By Zack Colman - 11/14/12 05:39 PM EST
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar “regrets the exchange” in which he threatened to punch a reporter, an Interior spokesman told The Hill on Wednesday.
Various news reports said Salazar told Colorado Springs Gazette reporter Dave Philipps last week, “If you set me up like this again, I’ll punch you out.”
The threat was in response to a question Philipps asked about an ongoing federal and state investigation.
Interior has in the past tried to move horses off of federal lands because overpopulation has caused soil erosion, wildlife habitat destruction and sedimentation of waterways.
Philipps reported in September that the wild horse population on federal lands was overcrowding government stables.
He reported the Bureau of Land Management could not find extra space for the horses, nor could it get enough people to adopt them. So instead, it sold the horses Colorado livestock-hauler Tom Davis, who bought the horses by the hundreds at $10 apiece.
Philipps’s reporting found that Davis is a “longtime advocate of horse slaughter,” and that he has a penchant for dodging Colorado law to transport livestock across state lines. He usually stays mum about the animals’ final destination.
The sales to Davis have alarmed animal rights activists and triggered the federal and Colorado investigations into his business practices.
An Interior spokesman told The Hill that Salazar called Philipps on Wednesday to apologize for the incident.
—This story was updated at 4:06 p.m.