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Secretary Zinke criticized for offering Japanese greeting at hearing




Secretary Ryan Zinke, the leader of the Department of the Interior, is coming under fire for offering a Japanese language greeting -- and an incorrect one at that -- at a hearing on Capitol Hill.

"Konichiwa," Zinke said after Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-Hawaii) asked why the Trump administration was eliminating funds to preserve internment sites where people of Japanese ancestry were held by the United States during World War II.

Hanabusa, whose two grandfathers were imprisoned at the camps, noted that the correct greeting should have been "ohayo gozaimasu," as it was still morning in Washington, D.C.

"But that's OK," Hanabusa said.

Zinke appeared to recognize the nature of his mistake but Democratic lawmakers said his initial reaction was disrespectful. Other than talking about an issue affecting Japanese people, Hanabusa had not used the language during the hearing. Zinke did not speak to any other lawmaker in another language either.


"The internment of nearly 120,000 Japanese Americans is no laughing matter, @SecretaryZinke. What you thought was a clever response to @RepHanabusa was flippant & juvenile," Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), who is the first woman of Japanese ancestry to serve in the Senate, said in a post on Twitter.

"Zinke's comment betrayed a prejudice that being Asian makes you a perpetual foreigner. Intentional or not, it's offensive. He should apologize," said Rep. Judy Chu (D-California) in another post.

"My colleague asked Sec. Zinke a serious question about gov't funding and received the response "Konnichiwa". This blatantly insensitive remark by @secretaryzinke is uncalled for and is not behavior that a cabinet secretary should exhibit," Rep. Grace Meng (D-New York) added in a post.

In addition to eliminating $2.9 million for the Japanese American Confinement Site Grants, Hanabusa noted that the Trump administration wants to get rid of nearly $1.7 million for National Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act Grants. Other than seeking to achieve "management efficiencies," the budget document doesn't explain why the programs need to go away.

Read More on the Story:
Japanese-American senator hits Zinke over ‘flippant’ response on preserving internment sites (POLITICO March 15, 2018)
Interior secretary gives congresswoman Japanese greeting (The Associated Press March 16, 2018)
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke criticized for internment camp remarks (CBS News March 16, 2018)
Konnichiwa: Ryan Zinke Finds Humor Where There Is None As His Week Goes From Bad to Worse (Newsweek March 16, 2018)
Hanabusa corrects Secretary of the Interior's Japanese at hearing (CNN March 15, 2018)

House Committee on Natural Resources Notice:
Oversight Hearing, "Policy Priorities at the Department of the Interior and the Administration's Fiscal Year 2019 Budget Proposal" (March 15, 2018)

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