President Donald Trump is expected to pick Sam Clovis, a conservative talk show host who campaigned for Trump in Iowa, for the position of "chief scientist" as the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), reported ProPublica and the Washington Post this weekend.
"If the president goes forward with this nomination, it'll be yet another example of blatant dismissal of the value of scientific expertise among his administration appointees."
Union of Concerned ScientistsThe 2008 Farm Bill dictates that the USDA's chief scientist be selected "from among distinguished scientists with specialized or significant experience in agricultural research, education, and economics," observed ProPublica. Yet Clovis has no science background to speak of.
"Clovis has never taken a graduate course in science and has published almost no academic work—two bare-minimum requirements of any fledgling scientist," Mashable noted.
Clovis is most well-known for his Iowa radio show "Impact with Sam Clovis" and a series of fiery TV ads in which he advocated for Trump during the 2016 election.
One of the Trump campaign's first advisers, Clovis was also responsible for bringing Carter Page onto the Trump campaign team. Page later came under intelligence agency scrutiny for his close ties to Russian officials.
In addition, Clovis helped Trump come up with his "ban all Muslims" campaign promise, the Guardian reported back in 2015.
"If the president goes forward with this nomination, it'll be yet another example of blatant dismissal of the value of scientific expertise among his administration appointees," said Ricardo Salvador, director of the Food and Environment Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), in a statement. "Continuing to choose politics over science will give farmers and consumers little confidence that the administration has their interests at heart."
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One former USDA chief scientist also condemned the Trump administration for considering Clovis for the role, which is formally known as the USDA undersecretary for research, education, and economics.
Catherine Woteki, who served as undersecretary for research, education, and economics in the Obama administration, compared the move to appointing someone without a medical background to lead the National Institutes of Health. The USDA post includes overseeing scientific integrity within the agency.
"This position is the chief scientist of the Department of Agriculture. It should be a person who evaluates the scientific body of evidence and moves appropriately from there," she said in an interview.
Clovis also referred to climate change as "junk science" in a 2014 interview on Iowa Public Radio, conducted during his unsuccessful U.S. Senate run.
"I am extremely skeptical," Clovis said, when asked if he believed the science of climate change. "I have looked at the science and I have enough of a science background to know when I'm being boofed. And a lot of the science is junk science. It's not proven; I don't think there's any substantive information available to me that doesn't raise as many questions as it does answers. So I'm a skeptic."
"As the undersecretary, issues related to climate change would fall under Clovis's purview," noted the Washington Post.