A New York Times article Wednesday charged that Energy Secretary-designate Rick Perry didn't comprehend the function of the Department of Energy when he accepted President-elect Donald Trump's offer to lead the department.
The article was immediately popular among some media figures and many Democrats who saw it as evidence of the former Texas Republican governor's lack of qualifications for the position and Trump's poor administrative decisions. It was shared and retweeted thousands of times on social media:
Rick Perry, once proposed to eliminate Energy Dept., then accepted job running it, all before learning what it does… https://t.co/WqC3sTiVZr— Jonathan Chait (@Jonathan Chait) 1484788371.0
However, other observers began questioning the accuracy of the report, noting a lack of evidence to support the conclusions. Sean Davis of The Federalist remarked, "The lede on this garbage story is the epitome of fake news. NYT does not have a shred of evidence to support it."
The article is based largely on a quote from a former member of the Trump transition team. The fourth paragraph of the Times story states:
“If you asked him on that first day he said yes, he would have said, ‘I want to be an advocate for energy,’” said Michael McKenna, a Republican energy lobbyist who advised Mr. Perry’s 2016 presidential campaign and worked on the Trump transition’s Energy Department team in its early days. “If you asked him now, he’d say, ‘I’m serious about the challenges facing the nuclear complex.’ It’s been a learning curve.”
When the Daily Caller tried to get clarification from McKenna, he said the Times mischaracterized his statement:
McKenna, though, told TheDC that the “headline” and lede of the story “don’t really reflect what I said.” He added that “of course” Perry understood the role of the Department of Energy when he was offered the job. Two-thirds of the DOE’s budget is devoted to maintaining the nation’s nuclear stockpiles. The nation’s primary site for the assembly and disassembly of nuclear weapons is located in Amarillo, Texas, a state Perry was governor of for 15 years.
Perry is set to defend his qualifications at his confirmation hearing Thursday. The Times has not issued a correction or clarification and did not respond immediately to the Daily Caller's emails.