CNN's Jim Acosta hammers EPA's Pruitt for putting 'head in the sand' on climate change
EPA Director Scott Pruitt at White House briefing (Screen capture)

President Donald Trump's director of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) told the White House press corps on Friday that while he does believe that sometimes the climate changes and human activity may have some impact on that, he dismissed concerns about Trump's withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord as hysteria.

"People have called me a climate skeptic or a climate denier. I don't know what it means to deny the climate," he deadpanned. "I would say they're climate exaggerators."

The dangers of climate change as indicated by scientists and activists are overblown, Pruitt said, then cited an article by recently hired conservative New York Times columnist Bret Stephens -- whose controversial column attacking climate scientists and activists has been roundly debunked.

CNN's Jim Acosta wasn't having it.

"Can i follow up with a question on that, sir?" Acosta said. "Why, then, is the Arctic ice shelf melting? Why are the sea levels rising? Why are the hottest temperatures in the last decade essentially the hottest temperatures we've seen on record?"

He went on, "When NASA says that 95 percent of the experts in this area around the world believe that the air is warming, and you are up there throwing out information that says, 'Well, maybe this is being exaggerated' and so forth, you talk about climate exaggerators, it just seems to a lot of people around the world that you and the president are denying the reality, and the reality of the situation is that climate change is happening and it is a significant threat to the planet."

"What if you're putting your head in the sand on this?" he added.

Susan Matthews at Slate pointed out that Stephens' debut column for the Times -- he recently left the Wall Street Journal -- is intended to advance the idea that "reasonable people can disagree on climate change."

"That is not actually true, and nothing that Stephens writes makes a case for why it might be true. This column is not a lesson for people who want to advance good climate policy. Instead, it is a dog whistle to people who feel confused about climate change. It’s nothing more than textbook denialism," Matthews said.

Stephens is not a scientist. According to, he is a longtime climate denier, a "ludicrous" "dope" who peddles "utterly disingenuous" talking points to advance the interests of corporations and a rigid conservative ideology.

Watch the video, embedded below: