United States Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke recently had a cringe-worthy moment when he tried, and failed miserably, to pander to Hawaii representative Colleen Hanabusa.
During a hearing of the House Committee on Natural Resources on Thursday, Zinke thought it would be clever to respond with some Nihongo, also known as Japanese, to the congresswoman’s question about preserving the history of World War II-era Japanese-American incarceration.
Rep. Hanabusa, who had earlier mentioned that her grandfathers were interned during World War II, had asked Zinke about the future of a grant program that many fear to be in danger under President Donald Trump’s proposed 2019 budget.
“Are you committed to continuing to grant programs that are identified, I believe, as the Japanese American Confinement Sites grants program which was funded in 2017? Will we see them funded again in 2018?” Hanabusa was quoted as saying.
In his response, Zinke tried to open with, “Oh, Konnichiwa.” In Japan, the term is a greeting commonly used between 11 o’clock to 5 o’clock.
“I think it’s still ‘ohayo gozaimasu,’ but that’s OK,” Hanabusa said, correcting him with the more appropriate greeting for “good morning.”
Interestingly, Zinke fumbled more using English throughout the hearing as he dodged responsibility for elephant trophy imports and issues surrounding the upcoming expansion of offshore drilling off the Florida coast.
California Representative Judy Chu would call Zinke out for his obnoxious greeting in a statement later that afternoon, reports the Washington Post
“Rather than greet her like he would any other Member of Congress, he responded to her as if she did not speak any English,” Chu said. “Whether intentional or not, his comments invoke the offensive stereotype that Asian Americans are perpetual foreigners regardless of how long their families have lived in the United States.”
Several others also pointed out Zinke’s ignorance/idiocy:
As one famous journalist would put it:
Bonus: The lady in the background: