WASHINGTON — After being questioned about a major wild horse buyer who is under federal investigation and with whom he has business ties, U.S. Secretary of the Department of Interior Ken Salazar threatened to punch a reporter allegedly.
KKCO aired a clip of the exchange between Salazar and reporter Dave Philipps of The Colorado Springs Gazette at an election-day rally in Fountain, Colo.
“You know what. You can never do that. This is the Obama … You know what. You do that to me again. I’m gonna punch you out.”
You can listen to a clip of the audio here.
Blake Androff, a spokesman for the Interior department, did not confirm Salazar threatened the reporter, but indicated disappointment with his conduct. “The Secretary regrets the exchange,” Androff wrote in an email.
Salazar, a former U.S. senator and attorney general of Colorado, attended the Nov. 6 event at an Obama campaign office in the south-central suburb to rally party volunteers and activists. Speaking less than four hours before the polls closed in Colorado, Salazar noted he had traveled throughout southern Colorado in the previous 24 hours and was speaking in a non-professional capacity. The trip represented Salazar’s latest effort to stump in support of Obama’s re-election campaign.
After Salazar addressed the volunteers, Philipps approached him for an interview. His last two questions were about Tom Davis, a livestock hauler from southern Colorado whose parents worked on Salazar’s ranch in Alamosa. Philipps’ story for the online newspaper Pro Publica on Sept. 28 reported that Davis has bought at least 70 percent of the wild horses and burros that the Bureau of Land Management has sold through its sale program since 2009, and suggested that Davis was a convenient buyer, as the Interior department division has struggled to find willing buyers of the animals.
The publication also reported that Davis is the subject of an undisclosed investigation by the U.S. Department of the Interior Office of Inspector General; Christi Lightdap, a spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Agriculture, said Davis admitted to officials he has shipped wild horses out of Colorado without the required inspections. Davis could not be reached for comment.
After Phillipps asked Salazar about the federal probe of Davis and the BLM’s management of the program, the secretary got testy allegedly. Both the Gazette and Ginger Kathrens, executive director of The Cloud Foundation, a wild-horse advocacy group, said Salazar pushed Philipps’ video camera out of the way and walked within inches of his face. “His statement was in a low voice, and he was very, very angry,” Kathrens said.
As The Observer reported earlier, a Washington-based non-profit legal organization said it has filed a complaint with the Office of Special Counsel against Salazar for allegedly violating a federal law during a speech he gave last month in Montrose, Colo. Salazar’s spokesman said he made the remarks at the county Democratic Party headquarters as a private citizen.