Three high-ranking Interior officials told CNN that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has made several comments to his employees asserting that he doesn’t think diversity matters.
These comments have ranged from the incisive (“diversity isn’t important”) to the astute (“I don’t care about diversity”) and the brave (“I don’t really think that’s important anymore”). Allegedly, Zinke often followed up with an argument along the lines of “I care about excellence, and I’m going to get the best people, and you’ll find we have the most diverse group anyone’s ever had.”
That group, according to CNN, currently consists of a department with 68,000 employees, 70 percent of whom are white. In June, Zinke unexpectedly reassigned 33 senior executive staffers, 40 percent of whom CNN identified as non-white. In comparison, 28 percent of senior leaders at the Interior department self-identify as minorities, meaning Zinke chose to move around a disproportionate amount of non-white staff.
Zinke came under fire recently in a hearing with Hawaii Representative Colleen Hanabusa. Hanabusa, who was arguing against Trump’s cuts to historical preservation grants, told Zinke about how her grandparents were incarcerated in camps during WWII. He responded “Oh, konnichiwa” in the tone of a white man who collects katanas in his basement.
Zinke has since defended his comment, saying, “How could ever saying ‘Good morning’ be bad?” Maybe if he had some more staffers of color, they could fill him in.