Sen. Patty Murray Opposes Trump USDA Chief Scientist Nominee Sam Clovis

Posted by Brad Johnson Mon, 25 Sep 2017 20:09:00 GMT

Senator Patty Murray, Democrat of Washington State, is “strongly” opposing the confirmation of Sam Clovis, Trump’s nominee to be USDA chief scientist. Murray based her opposition on concerns that Washington is vulnerable to the dangers of climate change, and need government officials who respect the science, not “an adamant climate change denier” with a “deeply disturbing record of racist, homophobic, and sexist comments.”

Murray expressed her opposition in a letter to a constituent obtained by Hill Heat.

Murray is the sixth senator to publicly oppose the nominee, who rejected the science of climate change, promoted the conspiracy theory that Barack Obama was not born in the United States, and argued that homosexuality is a choice.

A growing coalition of environmental, science, and sustainable farming organizations oppose Clovis.

Thank you for contacting me with regard to Dr. Sam Clovis, President Donald J. Trump’s nominee to be the Under Secretary for Research, Education, and Economics and chief scientist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). I appreciate hearing from you.

The responsibility to evaluate and vote upon nominees is one of my most important duties as your senator. I evaluate each individual that a president submits to the Senate based upon their record and experience to make sure they meet my long-held standards regarding ethics, honesty, and substantive experience in fields related to the job for which they are nominated. Whether in committee or on the Senate floor, I ask tough questions about how each nominee plans to move our country forward, to make it more just and inclusive, and to fight for the middle class and working families.

President Trump promised to “drain the swamp,” but with his choices of many Cabinet nominees and other officials, he has repeatedly broken that promise. So many of his nominees have been mired in shocking conflicts of interest or simply have not had the basic experience necessary for the positions they seek to fill. President Trump has continued to break that promise with the nomination of Dr. Clovis, who lacks any relevant experience for the position and is unfit to serve in any office of public service due to his history of racist and outrageous public comments. The president has again put campaign politics before basic competence by selecting Clovis, who served as one his senior campaign advisors, over individuals with knowledge and experience related to USDA, to agriculture in general, and to the agricultural research that is so important to Washington state.

The 2008 Farm Bill added the responsibility of chief scientist to the Under Secretary’s role, expanding the position’s duties and including the responsibility to lead scientific evaluation of evidence and data in order to inform policymaking. By law, this individual must be a scientist, and Dr. Clovis is not. He holds degrees in political science, business, and public administration, but appears to have no actual science background and has never worked in the agricultural economy. Accordingly, he is unable to fulfill the requirements of the Farm Bill and is unqualified for this role. I am also concerned by Clovis’ continued rejection of clear science, as he remains an adamant climate change denier. Climate change is real, and we can no longer pretend it is not. It is impacting families, workers, families, and business in Washington state and across the country. In Washington state, the realities of climate change have led to shrinking glaciers on Mt. Rainier, more intense and devastating wildfires, the loss of crops, reduced yields, and the destruction of wildlife habitats. USDA’s chief scientist must not be a person who rejects science or who questions the importance of crop insurance programs that are so important to our state, as Clovis has.

In addition to clearly lacking appropriate experience and training for the role, Clovis has a deeply disturbing record of racist, homophobic, and sexist comments that do not represent the values of Washington state and are unacceptable for any individual to make, let alone someone seeking a public office. His hateful and divisive words have no place in our diverse nation. Now more than ever, and in the wake of events like the tragedy in Charlottesville, we cannot permit hatred and bigotry to go unchallenged anywhere. Individuals who hold such views have no place being in positions of public trust.

I have been proud to lead the fight against President Trump’s unqualified nominees, and I will keep up that fight for as long as it takes. If and when Dr. Sam Clovis’ nomination for the Under Secretary of Research, Education, and Economics comes before the full Senate, I will strongly oppose him. The chief scientist role at USDA, which drives the agricultural research that is vital to maintaining Washington state’s edge in a global agricultural marketplace, must be filled by a competent professional who believes in science and in creating a sustainable future for all — regardless of race, gender, or sexual orientation.

Again, thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with me, and please know that I will keep them in mind. If you would like to know more about my work in the Senate, please feel free to sing up for updates at

Patty Murray
United States Senator