UPDATE: In a letter to the Colorado Springs Gazette, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar both formally apologizes for his threats to Dave Philipps, and offers to sit down with him for a full airing of the issues that prompted Salazar’s defensive outburst.
Denver Business Journal, good heavens this was stupid of Ken Salazar:
U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar told a reporter for The Gazette in Colorado Springs that “I’ll punch you out” after the reporter asked about problems with a federal wild-horse protection program Salazar oversees.
“Don’t you ever,” Salazar said to reporter Dave Philipps in a low voice, pointing a finger, The Gazette reported. “You know what, you do that again… I’ll punch you out.”
The secretary — a former U.S. senator from Colorado — then said he felt he’d been “set up” by the reporter.
Politico reports, because, well, when a Cabinet-level official like the Secretary of the Interior threatens a reporter, it has a strong likelihood of becoming national news:
The alleged incident took place when Salazar was in Colorado on Election Day, on behalf of the Obama campaign.
“The secretary regrets the exchange,” Interior spokesman Blake Androff told POLITICO.
“These threats would have been inappropriate coming from anyone, but the fact that it came out of the mouth of the Secretary of the Interior is alarming,” Kathrens said in a statement. “I can’t believe that a top official in Obama’s cabinet could be so defensive.”
We’re not going to get into the underlying issue here of a rancher with connections to Salazar who is alleged to have sold wild horses he obtained from the federal government for slaughter, as reported by Dave Philipps of the Gazette. That rancher is now under federal investigation. The Colorado Springs-based nonprofit Cloud Foundation is clearly adversarial with Salazar over wild horses on public lands, so it makes sense that they would show up with a reporter covering the topic at an event with Salazar as the headliner. You can even see how that might look kind of like an ambush from Salazar’s perspective.
But folks, Salazar’s reaction to this reporter was totally inexcusable. The fact is, a public official should be prepared to handle questions on any topic during a press availability, and that it was a campaign event has absolutely no bearing on that responsibility. Salazar’s reaction was doubly stupid, because it virtually assured that the questions Salazar didn’t want asked would see much wider exposure than if he had simply answered them. Not to mention how this kind of belligerence with the press makes the Obama administration look in general. That is, bad.
Bottom line: a big, big mistake. Salazar needs to apologize publicly and profusely, then sit down for an interview with Philipps and politely answer all of his questions.