A Hawaiian Democrat schooled Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke after he addressed her with a racist comment.
Speaking at a meeting for the House Committee on Natural Resources on Thursday, Zinke made the inappropriate comment in response to Rep. Colleen Hanabusa.
Hanabusa gave an in-depth history of several family members being placed in Japanese internment camps during World War I. She spoke about how her grandfather did not tell her about it until he was “80 something years old.”
Zinke’s cringe-worthy remark came after she asked him about President Donald Trump‘s elimination of the Japanese American Confinement Sites grant program. The law establishing the grant authorized up to $38 million over the life of the program to “identify, research, evaluate, interpret, protect, restore, repair, and acquire historic confinement sites,” according to the National Park Service website.
Zinke, smiling, tried to say “good morning” but instead said “konnichiwa,” a term typically used for the afternoon.
After a brief awkward moment, Hanabusa responded: “I think it’s still ‘ohayo gozaimasu,’ [‘good morning’] but that’s okay.”
It’s just as bad as it sounds (the exchange happens around the 12:18 mark).
Zinke said the lack of funding for the Japanese American Confinement Sites grant program may have been an “oversight” and added that: “I understand the importance of it to American history.”
The interior secretary drew some scrutiny in October when Whitefish Energy, a Montana-based company with two employees from his hometown, was awarded a $300 million contract to repair transmission lines in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria hitting the island.
On Twitter, people criticized Zinke for being racist.
Ryan Zinke is a bigot.— Matt Murphy (@MattMurph24) March 15, 2018
ryan zinke said konichiwa to a congresswoman and the crowd reactions are very good pic.twitter.com/apa9YYmd7p— Adam Freelander (@adamplease) March 15, 2018
Once a friend of mine accidentally said “Konichiwa” to a Japanese waitress in a Japanese restaurant when he meant to say “Arigatou” and spent the meal so mortified he barely ate and also, Ryan Zinke is racist af. https://t.co/VwsT7RVKzY— shing yin khor (@sawdustbear) March 15, 2018
Remember that Zinke's racist comment was a laugh-line for the garbage who voted for Trump.— Emma says stay home, wash your hands, and make ☕️ (@triagegirl) March 15, 2018
They live for white men belittling anyone calling them out. https://t.co/7wZeh8qwJH
Not a good look.