Did Ryan Zinke Just Have His Conrad Burns Moment?

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It feels like we’re giving a lot of attention to Representative Ryan Zinke at the blog over the past few days, but after last night, the man’s probably grateful that someone is listening to what he is saying.

Yesterday, he gave a bizarre interview (that I’d love to see all of) to the Independent Journal Review, in which he said that he’s now apprehensive when he gets on an elevator with a black man and police officer:

I mean two weeks ago, when you were in an elevator with a black guy — not even a second look, right? Now you get in an elevator with a black guy and a policeman, something’s changed in how you view that small trip up the elevator.”

One assumes that Congressman Zinke isn’t worried about the police officer, given his statements about the officer killings in Dallas and Baton Rouge and his silence at the violence being inflicted on African-American communities by bad cops. He went on, noting that some people have “opened up deep scars” that threaten to destroy the country:

“the fabric of America is being stretched and hey, this thing could rip.”

Zinke needs to explain exactly what he meant in these comments, especially given the news yesterday that his friend, Representative Steve King, openly espoused white supremacist views on national news. In an interview with Chris Hayes, King said that we need to question what other “sub-groups” have really contributed to the world:

Steve King: This whole business does get a little tired. I would ask you to go back through history and figure out where are these contributions that have been made by these other categories of people you are talking about, where did any other subgroup of people contribute more to civilization?
Chris Hayes: Than white people?
Steve King: Than western civilization itself. That’s rooted in western Europe, eastern Europe and the united States of America, and every place where christianity settled the world. That’s all of western civilization.

Zinke and King have previously been connected on racist thought, too. Back in July, 2015, Zinke was one of a small number of Republicans who signed on to co-sponsor an odious, racist bill designed to stop the “flood” of Mexican immigrant children, a bill supported by an 80 year-old racist professor who argued that Hispanic children are just not as smart as white children.

Closer to home, Zinke signed off on a bill sponsored by a group with links to white supremacists designed to make English the only language used by the government in the United States. It’s pretty hard to respect the cultural traditions and languages of Montana’s native people when you are proposing bills to invalidate the use of their language.

Maybe when white supremacist Richard Spencer donated to Mr. Zinke in 2014 he knew exactly what he was getting. At the least, Congressman Zinke needs to explain just why he’s afraid to get on an elevator with a black man—and just who he thinks is threatening to rip the fabric of the nation.

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About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is an eighteen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.

His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.

In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

5 Comments

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  • Looks like you’re going fishing for connections that aren’t there again Don…good try though

    • The connection I see is that Commander Zinke doesn’t want to get on an elevator with African Americans. They should probably have separate drinking fountains, too, right congressman?

    • Persuasive argument there.

      I’d say being afraid to get on an elevator with a black man and signing off on legislation authored by white supremacists is right up there in Burns country.

  • I think King forgot that some of the greatest mathematicians and scholars were from the Middle East, that the first novel was written in Japan, that the Maya created one of the first calendars, that the ancient civilizations in general weren’t stupid, and that American music as we know it is due to the creolization of African and European cultures.

    He also seemed to forget that Christianity came out of the Middle East.

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