Scott Pruitt, head of the Environmental Protection Agency, on Sunday defended the United StatesâÂ exit from the Paris climate accord, saying it will benefit the country and create more jobs. He also repeated his refrain that questions about President Trumpâs personal views on climate change are beside the point.
âWhen we joined Paris, the rest of the world applauded â¦ because it put this country at disadvantage,â Pruitt told Fox Newsâs Chris Wallace on Sunday morning. âItâs a bad deal for this country. Weâre going to make sure as we make deals weâre going to put the interests of America first.â
Pruitt, who stood beside Trump as he announced the decision Thursday, faced a grilling on several Sunday-morning shows. Viewed as a huge influencer in the decision, the 49-year-old former Oklahoma attorney general has taken a lead role in undoing environmental regulations imposed under the Obama administration.
Pruitt has previously refused to say whether Trump remains skeptical of global warming â and he dug in on Sunday when pressed repeatedly by Wallace to say whether he has discussed the topic of climate change with Trump.
âAs the presidentâs EPA administrator, isnât that a conversation you need to have?â Wallace asked.
âThe focus in the last several weeks was centered on the merits and demerits of the Paris climate agreement,â Pruitt responded. âThe president has indicated the climate is changing; itâs always changing. Iâve indicated the same.â
When asked whether he knows what the president believes, Pruitt told ABCâs George Stephanopoulos that the question is âoff the point.â
âWell, frankly, George, I think the whole question is an effort of trying to get it off the point,â Pruitt said. The bottom line, he said, is that the Paris agreement cost the U.S. jobs.
âWeâve had over 50,000 â¦ coal jobs, mining jobs created in this countryâ in the last few months, Pruitt said. âThis presidentâs deregulation agenda, particularly in the energy space, is making a substantial impact around the country.â
Wallace challenged Pruitt on appearing to prioritize coal-sector jobs over green-energy jobs. âArenât you and the president talking about protecting the horse and buggy just as cars come online,â Wallace asked.
âNo,â Pruitt responded. âI think whatâs also being missed here is when you look at how we generate power in this country, we need fuel diversity.â
David Fahrenthold contributed to this report.