EPA official says agency has 'no tolerance for racism' after offensive messages found at headquarters

EPA official says agency has 'no tolerance for racism' after offensive messages found at headquarters
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Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Chief of Staff Ryan Jackson on Monday told employees that the EPA "has no tolerance for racism" and will investigate recent incidents of offensive words scrawled on whiteboards at the agency's headquarters in Washington.

Jackson vowed in an email obtained by The Hill that the EPA will "hold the individuals who are spreading these messages responsible.” He said the EPA is taking “every measure” available to find the person or persons who wrote the messages, and to protect employees.

“If you have experienced these actions or have information you believe could be helpful to hold individuals accountable for these actions, please let your supervisors know,” he wrote in the email to staff. “We need to solve problems like these together because it affects all of us and is a problem no one at EPA should experience.”

Jackson also asked the inspector general’s office to investigate the racist messages, which include the N-word and were first reported by Politico last week.

The all-staff email comes after reports that EPA headquarters has been battling a number of anonymously written racist messages on the whiteboard of the agency’s Office of Public Affairs since the summer. Politico reported that last week’s message was one of at least six since August.

Jackson indicated in the email that the agency still has no leads on who is responsible for the messages. 

In a separate instance this fall, EPA acting administrator Andrew Wheeler was criticized for liking a racist meme on Facebook. HuffPost earlier this month reported that Wheeler liked from his personal Facebook account in 2013 a meme that depicted then-President Obama and first lady Michelle ObamaMichelle LeVaughn Robinson ObamaMichelle Obama slams 'partisan actions' to 'curtail access to ballot box' Michelle Obama on conversations with her daughters: 'Me and Barack, we can't get a word in' Michelle Obama offers advice with release of young readers' edition of 'Becoming' memoir MORE sitting at a sports game looking on intently while a white person’s hand holds up a banana in the foreground.

Wheeler said in a statement provided to The Hill that he didn't remember liking the post.

“Over the years, I have been a prolific social media user and liked and inadvertently liked countless social media posts. Specifically, I do not remember the post depicting President Obama and the First Lady,” Wheeler said.

The agency under Trump has also been criticized for turning a blind eye to race as it's rolled back a number of environmental regulations. Studies have shown that pollution disproportionately affects communities of color.