viral. I will say that I probably would not have kept my son with me if I had realized that it would go viral. I mean, to me, this was…I was like, you know, this isn’t that exciting of a conversation. But going up, walking up there, I felt safer having a camera on me for one. Scott Pruitt had a couple security guards there a table over, I didn’t know if they would try to, you know, stop me or interrupt me. And so I felt like I was more likely to get to Scott Pruitt if I had the camera there and to be able to have that conversation with him, call it conversation, but he didn’t have anything to say, clearly, and, you know, and then posting it I figured, you know, whoever sees it, sees it. You know, maybe somebody feels empowered by it. But, you know, and of course there was always the chance that Scott Pruitt would say something of value, you know, you want to have that on tape. He didn’t, clearly. But his silence explains.
MOHYELDIN: If he does takes you up on the lunch offer, please come back and let us know because we’ll certainly want to interview you after that conversation. Clarence Page, I want to give you the final thoughts on this incident. Just, what are you thinking about the national discourse with these examples, with Scott Pruitt himself, what do you recommend Scott Pruitt do at this stage given all the scandals that we keep hearing about?
PAGE: I want to say resign. I do believe in a proper…giving people their due process. In any case, though, the level of scandals that he has generated are astounding to me. What’s more astounding is how President Trump puts up with it. I think in some ways he is, once again, showing his own rebellious nature and fluffing up his image by keeping Pruitt on. I don’t see how he is that valuable for the administration. But the thing that…I want to speak, though, to what Kristin was saying earlier about the civility debate. I agree with her that it is, indeed, a shame that we are talking about civility, but only on one side. It’s rather remarkable to me that liberals are bending over backwards to express their civility and call for it while on the Trump side we see very little respect for it until someone is uncivil toward them. That’s a rather one-way dialogue. Kristin and I are both parents and we know, we try to raise our kids better than that. I wish my Washington leaders would behave better than that.
MOHYELDIN: That’s something we can all agree on. Kristin Mink, Clarence page, thank you for joining us.