Republicans posted a snarky tweet after a congressional lawmaker and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke appeared to make friendly digs at each other’s military service during the House Natural Resources Committee hearing on March 15, 2018.
While scrutinizing the department’s policy priorities for the upcoming budget, Rep. Ruben Gallego of Arizona, a former US Marine, asked Zinke, a former US Navy SEAL, how many meetings he’s held with a coalition of Native American nations.
“How many meetings did you hold with the Bear Ears Inter-Tribal coalition?” Gallego asked.
“Pardon me?” Zinke said.
“How many meetings did you hold with the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal coalition?” Gallego asked again.
“I met them in Washington DC, I met them there, I met them over the phone, and had individual meetings,” Zinke replied.
“So the actual coalition, it sounds like you had one meeting then,” Gallego said. “One face-to-face meeting.”
“That would be incorrect,” Zinke responded. “I had a meeting there …”
“Ok, so what would you say the number is then,” Gallego later asked. “If you had to take a guess. Even giving you some sway on the meetings …”
“I had a meeting there with the coalition,” Zinke answered. “I had a meeting in Utah with …”
“Secretary Zinke, I’m asking just the number,” Gallego interrupted. “I know you’re a Navy SEAL and math might be difficult, but you know, give me a rough number here.”
“Rough number of what is specifically your question?” Zinke shot back. “And I take offense about your derogatory comment about the United States Navy SEALs. Of course, having not served, I understand you probably don’t know.”
Gallego, chuckling, appeared to reload for another quip.
“Not in the Navy and not in the Navy SEALs,” Zinke said with a smirk.
“Alright, Secretary Zinke, I apologize,” Gallego said. “But as you know, we have inter-rivalry jokes all the time as a Marine and as a grunt. And of course, I appreciate your service.”
“Semper fi,” Zinke said, referring to the Marine Corps shorthand motto of “semper fidelis,” or “always faithful.”
“Semper fi, brother,” Gallego said.
While the exchange appeared friendly, the House Committee on Natural Resources appeared to take offense to Gallego’s comments. The committee’s official Twitter account uploaded an edited clip of Gallego’s quip, and wrote: “Leave it to Committee Democrats to disgrace the service of a Navy SEAL for political gain…”
Leave it to Committee Democrats to disgrace the service of a Navy SEAL for political gain… pic.twitter.com/lVlis33KUJ
— Natural Resources (@NatResources) March 15, 2018
The GOP got some heat on Twitter, though, for editing out the “semper fi” exchange between the two.
“Gross. @RepRubenGallego served bravely in Iraq as a Marine. Today he ribbed Secretary Zinke as a former Navy SEAL. You edited out the part where Sec. Zinke smiles and says ‘semper fi’ to Rep. Gallego, who smiles back. We have enough work to do without ginning up fake outrage,” Rep. Don Beyer tweeted.
As a Marine in Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, Gallego deployed to Iraq in 2005. His company, which lost 22 Marines and a Navy corpsman, would experience arguably one of the toughest campaigns during the war.
Zinke served as a Navy SEAL officer and took part in operations that included capturing a Bosnian war criminal.