During a hearing at which U.S. Representative Colleen Hanabusa (D-HI) attempted to persuade the Secretary of the Interior to restore approximately $2 million in grant funds dedicated to preserving the memory of World War 2-era Japanese Internment camps, Ryan Zinke made a blunder that left the audience visibly stunned.
Rep. Hanabusa, whose Japanese-American grandfathers were incarcerated during the Second World War as a result of their background, implored Zinke to approve the grant.
“I believe that it is essential that we as a nation recognize our darkest moments so that we don’t have them repeat again,” Hanabusa said.
When she opened up the floor to the Interior Secretary to respond, he declared proudly, “Konnichiwa!”
After a lengthy and sufficiently awkward silence – during which at least one member of the audience’s mouth fell open in disbelief – Hanabusa responded as best as she could.
“I think it’s still ‘ohayo gozaimasu’ but that’s okay,” she explained in a measured response after the bout of silence. (“Ohayo gozaimasu” means “good morning” in Japanese.)
Zinke then grumbled something unintelligible following the correction before finally carrying on with the business at hand. Of course, by then, the damage had been done.
According to HuffPost, “Hanabusa had been inquiring specifically about the the Japanese American Confinement Sites Grant Program, which Congress established to preserve sites where Japanese-Americans were detained during World War II, a time of rampant anti-Japanese sentiment. As the congresswoman mentioned, Trump’s 2019 budget proposal, unveiled in February, would eliminate funding for the program ― a move widely criticized by Japanese-American activists.”
While Zinke’s insensitive and racist behavior was certainly inappropriate, it was not surprising coming from an appointee to the most xenophobic, tribalistic administration in modern American history. At this point, the fact that he didn’t stand up and bow is perhaps most surprising of all.
Watch the entire exchange below:
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