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Not Breathing Any Easier?

(AP Photo)
Stephen Spruiell isn't sold on the response to his earlier complaint about correspondent Tracy Smith's interview with EPA "whistleblower" Cate Jenkins. You can read the criticism and Smith's response and make up your own minds on the matter. I quickly want to clear up one matter Spruiell raises about something I wrote, however:
If Jenkins did not work directly on the Ground Zero air quality issue, what standing does she have to accuse the EPA of falsifying its research? It is because, we are told, she is an "EPA scientist" who knows about these things even if she did not directly participate.
My point, perhaps poorly made, was not to vouch for her credibility. I'm no scientist. The original criticism was that a judicial opinion written about her personal credibility disqualified her scientific opinion on this matter. I simply note the fact that after that opinion was issued, she remains employed by the EPA as a scientist. Whether that adds to any measure of credibility can be debated but I thought it not an irrelevant point.

Do I believe that the EPA deliberately lied about the air quality at Ground Zero? I've seen no direct evidence of that fact, and Smith's piece is clear that the allegation is just that, an allegation and opinion. The EPA's response and the fact she did not work on the Ground Zero issue were disclosed. Jenkins' assertion was basically the same she made in a letter to members of the New York Congressional delegation in late August and was written about in the New York Times (one reason I could have done without the "exclusive" tag attached to Smith's report). That story carried a characterization of past run-ins Jenkins has had with the agency but does not describe them in detail, leaving readers to generally wonder about her overall credibility. I'm not at all sure such an approach leads to a better understanding of her assertions, but, as I said, a similar line could have been included in Smith's piece. She explained why she didn't, you can make your own judgments.

Lost in this is the overall issue of health problems suffered by workers at Ground Zero, which have been the focus in recent days of Congressional hearings, studies and other accusations. Viewers are free to accept Jenkins' opinion, the response from the EPA to her assertions or the complaints about her credibility but it this is an issue that has attracted plenty of attention – and raised plenty of questions. Is there anything wrong with asking them?

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