HELENA — U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke unleashed a scathing personal attack Friday against a congressman who had called on him to resign, accusing the Arizona Democrat of drunkenness and using taxpayer money to cover up inappropriate behavior.
Zinke sent his tweet after Rep. Raul Grijalva wrote an opinion column, published in USA Today on Friday, saying that Zinke must resign because of what Grijalva called “ethical and managerial failings.”
“It’s hard for him to think straight from the bottom of the bottle,” Zinke tweeted. “This is coming from a man who used nearly $50,000 in tax dollars as hush money to cover up his drunken and hostile behavior. He should resign and pay back the taxpayer for the hush money and the tens of thousands of dollars he forced my department to spend investigating unfounded allegations.”
The tweet also included the hashtag #TuneInnForMore, a reference to a Washington, D.C., bar. It wasn’t immediately clear why Zinke made that reference.
Grijalva released a statement in response to Zinke’s tweet that did not directly address the Interior secretary’s accusations.
“The American people know who I’m here to serve, and they know in whose interests I’m acting. They don’t know the same about Secretary Zinke,” Grijalva said.
Zinke’s extraordinary accusations come against the top Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee who is seeking to head the panel once Democrats take control of the House in January. The committee oversees Zinke’s Interior Department, and the back-and-forth on Friday sets a sharp tone for their relationship if Grijalva becomes chairman.
Zinke spokeswoman Heather Swift didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Zinke’s comment on “hush money” is a reference to news reports last year about a $48,000 settlement between Grijalva and a former staffer who accused him of being drunk and creating a hostile work environment.
The Washington Times and The Arizona Republic reported that the 2015 settlement paid the staffer five months’ additional salary when she left the job after working there for three months.
Grijalva told The Republic then that he does not attend work-related events drunk and has never created a hostile work environment.