Never, Ever Threaten To “Punch Out” a Reporter

UPDATE: In a letter to the Colorado Springs Gazette, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar both formally apologizes for his threats to Dave Philipps, and offers to sit down with him for a full airing of the issues that prompted Salazar’s defensive outburst.


Denver Business Journal, good heavens this was stupid of Ken Salazar:

U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar told a reporter for The Gazette in Colorado Springs that “I’ll punch you out” after the reporter asked about problems with a federal wild-horse protection program Salazar oversees.

“Don’t you ever,” Salazar said to reporter Dave Philipps in a low voice, pointing a finger, The Gazette reported. “You know what, you do that again… I’ll punch you out.”

The secretary — a former U.S. senator from Colorado — then said he felt he’d been “set up” by the reporter.

Politico reports, because, well, when a Cabinet-level official like the Secretary of the Interior threatens a reporter, it has a strong likelihood of becoming national news:

The alleged incident took place when Salazar was in Colorado on Election Day, on behalf of the Obama campaign.

“The secretary regrets the exchange,” Interior spokesman Blake Androff told POLITICO.

“These threats would have been inappropriate coming from anyone, but the fact that it came out of the mouth of the Secretary of the Interior is alarming,” Kathrens said in a statement. “I can’t believe that a top official in Obama’s cabinet could be so defensive.”

We’re not going to get into the underlying issue here of a rancher with connections to Salazar who is alleged to have sold wild horses he obtained from the federal government for slaughter, as reported by Dave Philipps of the Gazette. That rancher is now under federal investigation. The Colorado Springs-based nonprofit Cloud Foundation is clearly adversarial with Salazar over wild horses on public lands, so it makes sense that they would show up with a reporter covering the topic at an event with Salazar as the headliner. You can even see how that might look kind of like an ambush from Salazar’s perspective.

But folks, Salazar’s reaction to this reporter was totally inexcusable. The fact is, a public official should be prepared to handle questions on any topic during a press availability, and that it was a campaign event has absolutely no bearing on that responsibility. Salazar’s reaction was doubly stupid, because it virtually assured that the questions Salazar didn’t want asked would see much wider exposure than if he had simply answered them. Not to mention how this kind of belligerence with the press makes the Obama administration look in general. That is, bad.

Bottom line: a big, big mistake. Salazar needs to apologize publicly and profusely, then sit down for an interview with Philipps and politely answer all of his questions.

21 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Aristotle says:

    What were you thinking?

  2. parsingreality says:

    Stupid, stupid, stupid.  As in REpublican.  

  3. cunninjo says:

    “You know what, you do that again… I’ll punch you out.”

    Do what again? What was the reporter doing? Was he just asking a question or was he doing something more?

  4. BlueCat says:

    I think it calls into question Salazar’s state of mind. I mean WTF? Is he experiencing some personal crisis or health issue that is affecting his ability to keep it together?  This is really strange. And not exactly what the Obama administration needs right now.

    Very sad, too. Salazar was in the vanguard of Colorado’s transition away from almost pure red to an increasingly blue shade of purple. He may be way too moderate for today’s Colorado Dems, but when he won that Senate seat he was the only kind of Dem who could possibly have won state wide in the climate of the day. The Republicans were just too strong and you couldn’t win back then without a significant chunk of their votes.  What on earth is going on with him?

  5. Gray in Mountains says:

    but I think it will pass and likely become Salazar lore

  6. ProgressiveCowgirl says:

    In connection with his complicity in the BLM’s outright violations of federal law in managing American Mustang herds.

    I used to be a Salazar fan. I even got a chance to show him some information on the first startup I worked for, and he asked intelligent, thoughtful questions. And I like the hat, of course. But the law is clear, the BLM has violated it, and he is aware and complicit.

  7. Voyageur says:

    Frankly, his punch is nothing to worry about.  He leads with his right, which is easy to block;-)

      So, no, I’m not outraged.   Even good guys say something stupid once in a while, e.g. Tagg Romney.


    • ProgressiveCowgirl says:

      I’m a lefty, and he’s past his prime… tell him if he wants to punch a wild horse advocate I’ll cage fight him, and he can use the ticket sales to actually implement some sensible BLM policies for once 😉

      • Voyageur says:

        I’m offering 3-1 odds on you in that cage fight.

          Douglas Bruce once started to take a swing at me, but looked up a couple inches and thought better of it.  Darn, I would have enjoyed going a round with him.  

  8. Barron X says:

    The assault was incidental;

    what really “struck” me was the cavalier attitude.

    “I’m here on my own time.”

    I thought that he was Secretary of the Interior 24/7/365.

    “I’m only here for Obama …”

    He traveled on the taxpayer’s tab, in his capacity as a cabinet officer, but now that he’s here, he’s a campaign staffer ?  

    The guy isn’t fit for public office.  

    I’ve seen plenty of “ambush interviews” on this site, where O’Reilley and conservatives are the target.  This was absolutely not an ambush, and it is dishonest to suggest there is any way for Salazar to portray it as such.  

    He simply didn’t care to be a cabinet officer at that moment, it wasn’t convenient, and he insisted on being treated like a private citizen.  


    Boot him out of office, and he can be a private citizen all he wants.  

  9. dwyer says:

    This is being reported in the paper that I don’t know still if we can name or link to….Voyageur might know how we can do that, now.

    Accordingly, this happened on Wednesday, after an editorial in the above not named newspaper called on

    Salazar to apologize.

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