Perhaps Ryan Zinke wanted to show off his foreign language skills at a hearing Thursday, but it ended with reprimands in very plain English. Politico and HuffPost report the Interior secretary attended a gathering of the House Natural Resources Committee and was asked about a commitment to $2 million in grants to preserve WWII's Japanese-American internment camps; President Trump's proposed budget for next year doesn't include that funding. Pressing Zinke for a pledge was Rep. Colleen Hanabusa of Hawaii, whose grandfathers were among those detained in the camps during the war. One of her grandfathers, a US citizen kept in Oahu's "Hell's Valley" camp, couldn't even talk about his experience there until he was much older. After relaying that background, Hanabusa asked Zinke: "Will we see [the grants] funded again in 2018?"
To which a smiling Zinke replied, "Oh, konnichiwa," which Politico notes is a Japanese greeting used midday; the hearing was taking place in the AM. After a pause, Hanabusa filled Zinke in on the correct terminology, answering, "I think it's still 'ohayo gozaimasu,' but that's OK." Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono, herself born in Japan, slammed Zinke later on Twitter, posting: "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." Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth, born in Thailand, was more direct, tweeting, "Nope. Racism is not ok." No word from Zinke on the kerfuffle, but he said at the hearing he'd work with Hanabusa on the funding "because I think it is important." (He's still facing questions about a $139K door.)