Ryan Zinke slammed for 'Konnichiwa' response to Hawaii rep on Japanese internment camps

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke was slammed on Thursday for his tone deaf response to a congresswoman who shared her grandfather’s grim experience in a U.S. internment camp during World War II.

Hawaii’s Rep. Colleen Hanabusa shared her family history and asked Zinke about the elimination of grant programs to preserve the history of Japanese-American internment when he responded with a cheerful, “Oh, Konnichiwa!”

Zinke’s response — a Japanese greeting typically used in the afternoon — left at least one woman at the House Natural Resources Committee hearing slack-jawed, while others called it “flippant” and “offensive” on social media.

Hanabusa confronted Zinke about the elimination of the $2 million Japanese American Confinement Sites Grant Program in Trump’s 2019 budget proposal on Thursday.

RELATED: A look back at Japanese internment camps

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Japanese internment camps
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Japanese internment camps
Toyo Miyatake stands in his children's bedroom looking at his young daughter drawing at a desk, while her mother stands behind her, at the Manzanar War Relocation Center in California, in this 1943 handout photo. February 19, 2017 marks the 75th anniversary of FDR signing executive order 9066, authorizing the internment of Japanese Americans during the Second World War. Courtesy Ansel Adams/Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, LC-A35-4-M-10/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY.
A marble monument with an inscription that reads, "Monument for the Pacification of Spirits," in the cemetary at the Manzanar War Relocation Center in California, in this 1943 handout photo. February 19, 2017 marks the 75th anniversary of FDR signing executive order 9066, authorizing the internment of Japanese Americans during the Second World War. Courtesy Ansel Adams/Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, LC-A35-4-M-10/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY.
A mess line is formed in front of a building at midday at the Manzanar War Relocation Center in California, in this 1943 handout photo. February 19, 2017 marks the 75th anniversary of FDR signing executive order 9066, authorizing the internment of Japanese Americans during the Second World War. Courtesy Ansel Adams/Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, LC-A35-4-M-10/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY.
A terra cotta frieze by artist Steve Gardner, depicting a Japanese American strawberry farmer, is seen at the Japanese American Exclusion Memorial on Puget Sound's Bainbridge Island, Washington, U.S. February 12, 2017. The island's Japanese-American community was the first to be sent to World War Two internment camps after President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed executive order 9066 75 years ago, on February 19, 1942. Picture taken February 12, 2017. REUTERS/Chris Helgren EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Mrs. Ryie Yoshizawa and a class of female students sit at a table looking at fashion magazines and patterns. The students are: Satoko Oka, Chizuko Karnii, Takako Nakanishi, Kikiyo Yamasuchi, Masako Kimochita, Mitsugo Fugi, Mie Mio, Chiye Kawase, and Miyeko Hoshozike, at the Manzanar War Relocation Center in California, in this 1943 handout photo. February 19, 2017 marks the 75th anniversary of FDR signing executive order 9066, authorizing the internment of Japanese Americans during the Second World War. Courtesy Ansel Adams/Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, LC-A35-4-M-10/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY.
A nurse tends to four infants in cribs at the Manzanar War Relocation Center in California, in this 1943 handout photo. February 19, 2017 marks the 75th anniversary of FDR signing executive order 9066, authorizing the internment of Japanese Americans during the Second World War. Courtesy Ansel Adams/Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, LC-A35-4-M-10/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY.
Benji Iguchi driving tractor in a field at the Manzanar War Relocation Center in California, in this 1943 handout photo. February 19, 2017 marks the 75th anniversary of FDR signing executive order 9066, authorizing the internment of Japanese Americans during the Second World War. Courtesy Ansel Adams/Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, LC-A35-4-M-10/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY.
Origami cranes hang near a terra cotta frieze, by artist Steve Gardner, depicting a separated family at the Japanese American Exclusion Memorial on Puget Sound's Bainbridge Island, Washington, U.S. February 12, 2017. The island's Japanese-American community was the first to be sent to World War Two internment camps after President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed executive order 9066 75 years ago, on February 19, 1942. Picture taken February 12, 2017. REUTERS/Chris Helgren EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Mrs. Yaeko Nakamura, holding hands with her two daughters, Joyce Yuki Nakamura and Louise Tami Nakamura, walk under a pavilion in a park at the Manzanar War Relocation Center in California, in this 1943 handout photo. February 19, 2017 marks the 75th anniversary of FDR signing executive order 9066, authorizing the internment of Japanese Americans during the Second World War. Courtesy Ansel Adams/Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, LC-A35-4-M-10/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Ferries dock under mountain peaks of the distant Olympic Peninsula, on Puget Sound's Bainbridge Island, Washington, U.S. February 12, 2017. The island's Japanese-American community was the first to be sent to World War Two internment camps after President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed executive order 9066 75 years ago, on February 19, 1942. Picture taken February 12, 2017. REUTERS/Chris Helgren
A guard tower at Manzanar internment camp is seen in Independence, California July 17, 2013. Nearly 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry were removed from their homes on the west coast by the U.S. Army and sent to Manzanar and nine other internment camps between March 1942 and November 1945. Two thirds of them were American citizens. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES - Tags: SOCIETY)
A view out of the window of the former living quarters at Manzanar internment camp is seen in Independence, California July 17, 2013. Nearly 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry were removed from their homes on the west coast by the U.S. Army and sent to Manzanar and nine other internment camps between March 1942 and November 1945. Two thirds of them were American citizens. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES - Tags: SOCIETY)
The cemetery at Manzanar internment camp is seen in Independence, California July 17, 2013. Nearly 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry were removed from their homes on the west coast by the U.S. Army and sent to Manzanar and nine other internment camps between March 1942 and November 1945. Two thirds of them were American citizens. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES - Tags: SOCIETY)
The former living quarters at Manzanar internment camp are seen in Independence, California July 17, 2013. Nearly 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry were removed from their homes on the west coast by the U.S. Army and sent to Manzanar and nine other internment camps between March 1942 and November 1945. Two thirds of them were American citizens. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES - Tags: SOCIETY)
A gravestone is seen in the cemetery at Manzanar internment camp in Independence, California July 17, 2013. Nearly 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry were removed from their homes on the west coast by the U.S. Army and sent to Manzanar and nine other internment camps between March 1942 and November 1945. Two thirds of them were American citizens. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES - Tags: SOCIETY)
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The representative also shared that her grandfather — a U.S. citizen who was born in Hawaii — didn’t open up about the painful experience of being imprisoned until much later on in life.

