Zinke tells employees diversity isn’t important

Several employees at the Interior Department have told CNN that Secretary Ryan Zinke repeatedly says that he won’t focus on diversity, an apparent talking point that has upset many people within the agency.

Three high-ranking Interior officials from three different divisions said that Zinke has made several comments with a similar theme, saying “diversity isn’t important,” or “I don’t care about diversity,” or “I don’t really think that’s important anymore.”

Each time, Zinke followed with something along the lines of, “what’s important is having the right person for the right job,” or “I care about excellence, and I’m going to get the best people, and you’ll find we have the most diverse group anyone’s ever had,” the sources said.

Interior last year unexpectedly reassigned 33 senior executive staffers, of which 15 were minorities, according to the lawyer of one of the staffers who was moved. Some of those who were reassigned have filed complaints with the US Merit Systems Board.

The accusations against Zinke come as he is under investigation by multiple agencies, including Interior’s inspector general and Office of Special Counsel, regarding employee reassignment and taxpayer spending on possible politically related travel.

Interior Department spokeswoman Heather Swift vehemently denied that Zinke said anything along those lines of criticizing the need for diversity, saying, “the anonymous claims made against the secretary are untrue.”

Swift added, “As a woman who has worked for him for a number of years in senior positions, I say without a doubt this claim is untrue, and I am hopeful that they are a result of a misunderstanding and not a deliberate mistruth.”

Swift pointed to two women and an African-American who Zinke has appointed to senior leadership positions, and said “Zinke has filled several other senior positions at the career and appointed level with individuals from diverse backgrounds.”

But Zinke’s alleged comments were particularly surprising to those who feel the agency has struggled to recruit and retain a diverse workforce.

In a hallway meet-and-greet shortly after Zinke was confirmed, one staffer told CNN that Zinke was asked about diversity at Interior, a department with about 68,000 employees, of which more than 70 percent are white, according to the Office of Personnel Management.
“(Zinke) flat out said, ‘I don’t really think that’s important anymore. We don’t need to focus on that anymore.’ He obviously needed someone to provide him with better talking points,” the staffer said.

A similar comment was made during another hallway greeting session with a different group of employees.

“He said it several times. I think it’s just how he speaks – he has his canned talking points,” said the second source, who heard the same comment from Zinke months later at a holiday party.

A third person, someone who is a minority in a leadership position in the department, said he heard a similar comment during a management meeting.

“That told me everything I needed to know,” the person said. “It’s a hard business as it is, and then not to be respected or appreciated for the diverse perspective that you bring to the situation — and that’s why it’s important in my opinion. It’s the fact that we don’t look at things the same way. When we have conversations about public lands and how they’re used, we cannot afford to have a small percentage of people making those decisions.”

Zinke came under fire from the public and at least one member of Congress earlier this month over remarks seen by some as insensitive. In testimony before the House Natural Resources committee, he greeted Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-Hawaii) with the Japanese greeting “Konichiwa” after she told a story about her grandparents being held in internment camps during World War II, and asked why he was cutting funding to preserve those sites.

Days later, after numerous news stories calling the remarks inappropriate, Zinke doubled down in a comment to reporters, saying “How could ever saying ‘Good morning’ be bad?”

[CNN]

Trump vetoed Miss Universe contestants for being ‘too ethnic’ or ‘too dark-skinned’

Earlier this year, a report emerged claiming that President Donald Trump would personally rig the Miss Universe pageant to benefit contestants from countries where he had business relationships.

Now a new report published by Michael Isikoff and Mother Jones’ David Corn claims that Trump would also veto certain contestants if he deemed them to be “too ethnic.”

Specifically, one former Miss Universe staffer tells them that Trump would personally “make changes” to the list of finalists “if there were too many women of color” on it.

Another former Miss Universe staffer similarly tells them that Trump would weed out candidates who were too “dark-skinned.”

“He often thought a woman was too ethnic or too dark-skinned,” the staffer explains. “He had a particular type of woman he thought was a winner. Others were too ethnic. He liked a type. There was Olivia Culpo, Dayanara Torres [the 1993 winner], and, no surprise, East European women.”

One former staffer does say, however, that Trump could be persuaded to change his mind about a woman of color being worthy of his pageant “by telling him she was a princess and married to a football player.”

[RawStory]

White House’s Sarah Huckabee Sanders says ‘Pocahontas’ is not a racial slur

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Monday denied that President Donald Trump was using a racial slur in referring to Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., as “Pocahontas.”

Trump used the term again Monday to describe Warren, during a White House event for Native American military veterans.

Asked why Trump would choose to use a phrase that many people find offensive, Sanders said that “what most people find offensive is Senator Warren lying about her heritage to advance her career.” She added that seeing Trump’s use of “Pocahontas” as a racial slur was a “ridiculous response,” because it was not.

“I don’t believe that it is appropriate for [the president] to make a racial slur, or anybody else,” Sanders said, but “I don’t think that it is [a racial slur] and I certainly don’t think that was the president’s intent.”

Warren is one of Trump’s most outspoken critics in the Senate, and for years, Trump has relished referring to her as “Pocahontas,” a reference to Warren’s claim that her family has Native American heritage.

