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Ryan Zinke: "How could ever saying 'good morning' be bad?"

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke testifies on Capitol Hill

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C., on Tuesday. Credit: EPA-EFE / REX / Shutterstock / Michael Reynolds

SASABE, Ariz. — Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is defending his use of a Japanese greeting when responding to a question from a congresswoman of Japanese descent.

The Arizona Republic reported Sunday that Zinke was asked about his use of the word “konnichiwa” while touring the U.S-Mexico border in Arizona on Saturday.

Zinke told reporters: “How could ever saying ‘good morning’ be bad?”

Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, of Hawaii, asked Zinke on Thursday whether he would continue a program that preserves sites where Japanese-Americans were interned during World War II.

Zinke replied with “konnichiwa” — a Japanese greeting typically spoken in the afternoon. The Democratic congresswoman corrected him and used the Japanese phrase for good morning.

Zinke’s remark drew criticism from some lawmakers, civic groups and on social media as being insensitive and perpetuating stereotypes.

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