Al Armendariz, a mid-level official at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) since 2009, resigned this week after conservatives expressed outrage at a metaphor he invoked at a town hall meeting nearly two years ago.
Armendariz, who took leave from Southern Methodist University to join the administration, commented at a meeting back in 2010 that the EPA’s enforcement policy was to find “people who are not compliant with the law, and you hit them as hard as you can and you make examples out of them.”
“It was kind of like how the Romans used to conquer little villages in the Mediterranean,” he said. “They’d go into a little Turkish town somewhere, they’d find the first five guys they saw and they would crucify them. And then you know that town was really easy to manage for the next few years. And so you make examples out of people who are in this case not compliant with the law.”
Critics focused on the “crucify” comment after climate-change skeptic Sen. James Inhofe (R) posted the video on to his web site. The calls for Armendariz’s resignation soon followed. On Sunday, he obliged.
“While I feel there is much work that remains to be done for the people of this country in the region that I serve, after a great deal of thought and careful consideration, I have come to the conclusion that my continued service will distract you and the agency from its important work,” he wrote in his resignation letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson.
Jackson said in a statement that she had respect for “the difficult decision he made and his wish to avoid distracting from the important work of the Agency. We are all grateful for Dr. Armendariz’s service to EPA and to our nation.”
Additional reporting by Brian Beutler.