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

Sen. Tammy DuckworthLadda (Tammy) Tammy DuckworthWhite House, GOP defend Trump emergency declaration Dem senator thinks Senate may be able to block emergency declaration Trump’s new Syria timetable raises concern among key anti-ISIS allies MORE (D-Ill.) offered a condemnation of racism for Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeOvernight Energy: Zinke joins Trump-tied lobbying firm | Senators highlight threat from invasive species | Top Republican calls for Green New Deal vote in House Zinke, Lewandowski join Trump veterans’ lobbying firm Is a presidential appointment worth the risk? 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 HironoFemale Dems see double standard in Klobuchar accusations Trump tweets video mocking Dems not cheering during State of the Union New battle lines in war over Trump’s judicial picks 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.