It’s been amply established that Donald Trump’s desire to have “only the best people” in his administration is a transparent lie. Take Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, for instance. He recently issued a guidance document that effectively guts the Migratory Bird Treaty Act by making it possible for a company to avoid punishment for not taking measures to protect birds. He also wants to lift a ban on importing big-game trophies, even though African elephants have been hunted and poached to the brink of extinction.
But CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski and his team at the KFile recently uncovered information that should raise serious questions about whether Zinke has any business being a cabinet secretary, or anywhere in Washington for that matter. He once hosted a radio show in which he gave succor to conspiracy theory peddlers, and often promoted this lunacy.
For much of 2013–after his abortive run for lieutenant governor of Montana–Zinke hosted the “Commander Z” radio show on the Military Appreciation Channel. The “Commander” reference came from his time as a commander in the Navy SEALs. Kaczynski discovered a number of Zinke’s guests actively promoted fringe theories.
One of them was Larry Bailey, a fellow SEAL and a full-on birther. In July 2013, Bailey told Zinke that his anti-Obama group, Special Operations Speaks, took a severe hit when he came out as a birther. Listen here.
Bailey said that soon after he identified himself as a birther in 2012, Karl Rove distanced himself from Special Operations Speaks because he didn’t want to be seen as being associated with birthers. Bailey claimed that even though “35 percent” of Americans didn’t believe Obama was born here, a lot of people shied away from supporting Special Operations Speaks because they didn’t want to be seen as opposing Obama on racial grounds.
Later, Bailey peddled another common anti-Obama smear–that a Muslim arranged for Obama to get into Harvard Law, and a grant from Saudi interests paid his way. That prompted Zinke to wonder about Obama’s transcripts so he could “see it definitive.”
That’s not the only time Zinke waded into tinfoil hat territory. In April 2013, Zinke brought on another birther and conspiracy theory merchant, Paul Vallely, to discuss claims that a Saudi national helped the Tsarnaevs carry out the Boston Marathon bombing. Vallely hinted that Michelle Obama was somehow linked to this third bomber. How did Zinke respond? He merely said that he would be “flabbergasted” if Michelle was even remotely connected to the attack.
The obvious question–how did Montana’s newspapers, radio stations, and television stations not uncover this in 2014, when Zinke was running for Congress? All it would have taken was what Kaczynski and his team did–a simple search on Google, then download any audio files so there would be receipts in the event Zinke scrubbed them. Had Montana’s fifth estate done its job, one has to wonder–would Zinke have even made it to Congress? And if this had surfaced in 2016, would he have even been in the discussion to be a cabinet secretary?
In a statement, Interior Department spokeswoman Heather Swift said that the Secretary “would always challenge his guests to defend their opinions regardless of the topic and no matter how controversial.” The audio evidence says otherwise.
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