Duckworth on Zinke's improper use of Japanese: ‘Racism is not ok’

Sen. Tammy DuckworthLadda (Tammy) Tammy DuckworthWhitmer met with Biden days before VP announcement: report Senate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic Senate Democrats push to include free phone calls for incarcerated people in next relief package MORE (D-Ill.) offered a condemnation of racism for Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeTrump flails as audience dwindles and ratings plummet OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Senior Interior official contacted former employer, violating ethics pledge: watchdog | Ag secretary orders environmental rollbacks for Forest Service | Senate advances public lands bill in late-night vote Senior Interior official contacted former employer, violating ethics pledge: watchdog MORE on Thursday after he responded in Japanese to a lawmaker's question about funding historical sites memorializing Japanese internment camps.

"Nope. Racism is not ok," Duckworth tweeted, posting a news article about the exchange between Zinke and Rep. Colleen HanabusaColleen Wakako HanabusaHawaii New Members 2019 Ige wins second term as Hawaii governor The Hill's Morning Report — Trump heads to New York to shore-up GOP districts MORE (D-Hawaii).

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Hanabusa asked Zinke during a budget hearing for the Interior Department on Thursday whether he would ensure funding for a grant program, known as the Japanese American Confinement Sites Grant, which seeks to preserve the history of World War II-era Japanese internment camps.

"Konnichiwa," Zinke replied, using a Japanese greeting commonly used to express "good afternoon."

"I think it's still 'ohayo gozaimasu,' but that’s okay," Hanabusa said, using the Japanese phrase for "good morning."

Zinke ultimately told Hanabusa he would look into the funding, saying "it is important" to preserve such sites.

The exchange also drew the ire of Sen. Mazie HironoMazie Keiko HironoSenate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic Overnight Defense: Guardsman to testify Lafayette Square clearing was 'unprovoked escalation' | Dems push for controversial Pentagon nominee to withdraw | Watchdog says Pentagon not considering climate change risks to contractors Democrats urge controversial Pentagon policy nominee to withdraw MORE (D-Hawaii), who slammed Zinke for acting "flippant" and "juvenile" in his response to Hanabusa's question.

"The internment of nearly 120,000 Japanese-Americans is no laughing matter, @SecretaryZinke. What you thought was a clever response to @RepHanabusa was flippant & juvenile," Hirono wrote in Twitter.