U.S. Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar personally apologized Wednesday for threatening to “punch out” a Colorado Springs Gazette reporter and agreed to sit for an in-depth interview.
“I want you to hear me loud and clear. I shouldn’t have said that,” Salazar told reporter Dave Philipps when he called to apologize just before 1 p.m. “To tell the truth, the wild horse issue has been the most difficult issue we have dealt with. We’ve had hundreds of meetings on it and there are still a lot of problems.”
Salazar also sent Philipps a letter of apology.
During an interview at a campaign stop in Fountain on Nov. 6, Philipps asked Salazar about the government’s wild horse program. After answering a few questions, Salazar pushed the Gazette’s camera aside. The secretary, dressed in a suit and wearing his signature white cowboy hat, then got within inches of the reporter’s face.
Philipps, an investigative reporter and Pulitzer finalist, had tried to reach Salazar for months through his press secretary to comment on a story Philipps wrote for ProPublica without response. The story detailed how a Colorado man with business connections to Salazar had been sold hundreds of federally protected wild horses despite being a proponent of horse slaughter. The fate of the horses is unknown.
The Gazette held the audio, hoping that Salazar would agree to a substantive interview concerning the wild horse program.
The confrontation was made public by the Colorado Springs-based wild horse advocacy group The Cloud Foundation on Monday and quickly spread through major news organizations and social media Tuesday. Conservative and liberal media alike chided Salazar, calling him “childish,” “absurd” and a “Thugocrat.”
Wednesday during their phone conversation Salazar invited Philipps to set up an interview on the wild horse program with him soon.
“It’s a tough issue,” Salazar said. “But I’m happy to have a substantive conversation about it.”