Kristin Mink saw protesters confront Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen at a DC Mexican restaurant. She read about the owner of a Virginia restaurant owner who kicked out White House press secretary Sarah Sanders. And she heard Congresswoman Maxine Waters call on citizens to “push back” on Trump Cabinet members they encounter in their daily lives.
So when Mink, a sixth-grade teacher in the DC area, spotted Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt at lunch on Monday, she knew she had to say something. “It wasn’t part of my conscious calculation, but I think that being aware of those [other confrontations] and having seen those probably did play into the fact that the first thing that popped into my head was, ‘Oh, here’s a public official, I have the right and the responsibility to talk to this person,” Mink says.
Mink, her husband, and her 2-year-old son were taking some out-of-town relatives to the Newseum and had stopped at Teaism, a Japanese cafe in Penn Quarter, for a bite to eat. Mink’s husband was the first to spot Pruitt.
“I know Pruitt is pretty private about his whereabouts and doesn’t share a lot of information with the press,” Mink says. “So clearly this was an opportunity that I did not want to pass up.”
Mink wanted to speak from the heart, but she quickly scribbled down a couple talking points, knowing that she’d be nervous and unsure how Pruitt would respond. Holding her son in her arms, Mink approached the basement table where Pruitt was dining with one other person. Her husband filmed.
“This is my son. He loves animals. He loves clean air. He loves clean water,” she told Pruitt. “Meanwhile, you’re slashing strong fuel standards for cars and trucks for the benefit of big corporations. You’ve been paying about $50 a night to stay in a DC condo that’s connected to an energy lobbying firm while approving their dirty sands pipeline.”
Pruitt looked Mink in the eyes as she spoke, occasionally summoning a grimace. He did not say anything in response.
“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,” Mink told Pruitt. “So I would urge you to resign before your scandals push you out.”
EPA head Scott Pruitt was 3 tables away as I ate lunch with my child. I had to say something. This man is directly and significantly harming my child’s — and every child’s — health and future with decisions to roll back environmental regulations for the benefit of big corporations, while he uses taxpayer money to fund a lavish lifestyle. He’s corrupt, he’s a liar, he’s a climate change denier, and as a public servant, he should not be able to go out in public without hearing from the citizens he’s hurting. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency U.S. EPA Administrator Scott PruittETA: You don’t have to wait til your next Pruitt sighting to take action! Click here to help Boot Pruitt! https://www.addup.org/campaigns/boot-pruitt
Posted by Kristin Mink on Monday, July 2, 2018
As Mink turned away, Pruitt, accompanied by two security personnel, got up. By the time she got back to her table, they were gone.
Mink says it was important to her to confront Pruitt with her child. “My son is a big part of what makes this feel so personal,” she says. “I want Scott Pruitt to have to think about that next generation—those children who are going to grow up in a world that he is making less safe, less clean.”
By posting the video, Mink also hopes that she’ll empower others to speak up to public officials they encounter in restaurants or on the street.
“They have the responsibility to hear us too, and they should expect that. That is completely fair and reasonable,” Mink says. “There is nothing uncivil about it.”