Kennedy apologizes for calling Haaland a 'whack job'

Sen. John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (R-La.) apologized Thursday for calling Rep. Deb HaalandDeb HaalandSecretary Haaland, Colorado's epic drought highlights the need to end fossil fuel extraction Why Biden's Interior Department isn't shutting down oil and gas We have a moral obligation to learn Native American history MORE (D-N.M.), President BidenJoe BidenTrump hails Arizona Senate for audit at Phoenix rally, slams governor Republicans focus tax hike opposition on capital gains change Biden on hecklers: 'This is not a Trump rally. Let 'em holler' MORE’s nominee for Interior Secretary, a “whack job.”

Kennedy called Haaland a “a neo-socialist, left-of-Lenin whack job” Wednesday in remarks to reporters. On Thursday he apologized in an interview with Politico.

“I apologize. I was searching for a word for extremist, which I think is more neutral,“ Kennedy told the publication. “And I should have said extremist. I never should have said whack job.“

ADVERTISEMENT

The Louisiana senator’s apology comes shortly after Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinWhy Biden's Interior Department isn't shutting down oil and gas Overnight Energy: Senate panel advances controversial public lands nominee | Nevada Democrat introduces bill requiring feds to develop fire management plan | NJ requiring public water systems to replace lead pipes in 10 years Transit funding, broadband holding up infrastructure deal MORE (D-W.V.), who was reportedly unsure of whether to back Haaland, announced he will support her nomination, likely assuring she will be confirmed.

“While we do not agree on every issue, she reaffirmed her strong commitment to bipartisanship, addressing the diverse needs of our country and maintaining our nation’s energy independence,” Manchin said in a statement Wednesday.

Haaland, who would be the first indigenous Senate-confirmed cabinet secretary, has strong backing among the Democratic party’s progressive wing. However, western Republicans have attacked her record on energy issues, including Sen. Steve DainesSteven (Steve) David DainesSenate committee advances bipartisan energy infrastructure bill  Hillicon Valley: Lina Khan faces major FTC test | Amazon calls for her recusal | Warren taps commodities watchdog to probe Google Senators propose bill to help private sector defend against hackers MORE (R-Mt.), who accused her of having a “very concerning” record on energy and natural resources.

Manchin confirmed he will back Haaland's nomination shortly after he said he would not support the nomination of Neera TandenNeera TandenThe Hill's Morning Report - Will Schumer back down on his deadline? Biden's budget vacancy raises eyebrows White House releases staff salaries showing narrowed gender pay gap MORE, Biden’s nominee for Director of Budget and Management.

Nearly every moderate Senate Republican has also said they will vote against Tanden, putting the likelihood of her nomination in peril.

ADVERTISEMENT

The question marks around both Haaland’s and Tanden’s nominations have sparked criticism from Democrats who noted that both are women of color.

In an op-ed this week, former Sens. Tom (D-N.M.) and Mark UdallMark Emery UdallKennedy apologizes for calling Haaland a 'whack job' OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Haaland courts moderates during tense confirmation hearing | GOP's Westerman looks to take on Democrats on climate change | White House urges passage of House public lands package Udalls: Haaland criticism motivated 'by something other than her record' MORE (D-Colo.) wrote that Haaland’s views are within the mainstream for a Democrat from a western state, and that allegations of radicalism are “motivated by something other than her record.”

The Hill has reached out to Haaland’s and Kennedy’s offices for comment.