American Lawmakers And Activists Skewer Ryan Zinke For 'Konnichiwa' Comment

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said that his department has nearly cut in half the $139,000 bill for replacing six historical doors in his office. FILE

"So Mr. Secretary. even with the president zeroing it out, are you committed to continue the grants program?" she asked.

"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. The Japanese American Citizens League released a statement shortly after the incident, pointing out that he was not only disrespectful of the congresswoman but that his comment reflected the "perpetual foreigner" stereotype ― the idea that Asian-Americans can never be "American enough".

Rep. Grace Meng, D-New York, called the remark "blatantly insensitive".

Seventy-six years ago, about 120,000 mostly Japanese-Americans were forced into internment camps after the the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor. Zinke drew widespread criticism for saying "Konnichiwa" in response to an inquiry from a Congresswoman whose Japanese-American grandparents were imprisoned during WWII.

An Interior Department spokesperson didnt immediately respond to a message seeking comment Friday morning.

The awkward exchange came after Hanabusa, a Hawaii democrat, explained that her grandfathers were imprisoned by the US government during World War II.




Hanabusa questioned Zinke about some aspect of President Donald Trump's budget, which proposes cutting the Obama-era Japanese-American Confinement Sites Grant, during a House budget hearing on Thursday.

Zinke's remarks reveal that he has yet to understand the gravity of the incarceration of Japanese-Americans, according to Aarti Kohli, executive director of the affiliated group Advancing Justice - Asian Law Caucus.

Zinke said at Thursday's hearing that any absence of future funding for the program "probably got caught up" among other items in the budget and that he would look into it.

Grants issued through the program have "kept this history alive", Hanabusa said.

"The internment of almost 120,000 Japanese Americans is no laughing matter, Secretary Zinke".

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