Kate Riga

Kate Riga is a news writer for Talking Points Memo based in New York City. Before joining TPM, Kate was the political reporter for The Southampton Press. She is a graduate of Georgetown University and a native of Philadelphia.

Articles by Kate

After receiving intense backlash from hundreds of thousands of outdoorsy Americans, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is moderating his idea to exorbitantly raise entrance fees at the most highly visited national parks, the Washington Post reported Tuesday.

Over the month-long public comment period, the Washington Post reported that the National Park Service website was flooded with outraged comments from people irate over the proposed hike of entry fees from $25 to $70 at several popular parks.

According to the Washington Post, a price raise is still on the table, but one small enough to avoid driving the incensed masses away from what could be a record-breaking year for visits.

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President Donald Trump rallied behind his beleaguered EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, giving him a pep talk via a phone call on Monday, according to a Tuesday morning Bloomberg report.

An unnamed source told Bloomberg that the President told Pruitt to “keep fighting” and “keep your head up,” and that the administration has “got your back.” Chief of Staff John Kelly reportedly echoed the President’s sentiments in a call on Tuesday.  

Pruitt has been embroiled in a maelstrom of controversy lately, drawing fire for his use of a suspiciously cheap Capitol Hill apartment connected to a prominent energy lobbyist; his frequent first class travel, especially to his home in Oklahoma; and his use of an expensive security detail, appearing to accompany him even on non-official business.

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President Donald Trump heaped more praise upon the Sinclair Broadcast Group in an early morning tweet Tuesday, asserting its superiority over all of the major news networks — except for Fox.

Trump tweeted in support of Sinclair on Monday as well, but only put it ahead of a mere two networks.

However, not everyone is so pleased with Sinclair after scores of local news anchors across the country parroted a script from the parent company warning of fake news and biased reporting. One Sinclair-owned local affiliate, WMSN/Fox 47 Madison in Wisconsin, tweeted out its news team’s refusal to read the script on air.

Steven Poster, president of the International Cinematographers Guild, the group representing photojournalists at Sinclair stations, also joined the chorus of condemnation, per Politico, saying that the command to read the script was an attack on ICG members and “not in the public interest.”

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A Kentucky Democratic congressional candidate has pulled all of her campaign advertisements from her local, Sinclair Broadcasting-owned news channel after the controversy that exploded when anchors all over the country echoed the same script warning of fake news and biased reporting.

Amy McGrath is challenging incumbent Republican Andy Barr in Kentucky’s 6th Congressional District. “Today, I have instructed my campaign team to cease and pull all campaign advertising on WDKY-TV (Channel 56), the Sinclair-owned television station in our congressional district, as soon as possible,” she wrote in a Facebook post on Monday. “Sinclair’s corporate-mandated ‘must-read’ right-wing script on its nearly 200 television stations about ‘fake news’ is itself an extreme danger to our Democracy and eerily mimics the propaganda efforts that authoritarian regimes often use to control the media in their own country.”

I've just put out the following statement to the media:===============“Today, I have instructed my campaign team to…

Posted by Amy McGrath on Monday, April 2, 2018

In the post, she called on all Democratic candidates to join in her boycott.

WDKY-TV Anchor Marvin Bartlett responded to TPM’s inquiries with a statement from an executive at Sinclair.

“We aren’t sure of the motivation for the criticism, but find it curious that we would be attacked for asking our news people to remind their audiences that unsubstantiated stories exist on social media, which result in an ill-informed public with potentially dangerous consequences,” Scott Livingston, Sinclair’s senior vice president of news, said in a written statement. “It is ironic that we would be attacked for messages promoting our journalistic initiative for fair and objective reporting, and for specifically asking the public to hold our newsrooms accountable.”

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Democrats on the House Oversight Committee are calling for greater transparency of a legal defense fund created to assist Trump campaign and White House staffers with costs stemming from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.

Eighteen Democrats signed the letter sent Monday to Acting Director of the Office of Government Ethics David Apol. “The structure of the Fund appears to allow secret donations to these individuals, and it raises serious concerns about whether it complies with ethics, tax, and elections laws, as well as OGE guidance,” the letter reads.

According to the letter, the Patriot Legal Expense Fund Trust, LLC was formed on February 27 to help “an employee, consultant, fundraiser or volunteer” of the Trump campaign, administration or transition team with legal costs should he or she be pulled into Mueller’s investigation.

The Democrats are asking for information about identifying and vetting donors to the fund, how the expenditures will be reported and capped, and how the fund was initially created. In the letter, they request that the documents be delivered by April 12 with a corresponding briefing the next day.

