President Donald Trump managed to sneak a few minutes from his busy schedule of threatening federal investigators to make official his nominee for the United States Department of Agriculture’s top scientific position on Wednesday. Given the tough choice between filling the role with a scientist or someone who is not a scientist, the president boldly decided to go the latter route.
Enter Sam Clovis, who Trump first installed at the USDA as a senior White House adviser earlier this year, and if confirmed will serve as the agency’s undersecretary for research, education and economics. That’s an important scientific job previously held by top scientists in biochemistry, medicine, food nutrition, and ecosystem ecology. The person in that job is charged with directing the USDA’s extensive scientific mission, which includes everything from preparing US agriculture to deal with climate change to advising on nutrition and food-borne pathogen outbreaks.
Clovis, as ProPublica noted back in May, has a resume which includes working as co-chair and policy adviser on Trump’s campaign, but very little that could be called science. His doctorate is in public administration, and his record of published academic work includes a handful of journal articles mostly on national security and terrorism.
ProPublica could not find any evidence he had scientific credentials or even took graduate-level courses in “food safety, agriculture or nutrition,” while he told E&E News in 2016 Trump’s USDA would primarily focus on slashing regulation
In his native Iowa, Clovis is mostly known for hosting a right-wing talk show. While running for the U.S. Senate in 2014, he told Iowa Public Radio he was “extremely skeptical” of the 97 percent consensus among climate scientists that mankind is responsible for global warming, adding, “I have looked at the science and I have enough of a science background to know when I’m being boofed. And a lot of the science is junk science.”
Clovis alluded to a belief that he thought climate change was either just as cyclic as, or caused by, things like “sunspot changes, Krakatoa, volcanic activity,” and added he believed all the hubbub about climate change was “really about income redistribution from rich nations that are industrialized to nations that are not.”
During said Senate run, Clovis also suggested Barack Obama would have been impeached if Republicans weren’t scared of being branded racist. In 2016, he proclaimed Hillary Clinton should have tried a little harder to control Bill Clinton’s “sexual predation.”
Iowa’s Morningside College, where Clovis taught economics for over a decade, is not exactly a fan either. After Clovis touted Trump’s de facto Muslim ban in 2015 the school distanced itself from the professor and called his comments “outrageous and disappointing.”
While Clovis’ ascension is slightly less alarming than, say, the time Trump appointed Rick Perry to supervise the handling of the nation’s nuclear weapons and waste, do try to remember his name if climate change brings the Dust Bowl back and ravages the nation’s crops.