WASHINGTON (DTN) -- U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said Monday he was "not familiar" with a CNN story on controversial statements that Sam Clovis, a nominee to be agriculture undersecretary for research, education and economics, made on a blog post a few years ago.
On the call to reporters from Illinois during his "Back to Our Roots" tour, Perdue went on to say stories like that are part of a media campaign against President Donald Trump's administration, and Perdue defended Clovis' nomination for the position.
Clovis made controversial statements on race, President Barack Obama, socialism and southern culture in blog posts related to his Sioux City radio show. CNN published a story on the blog last week after recovering the deleted 2011 and 2012 posts online.
Perdue said during a teleconference with reporters, "I am not familiar with that" and then added that he finds it "amazing how much the media goes back" to find material.
"That is what the opposition does. They dredge up these stories," Perdue said.
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The stories are "an attempt by the opposition over the delaying and smearing of candidates," Perdue said.
Perdue said he "faced the same thing" when he was a candidate for agriculture secretary. It was an apparent reference to stories questioning his attitude about federal nutrition programs and his company's financial relationships when he was governor of Georgia.
When he went into one senator's office, Perdue said, the senator told him "governor, you are not a crook."
Apparently referring to the CNN story, Perdue said it is the sort of thing "EWG (Environmental Working Group) and others opposed to this administration will do."
Perdue said he fully supports the Clovis nomination.
"I have absolute confidence in him," Perdue said.
Clovis, Perdue said, "will manage in fine fashion" and will use "sound science not science from an ideological perspective."
Perdue was asked why President Trump nominated a nonscientist for the position when the administration wants to stress sound science.
Perdue responded that Clovis "is an academician" and that "a scientist is not necessarily a technical type of person. His interest is more in the economic aspects." The job of undersecretary is management, Perdue said.
"This person who is undersecretary of (research, education and economics) is not going to be doing basic or applied research," Perdue said, but will manage the division to make sure that American producers receive "the best science" through the extension service.
Jerry Hagstrom can be reached at email@example.com
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