“I believe that it is essential that we as a nation recognize our darkest moments so that we don’t have to repeat them again,” Hanabusa said.

Despite the grave subject matter, Hanabusa’s personal family history, and her obvious ability to speak English, Zinke looked up, smiled cheerfully, and addressed her in Japanese.

Hanabusa maintained her composure when she shot back with, “I think it’s still ‘ohayo gozaimasu’ [GOOD MORNING], but that’s ok.”

Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Calif.) later tweeted, “The internment of nearly 120,000 Japanese Americans is no laughing matter, @SecretaryZinke. What you thought was a clever response to @RepHanabusa was flippant & juvenile.”

Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.) also criticized Zinke’s comment, tweeting, “No better example of why we need continued support for historical sites where the rights of Japanese Americans were violated b/c of race.”

“Zinke’s comment betrayed a prejudice that being Asian makes you a perpetual foreigner. Intentional or not, it's offensive. He should apologize,” she added.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois weighed in, writing, “Nope. Racism is not ok.”

RELATED: US Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke

14 PHOTOS
US Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke
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US Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke
KATAHDIN WOODS AND WATERS NATIONAL MONUMENT, ME - JUNE 14: With Mount Katahdin in the background, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke talks to the media during a tour of the Katahdin Woods & Waters National Monument on Wednesday, June 14, 2017. Zinke was touring the monument because it is one of dozens of monuments up for review under an executive order from President Trump. (Staff Photo by Gregory Rec/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)
U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke rides a boat to Georges Island, while traveling for his National Monuments Review process, in Boston Harbor, Massachusetts, U.S., June 16, 2017. Picture taken June 16, 2017. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is interviewed by Reuters, while traveling for his National Monuments Review process, in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S., June 16, 2017. Picture taken June 16, 2017. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke (L) high fives National Park Service Ranger Beth Jackendoff on his National Monuments review visiting sites around Boston, Massachusetts, U.S., June 16, 2017. Picture taken June 16, 2017. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke waits to take the stage with President Donald Trump for his on infrastructure improvements, at the Department of Transportation in Washington, U.S. June 9, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke (C) talks to National Park Service Rangers, while traveling for his National Monuments Review process, in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S., June 16, 2017. Picture taken June 16, 2017. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 12: Ryan Zinke visits SiriusXM Studios on September 12, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Santiago Felipe/Getty Images)
SHANKSVILLE, PA - SEPTEMBER 10: Visitors listen to US Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke at the groundbreaking of the Tower Of Voices at the Flight 93 National Memorial on the 16th Anniversary ceremony of the September 11th terrorist attacks, September 10, 2017 in Shanksville, PA. United Airlines Flight 93 crashed into a field outside Shanksville, PA with 40 passengers and 4 hijackers aboard on September 11, 2001. (Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 20: Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke testifies during a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, on June 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. The committee heard testimony on U.S. President Donald Trump's proposed FY2018 budget request for the Interior Department. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JUNE 20: Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke testifies during a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing in Dirksen Building on the department's FY2018 budget request on June 20, 2017. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
KATAHDIN WOODS AND WATERS NATIONAL MONUMENT, ME - JUNE 14: With Mount Katahdin in the background, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, left, talks with Lucas St. Clair, right, during a tour of the Katahdin Woods & Waters National Monument on Wednesday, June 14, 2017. Zinke was touring the monument because it is one of dozens of monuments up for review under an executive order from President Trump. St. Clair's family gifted the land for the monument. (Staff Photo by Gregory Rec/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JUNE 20: Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke testifies during a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing in Dirksen Building on the department's FY2018 budget request on June 20, 2017. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
MILLINOCKET, ME - JUNE 15: Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke speaks with members of the Katahdin Chamber of Commerce and Millinocket town council during a breakfast at Twin Pines Lodge in Millinocket on Thursday, June 14, 2017. Zinke is in Maine for a review of the Katahdin Woods & Waters National Monument, one of over two dozen reviews ordered by President Trump. (Staff Photo by Gregory Rec/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)
US Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke listens while US President Donald Trump speaks at the US Department of Transportation June 9, 2017 in Washington, DC. Trump visit of the Transportation Department is part of a White House push to overhaul America's infrastructure. / AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
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