Mar 16, 2018, 12:47 PM ET

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke greets Japanese American congresswoman with 'Konnichiwa'

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Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is receiving heat from some lawmakers for greeting a Japanese American congresswoman with the phrase "Konnichiwa" after being asked a question Thursday about continuing funds for the Japanese American Confinement Sites program.

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The program preserves confinement sites where Japanese Americans were detained during World War II.

"Will we see it funded again in 2018?," asked Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, D-Hawaii, whose grandfathers during World War II were among the estimated 120,000 Japanese Americans sent to U.S. confinement camps.

"Oh, Konnichiwa," Zinke replied with a phrase often used in the afternoon.

"I think it's still 'ohayo gozaimasu,' but that's okay," Hanabusa corrected him with a phrase typically used in the morning.

Zinke's comment quickly raised eyebrows as one audience member's jaw dropped immediately after his remark.

Lawmakers quickly came to Hanabusa's defense - rebuking Zinke for his remarks.

"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-N.Y. tweeted.

Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, also responded to Zinke's comments calling them "flippant and juvenile."

"The internment of nearly 120,000 Japanese Americans is no laughing matter, @SecretaryZinke," she tweeted.

ABC News reached out to the Interior Secretary's office, but did not receive a response.

Zinke said to the congresswoman that the issue "probably got caught up in the priorities of fixing" other agency matters.

Zinke concluded his response by telling Hanabusa he'd work on the issue with her.

"I will look at it and I'll work with you on it, because I think it is important," he added.

News - Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke greets Japanese American congresswoman with 'Konnichiwa'

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  • cuba_pete

    So, if he had started his comments with good morning and they hadn’t blasted him...what would have been the response? Ridiculous gentrification of everything non-white...

  • boyscout

    Just another chapter out of the book entitled "how the f did these people even get in the door of our government". They are dumber than dirt, racist, violent, greedy sob's. They are dividing our country, making us more ignorant, fearful and poor while destroying our former place in the world as leader, compassionate and caring people with reasonable sense of right and wrong. They have brought chaos and risk self destruction as well as utter destruction.

  • Chuck

    If you don't know what the hell your saying, don't be an imbecile, and make a Jackass of yourself!

  • Cher

    Nothing but the best morons for the trump cabinet.

  • James R. Paris

    At first I just read the article and made some comments here. Then I watched the video. This man was treating her in a very condescending way and was being blindly racist with every word he spoke. It was hilarious to me how he wears his glasses but I kind of found that a bit condescending to, a body language thing. And there was one last thing I noticed. Can we stop putting up placards for these people stating that they are, for example, the "Honorable" Mr. Zinke? There was nothing honorable about how he behaved.

  • TexasVulcan

    Is this the same "Interior Secretary" that reduces the size and scope of national monuments?

  • Norm Stansfield

    Saying "Konnichiwa" to a US congresswoman (especially if it's still morning time) is pretty lame. But, in fairness, so is said congresswoman leading off her line of questioning with her family history.

    So let's just keep race out of it altogether? Stupid Dem doesn't bring up her race, and stupid Repub doesn't awkwardly address it? We're all just regular Americans. How's that for meeting in the middle?

  • virgillionhere

    Who is surprised Archie Bunker the president chose cabinet people as classy as him?

  • grintch

    And "bada bing bada boom" to those with Italian type last names, and "How" to "pocahontas"
    How "white" of him.

  • 7iThor

    Good lord, he just said hello / good afternoon. There is nothing wrong with the Japanese language. It is a beautiful language.

  • OhioGuy

    Stinky Zinke at it again.

  • Sonora Nomad

    Jeez...I'm so unimaginative I probably would have just answered her question. But then I'm not a gifted and thrifty politician like Zinke....

  • MauiOhana808

    What do we expect from the worst president and administration ever?!!!!
    Make America Donaldless Again!!!
    Thank you Special Prosecutor Mueller!!!
    Aloha : D

  • bufador

    Nothing to get really upset about, just another foot in the mouth comment from another Trump-chosen politician in a job for which he has no talent. What else is new?

  • Rodney Bayburn

    Another trump idiot on full display. Good grief.

  • Eugene

    lol....oh my lord....was this really happening? So in the future, we need to speak French to French American, and Italian to Italian American, and Mix Race American with all types of mixed languages....this is really a shameful blatant act in regards to racism. He prob. has never heard of Hawaii accent....what a freaking red neck.

  • wendy s. king

    Here we are again on the interning problem. Do you know what would have happened to the Japanese in WWII if the government had not put them all in 'safe' places? Do you not know by now the tenor of racism and its brutality in America? Are they still blaming the government for moving them out of harms way? I know the speed with which it was done caused great real estate loss, but lives were saved. There wasn't time to do anything else. I have my friends and professors today because their families were saved from an angry public. For that, I am eternally grateful.

  • Clyde Delgato

    So he said hello instead of good afternoon and this is a big deal why? Listen ABC. I like to bash Trump and his people as much as the next guy and maybe more than is really healthy but bash them for something remotely serious. When this sort of thing is news you have to wonder what's next. Is the Secretary of State wearing scuffed shoes? How dare he. How sloppy to represent our nation in anything less than freshly polished footwear.

  • MAGreenA

    Cabinet of fools with low IQ's and EQ's!!

  • Mr. Logical

    To his credit, the Interior Secretary agreed that these programs are important.
    But let's crucify him for saying the wrong greeting in Japanese instead.
    That seems like a good plan.

  • helicohunter

    Unless she has an accent, I wouldn't have assumed that someone of Japanese ancestry even speaks Japanese. It was very juvenile of him to practice what was probably the only Japanese word he knew in such a situation.

  • Mr. Logical

    Come on white people. When will you get it right? Here are the rules:

    1. If you are interested in another culture or practice it with enthusiasm, that's cultural appropriation.
    2. If you fail to have interest in another culture or practice it with enthusiasm, you're racist.

    OK, that should clear things up. Carry on.

  • Mr. Logical

    A seriously odd and hilarious point here is that the journalist who wrote this story doesn't understand enough Japanese to report the issue correctly. I mean if you're going to write a piece mocking someone for their poor attempt at a culturally appropriate greeting, at least learn how the word is spelled. It's not "konnichiwa," it's "konichiwa" (in Japanaese, コニチワ a.k.a. ... ko ni chi wa).

  • Gargo-Rican

    The Congress women should have replied “Guten Morgen”

  • Mr. Logical

    By the way, the article spells it "konnichiwa" LOL. I guess nobody in editorial knows anything about the Japanese language either. Come one, gaijin... so desu ne?

  • Mr. Logical

    This is kind of a dumb case to blow out of proportion. However...

    The unwritten rule that Zinke is apparently unfamiliar with is that you can't utter a one-word tribute even if you meant it as a way of paying tribute. If you just know one word like "konichiwa" or "ni hao" or "guten tag" it probably means you think that is somehow clever or impressive when all you are really doing is showing how extremely superficial your knowledge is of the language.

    So instead of coming across as someone paying tribute, you come across as a jerk who is pandering.

  • Mike Flynn

    Wonder what the greeting is for hispanics?