Zinke in 2013 had self-professed birther on radio show, questioned Obama college records

Zinke in 2013 had self-professed birther on radio show, questioned Obama college records
© Greg Nash

Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeThe case for transferring federal lands back to Native Americans International hunting council disbands amid litigation Europe deepens energy dependence on Russia MORE in 2013 had on his radio show a former Navy SEAL who had described himself in the past as a "birther."

CNN reported that in 2013, Zinke interviewed former Navy SEAL and political activist Larry Bailey on his Montana radio show, "Commander Z."

Bailey co-founded the anti-Obama group Special Operations Speaks. In 2012, he said that former President Obama was not born in the United States and called himself a part of the birther movement, according to CNN.

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Zinke also raised questions about Obama's college records on the radio show.

"And the college records, you know, why not release them? I'm interested. Did he [Obama] say he was a foreigner and did he get a scholarship? Did he apply and receive a grant? That's what I hear. I don't know," Zinke said in July 2013 when speaking with Bailey on his radio show.

In a statement responding to the report, Interior Department spokeswoman Heather Swift said that Zinke had many guests on his radio program who "expressed a variety of views and opinions."

"Mr. Zinke would always challenge his guests to defend their opinions regardless of the topic and no matter how controversial," Swift said in the statement.

A number of people in the past have questioned Obama's birthplace, including President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump fires intelligence community inspector general who flagged Ukraine whistleblower complaint Trump organization has laid off over 1000 employees due to pandemic: report Trump invokes Defense Production Act to prevent export of surgical masks, gloves MORE.

A report last year said Trump still privately questions the authenticity of Obama's birth certificate. Trump was a leading member of the birther movement against Obama, claiming for years that the former president was born outside the U.S.

According to CNN, Zinke on his radio show in April 2013 also talked about a conspiracy theory regarding the Boston Marathon bombing. He addressed the theory that a third person, a Saudi national, played a role in the attack.

"I don't blame every Saudi," Zinke said at the time.

"I have a lot of friends, as you do, that, that are Saudi, but certainly we can't let our guard down. I don't think that these two individuals were operating alone. I think it smacks of a cell. And we've talked about a cell. We looked at it, we've hunted cells before. This has every trace, every, you know, evidence leading towards a cell. I'm hoping the Saudis aren't involved. Uh, but, but the facts are as they are."