New documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by the government watchdog Protect the Public’s Trust shared exclusively with The Federalist show NBC News sought to downplay a key Biden nominee’s links to domestic terrorism.
As President Joe Biden’s pick to lead the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Tracy Stone-Manning, faced controversy for her involvement with a 1989 Idaho tree spiking case last summer, NBC’s Josh Lederman sought comment from the Interior Department whether the administration stood by its nominee for the preeminent land agency.
Stone-Manning had been granted immunity in the case when she agreed to testify against her co-conspirators that she had retyped and sent an anonymous letter to the Forest Service for her friend and former roommate, John T. Blount. The letter warned of 500 pounds of “spikes measuring 8 to 10 inches in length” driven into trees of the Clearwater National Forest targeted for harvest. Such spikes can kill and maim foresters, firefighters, and animals.
“We will not go overboard on it or anything,” Lederman promised Interior Spokeswoman Melissa Schwartz on July 8. “It’s a legitimate story given the position to which she has been nominated. But we will point out that a) she did not participate in spiking trees herself, b) she was not charged, c) this was decades ago when she was in her early 20s, and d) her record is otherwise unblemished.”
Stone-Manning’s early environmental activism jeopardized her nomination to manage the more than 245 million acres under BLM oversight.
Tree spiking is a form of domestic terrorism wherein environmental activists jam 8-to-10 inch metal rods into trees. It was a popular tactic among left-wing activists 30 years ago.
Meant to terrorize mill workers as a deterrent to the lumber industry, the spikes would explode saws when processed, sending deadly steel shrapnel flying upon impact. Two years before Stone-Manning’s group spiked trees in northern Idaho, a 23-year-old millworker lost teeth and part of his cheek and jaw when an 11-inch spike driven into a tree shattered a large band saw he operated.
Senate Republicans objected to Stone-Manning’s appointment as an eco-terrorist whose group’s forest variant of roadside car bombs may still be planted in trees today, putting firefighters’ lives at risk. The nominee also lied to lawmakers about her involvement in the tree spiking case in a written questionnaire, provoking a complaint filed by Protect the Public’s Trust with the Department of Interior’s office of inspector general.
Memories of Stone-Manning’s radical community organizing remain fresh among residents of western Montana. On the Senate floor ahead of the full chamber vote, Wyoming Republican Sen. Cynthia Lummis railed against Stone-Manning as “one of the most egregious nominations to ever receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate.”
Stone-Manning was ultimately confirmed in September along party lines.
Stone-Manning’s nomination was also made controversial by the resurfacing of her 1993 graduate thesis which condemned children as an “environmental hazard” and called for Chinese-style child caps.
NBC’s pledge to airbrush a Democrat official is not the first time a legacy outlet has been found making such promises. Last summer, New York Times writer Elizabeth Williamson repeatedly asked Interior Secretary Deb Haaland to sit for a profile interview. After Haaland’s office refused, Williamson pleaded and seemed to assure positive coverage.
“I do think it’ll look a bit odd since so many of her colleague[s] sent and friends have spoken w[ith] me,” Williamson wrote last May in an email obtained by The Federalist through the Freedom of Information Act. “This sometimes happens on tough stories but rather a mystery here! … I still hope she will reconsider.”