WASHINGTON — In the ICYMI Department: U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa is still beefing with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke over his “konnichiwa” greeting during a committee hearing two months ago.

This week Zinke, who’s an appointee of President Donald Trump, took to Breitbart News Daily for a radio interview, and defended his statement by saying he had “friends that were Japanese.”

(He also took advantage of the friendly environment to support Trump’s border wall and stick up for his push to shrink national monuments.)

Ryan Zinke, seen here in 2016, doesn’t think he did anything wrong when greeting U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa with “konnichiwa” during a discussion about about a grant program to preserve the history of the Japanese-American internment. Gage Skidmore/Flickr.com

The political news site, The Hill, reported on Zinke’s most recent “konnichiwa” statements, which again elicited strong responses from Hanabusa and others.

Here’s what Zinke had to say, according to The Hill:

“I grew up in a little logging, timber town, railroad town in Montana and a lot of my family lived through the years of the internment camps. I’ve long since had friends that were Japanese families that went through that,” Zinke told Breitbart Radio.

Zinke added that he thought it was an “appropriate greeting.”

“I’ve been to the Japanese War College at Etawah Jima and saying ‘konichiwa’ past ten o’clock as a greeting, I don’t think it’s any different than greeting anybody else in a language that’s respectful,” he said. “I grew up in Montana saying ‘good morning,’ saying ‘good afternoon.’ I think it’s an appropriate salute.”

Hanabusa, who’s running for governor in Hawaii, didn’t take kindly to Zinke doubling down on words that she and others found offensive.

The controversy first bubbled up in March during a House Natural Resource Committee budget hearing in which Hanabusa questioned Zinke about grant money to preserve the history of Japanese-American internment during World War II.

The Trump administration had cut funds for the program in its 2018 budget, and Hanabusa, relaying a story about how her grandfather had been detained, wanted assurances from Zinke that the program that was funded in 2017 would not be eliminated.

Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa continues to blast Trump appointee Zinke for comments he made in March. Anthony Quintano/Civil Beat

“Would we see it funded again in 2018?” she asked.

“Oh, konnichiwa,” Zinke replied, using the Japanese term for “good afternoon.”

“I think it’s still ‘ohayo gozaimasu,’ but that’s OK,” Hanabusa responded, using the Japanese phrase for “good morning.”

The awkward exchange set off a cascade of criticism for Zinke from all corners of the internet, and particularly from Japanese-American lawmakers.

 Zinke’s latest comments seem likely to ensure that criticism will continue.

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