At first glance, Ryan Zinke, President-elect Donald Trump’s pick to be his Secretary of the Interior, seems to fit the emerging Trump mold perfectly: he’s a white guy and a former Navy SEAL. But upon closer inspection, Zinke’s political career is a bit more checkered. In fact, the Montana congressman has been repeatedly caught getting a little too cozy with white supremacists.
Here are just a few examples:
—While he was running for office in 2014, Zinke landed in hot water for accepting a $500 campaign donation from the leader of the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens, Earl Holt, whose racist screeds about “brutal black on white murders” and far worse showed up in the manifesto of Dylann Roof, the now-convicted Charleston church killer. After the donation was reported, a spokeswoman for Zinke said he would donate the contribution to a fund for victims of the church shooting.
—During his short tenure as a congressman, Zinke has co-sponsored legislation to resurrect a favorite right-wing hobby horse–making English the official language of the United States–along with more than 70 of his Republican colleagues. But Zinke also decided to record an interview with an organization called ProEnglish, a Virginia-based anti-immigrant group that the Southern Poverty Law Center has formally designated as a hate group, to promote the legislation they were championing.
—In October, Zinke threw his support behind a newcomer to Republican politics, Taylor Rose, who was running for a seat in the Montana House. Rose’s candidacy came under fire almost immediately for his involvement in Youth for Western Civilization, a now-defunct group that Rose led as a student at Liberty University. The Southern Poverty Law Center classified YWC as a white nationalist organization for its virulent opposition to multiculturalism and its stated goal of defending “Western civilization”–both frequent dog whistles for white supremacists. When the co-director of Montana Human Rights Watch suggested that Rose’s candidacy was “no different than David Duke," Rose pointed to endorsements from elected officials like Zinke as evidence that he couldn’t possibly be a flaming white supremacist.
So, all in all, another great Trump choice. But hey, it could always be worse. At least Alex Jones is still patiently waiting by the phone.