At the White House on Monday, Trump told the veterans, who were “code talkers” in World War II, “You were here long before any of us were here. Although we have a representative in Congress who, they say, was here a long time ago. They call her Pocahontas.” As soon as Trump said it, the room fell silent.

Sanders, however, claimed that Trump’s respect for the veterans was reflected more in his actions than necessarily in his words.

“The president certainly finds an extreme amount of value and respect for these individuals. He’s constantly showing ways to honor those individuals,” she said.

Warren, however, was less forgiving. Responding to Trump’s remarks on MSNBC, the Massachusetts Democrat said it is “deeply unfortunate that the president of the United States cannot even make it through a ceremony honoring these heroes without having to throw out a racial slur.”

Later Monday, Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye said the remark was unfortunate.

“In this day and age, all tribal nations still battle insensitive references to our people. The prejudice that Native American people face is an unfortunate historical legacy,” Begaye said in a statement.

While the Navajo Nation appreciated the honor and recognition bestowed upon its “code talkers,” Begaye said, it does not want to be a part of this “ongoing feud” between the senator and the president.

 

At a Navajo veterans’ event, Trump makes racist ‘Pocahontas’ crack

President Donald Trump, during an event at the White House honoring Navajo code talkers Monday, referenced his nickname for Sen. Elizabeth Warren, “Pocahontas,” a label he has long used about the Massachusetts Democrat.

“I just want to thank you because you are very, very special people. You were here long before any of us were here,” Trump said. “Although, we have a representative in Congress who has been here a long time … longer than you — they call her Pocahontas!”

He then turned to one of the code talkers behind him, put his left hand on the man’s shoulder and said: “But you know what, I like you. You are special people.”

Trump did not name Warren.

The comment, met with silence from event attendees, revives an insult the President has long thrust upon Warren but restated during a high-profile meeting with the Native American war heroes.

“It is deeply unfortunate that the President of the United States cannot even make it through a ceremony honoring these heroes without having to throw out a racial slur. Donald Trump does this over and over thinking somehow he is going to shut me up with it. It hasn’t worked out in the past, it isn’t going to work out in the future,” Warren told MSNBC shortly after Trump’s remark.

Pocahontas was a historical figure from the 17th Century and using her name in an intentionally disparaging way insults native peoples and degrades their cultures. The largest Native American advocacy group has said that is why it has condemned the President’s usage in this manner.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Monday the use of “Pocahontas” was not a racial slur and that it “certainly was not the President’s intent” to use a racial slur.

“I don’t believe that it is appropriate” to use a racial slur, Sanders said during her daily briefing, but added that she didn’t think Trump’s comment was such a slur.

Sanders then targeted Warren, saying that “the most offensive thing” was Warren claiming to be Native American.

“I think Sen. Warren was very offensive when she lied about something specifically to advance her career, and I don’t understand why no one is asking about that question and why that isn’t constantly covered,” Sanders said.

The National Congress of American Indians — the largest and oldest group representing Native Americans — has condemned Trump’s use of “Pocahontas” to deride Warren, noting that the famed Native American was a real person whose historic significance is still important to her tribe, the Pamunkey Indian Tribe in Virginia.

“We cannot and will not stand silent when our Native ancestors, cultures and histories are used in a derogatory manner for political gain,” Jacqueline Pata, the group’s executive director, said earlier this year after Trump called Warren “Pocahontas” at a speech before the National Rifle Association.

Conservatives have previously criticized Warren for claiming that she is part Native American, and the senator’s heritage became an issue during her Senate campaigns.

Trump has seized on the attacks and has regularly called Warren “Pocahontas.” The attack dates back to his 2016 campaign.

“Pocahontas is at it again,” he tweeted in June 2016. “Goofy Elizabeth Warren, one of the least productive U.S. Senators, has a nasty mouth. Hope she is V.P. choice.”

He added, “Crooked Hillary is wheeling out one of the least productive senators in the U.S. Senate, goofy Elizabeth Warren, who lied on heritage.”

And earlier this month, he added, “Pocahontas just stated that the Democrats, lead by the legendary Crooked Hillary Clinton, rigged the Primaries! Lets go FBI & Justice Dept.”

He has also used the nickname privately.

Sources told CNN earlier this year that during a meeting with senators at the White House, Trump taunted Democrats by saying “Pocahontas is now the face of your party.”

Trump has routinely given his political opponents nicknames, but the slight against Warren is one of his most culturally insensitive.

Warren says she is, in fact, part Native American, citing “family stories” passed down through generations of her family.

“I am very proud of my heritage,” Warren told NPR in 2012. “These are my family stories.

This is what my brothers and I were told by my mom and my dad, my mammaw and my pappaw. This is our lives. And I’m very proud of it.”

The legitimacy of Warren’s heritage has been widely debated and Scott Brown, her 2012 Senate campaign opponent, has even suggested Warren take a DNA test to prove her heritage.

Harvard Law School in the 1990s touted Warren, then a professor in Cambridge, as being “Native American.” They singled her out, Warren later acknowledged, because she had listed herself as a minority in an Association of American Law Schools directory.

Critics seized on the listing, saying that she received preferential treatment for questionable Native American heritage. Warren contends that her career was never furthered because of her Native American genealogy.

[CNN]

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