Read the full letter below:

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A third woman is seeking to void a non-disclosure agreement linked to President Donald Trump in order to speak freely, according to a Monday morning Bloomberg report.

Jessica Denson, an employee of the 2016 Trump campaign who worked on Hispanic outreach, has filed a lawsuit in a federal district court to nullify the agreement so she can speak out about what she describes as harassing behavior by one of her superiors, according to Bloomberg.

She had previously filed a discrimination lawsuit against Donald Trump for President Inc. in New York state court, Bloomberg reports, but was blocked when the campaign sought to enforce the confidentiality agreement by filing an arbitration claim.

Denson joins the ranks of adult film star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal, both of whom are attempting to rid themselves of the secrecy pacts and go public with their experiences with the President.

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President Donald Trump weighed in Monday morning about the controversy born when local news anchors across the country read the same script from parent company Sinclair Broadcasting, warning viewers of fake news and biased reporting.  

Criticism of the company’s move has refocused attention on Sinclair, the largest owner of local news stations in the United States. Sinclair reportedly regularly sends “must runs” to its stations, including packages about terrorism alerts and pro-Trump commentary.

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On the heels of ABC News’ revelation that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt lived at the beginning of his tenure in a townhouse connected to a major energy lobbyist, the outlet broke a bizarre story on Friday about his security detail breaking down the door of the townhouse, convinced that Pruitt was unconscious inside. Instead, they found a discombobulated and disgruntled Pruitt waking up from a nap.

The event reportedly occurred on March 29, 2017, when Pruitt’s security detail contacted Capitol Police after receiving no response to their frantic knocking on the door. Pruitt’s security smashed through the glass windows in the door and sprinted up two flights of stairs to find the administrator unharmed in his bed, according to ABC.

It is unclear what caused the panic. The EPA reimbursed Vicki Hart, part-owner, healthcare lobbyist and wife of energy lobbyist Steven Hart, for the damage to the door, ABC reported.

On Thursday, ABC uncovered property records linking the lobbyist couple to the property Pruitt occupied for the first six months of his time in Washington. Steven Hart is the CEO of  Williams & Jensen, a prominent D.C. lobbying firm that has done extensive work in energy-related issues, including leading the effort to repeal the crude-oil ban instituted during the Obama administration. Additionally, Hart works as legal counsel for the NRA.

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The new director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) opened his term Thursday with a speech emphasizing data-based science and the CDC’s duty to intervene in public health crises.

According to the Washington Post, Robert Redfield Jr. is a longtime AIDS specialist, focusing his career on “chronic human infections.” Previously, he directed the Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland medical school.

During the 45-minute speech, he reportedly highlighted the importance of vaccines and called the opioid epidemic “the public health crisis of our time.”

His appointment has not come without criticism, however. He is known to have held controversial positions at the height of the AIDS epidemic, like mandatory HIV testing, and he lacks experience with governmental public health organizations, according to the Washington Post.

Redfield is taking the helm after former CDC Director Brenda Fitzgerald resigned in late January after only a half a year with the agency, when a Politico report revealed some of her financial entanglements, including stocks in the tobacco industry, support that is at odds with the CDC’s position on smoking.

The CDC has received increased attention in recent months even before Fitzgerald’s resignation, when it was leaked in December that employees were instructed not to use certain words in the 2019 fiscal year budget narratives including “evidence-based” and “science-based.”

Redfield was appointed by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar on March 21 and sworn in on Monday.

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In a Friday morning interview on CNN, Parkland shooting survivor David Hogg dug in against Fox News host Laura Ingraham, refusing to accept her apology or appear on her show until she becomes “more objective.”

“I would like to do that,” Hogg said of appearing on The Ingraham Angle to CNN’s Alisyn Camerota. “But first I would need her to be more objective in the way she talks about us. Any time she talks about us on her talk show, she speaks to her audience and she gets this threatening tone about us that we don’t have.”

He added that he does not accept Ingraham’s apology, maintaining his position that her contrition is directly connected to the boycott of numerous advertisers on her show. “She’s only apologizing after a third of her advertisers pulled out,” Hogg said. “I think it’s really disgusting, the fact that she tried promoting her show after apologizing to me.”

The conflict between the teen and cable news host began on Wednesday when Ingraham tweeted a Daily Wire story that detailed colleges Hogg was rejected from, and mocked him for complaining about it.

She apologized via tweet on Thursday “in the spirit of Holy Week,” adding that she was the first to have Hogg on her show after the Parkland massacre and that he is welcome back.

Watch part of Hogg’s interview with Camerota on CNN:

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