In April 2017, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show inspired one drunken fan to issue death threats against Republicans Mitch McConnell and Scott Pruitt. Those threats were serious enough to spark an FBI investigation.
An unidentified person from Paragould, Ark. admitted to sending threatening tweets against the Senate majority leader and Environmental Protection Agency administrator, according to the EPA’s inspector general investigation document, originally reported by E&E News.
When confronted by authorities, the liberal fan claimed that the threatening tweets were meant as a “flippant comment” that went out as a result of “drinking while watching the Rachel Maddow show.”
The Office of Investigations took the threats seriously and opened a joint inquiry with the FBI, the Joint Terrorism Task Force, and the Tulsa Police Department in Oklahoma.
The case report was entitled, “Twitter Threat to Murder Administrator Scott Pruitt and Senator Mitch McConnell.”
The tweets, which were issued on April 8, 2017, were directed at McConnell, and the individual said they also included Pruitt because they did “not like Administrator Pruitt’s record of suing the EPA.”
During that night’s episode (see below), Maddow discussed the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, calling McConnell and Republicans “radical” for ending the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees.
“When Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died on a ranch in western Texas last year, only a few hours had passed before the top Republican in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, said that President Obama wouldn’t be allowed to put a justice on the court to replace Justice Scalia,” Maddow said. “He said, quote, ‘This vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.'”
Obviously disappointed that Gorsuch would be sworn in, Maddow told her viewers, “There’s nothing anybody can do about it. Republicans got rid of Senate rules that have been there forever in order to get Neil Gorsuch confirmed to that seat. It’s done. He will be sworn in on Monday. There’s nothing anybody can do about it.”
Calling Gorsuch’s confirmation “so radical,” Maddow invited Dahlia Lithwick, a senior editor at Slate, to comment.
“What we learned and we learn when Mitch McConnell said that obstructing Merrick Garland was one of the proudest moments of his career, that this is about power now,” was Lithwick’s opinion.
After agents discovered the threatening tweets on April 9, they questioned the suspect on April 12 and investigated them for violating title 18 of the U.S. code for “influencing, impeding, or retaliating against a federal official by threatening.”
The individual reportedly apologized to special agents, claiming no intent “to threaten anyone.”
The findings of the investigation were presented to the assistant United States attorney in the Eastern District of Arkansas, which declined prosecution, according to The Washington Examiner.
Since he took over as head of the EPA under Trump, Pruitt has received an unprecedented number of death threats. As a result, he has to have a 24-hour security detail, costing taxpayers $2 million per year.