Kennedy apologizes for calling Haaland a ‘whack job’
Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) apologized Thursday for calling Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.), President Biden’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.“
The Louisiana senator’s apology comes shortly after Sen. Joe Manchin (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 Daines (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 Tanden, 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.
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 Udall (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.