Montana Politics

Ryan Zinke Misrepresents His Service Record Again in Pathetic Plea for Cash

While they’re all annoying and contain the stench of desperation, I can honestly say I’ve never encountered a campaign cash plea as pathetic as the one Ryan Zinke sent out to supporters this evening. In its two pages, it mentions that Zinke was a Navy SEAL nine times, compares serving in Congress to serving in the military, suggests that Zinke is desperate for money because his opponent is beating him, and most, egregiously, misrepresents his service in the SEALS.

Let’s start with the “From” line. Instead of coming from a member of Congress, it comes to supporters as “Ryan Zinke, Navy SEAL.” Well, that’s just bizarre—and it’s not accurate. Zinke is a retired member of the US Navy, and his material should note that. Given his brazen, repeated refusal to adhere to DOD regulations about campaigning by members (and retired members) of the military, it’s not surprising that he’s breaking the regulations again here.

That’s just the first of nine references to Zinke having been a SEAL, which range from the assertion that “no one leads like a SEAL” to the somewhat bizarrely uncapitalized assertion that Zinke was some kind of marine mammal, a “NAVY Seal of 23 years.” I mean, if you say you’re a former SEAL in every interview and press release you release, shouldn’t you probably know that the term is always capitalized?

It’s at this point that the Zinke appeal turns to the pathetic, when he tries to con gullible conservatives into sending him donations for his “48 Hour Defense Fund.” The campaign mailer asserts that he’s in danger of losing the race because he lost an online poll:

Especially right now — when we’re just launching our campaign and we’re already fighting from behind.   A just­concluded, online poll had my opponent well in the lead…though unscientific, it’s cause for concern.  

Later, he claims that his opponent is “already out to a big lead,” no doubt to scare supporters into ponying up some cash.

All of that is just kind of sad and dishonest from a candidate who is telling the press he’s likely to win the race. What’s truly offensive is that Zinke is back to his old tricks of misrepresenting his military service, as the mailer claims that he served “as Commander of SEAL Team SIX.” That’s a lie—and one that Zinke was called out for back in the 2014 campaign. As the right-wing Media Trackers Montana noted, Zinke was criticized for making that claim before:

Bailey also states that he takes exception to Zinke characterizing himself as a “Commander in SEAL Team 6? while campaigning, claiming that this intentionally causes people to falsely think that Zinke was commanding officer of the unit. Zinke pointed out that, while a member of SEAL Team 6, he achieved the rank of Lieutenant Commander and did command one of the unit’s squadrons. He denied ever having claimed to be the CO of the entire unit.

This isn’t a small matter. There’s a world of difference between being a Commander at Navy SEAL Team Six and being the commander of the unit, and given Zinke’s obsessive self-promotion about his military career, he knows the difference, but has repeatedly chosen to blur that line so he can take credit for missions he had no role in, even when that act of taking credit endangered the lives of operators who led the bin Laden raid.

Congressman Zinke likes to talk about restoring honor to government. Perhaps the best place to start is by getting rid of a Congressman who still thinks he’s in the military, and who can’t even tell the truth about how he served.

If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.


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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.

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