Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced on Thursday that he has fired four top officials in the department for “inappropriate behavior” on the same day that the department released a survey showing that about a third of staffers at Interior have experienced harassment or discrimination over the course of the last year.
“I’m speaking today to make it clear that the culture of harassment and intimidation, which this administration inherited, has come to an end. I’ve already removed four senior leaders that were guilty of inappropriate behavior, and I will remove 400 more if necessary,” Zinke said in a video published on the Interior Department website. “Intimidation, harassment and discrimination is a cancer to any organization. However deep it goes, we will remove it from Interior.”
Zinke did not detail the “inappropriate behavior” exhibited by the four fired employees, leaving unclear the nature of the harassment or discrimination. The secretary also suggested that the Obama administration was to blame for allowing a culture of harassment, portraying himself as the harbinger of change.
“In the past, the words ‘zero tolerance’ have been an empty promise. While past leaders at Interior have said the right things, there was very little if any action,” he said in the video. “To be clear, Interior will no longer protect predators or accept inappropriate behavior.”
Asked for details Thursday on any staffers fired as a result of the survey, Interior Department spokeswoman Heather Swift would not say much to the Associated Press, but she did say that those terminated abused their authority, including with sexual harassment.
“Generally speaking, those terminated abused their authority to intimidate or harass fellow employees. This includes but is not limited to sexual harassment,” Swift told the AP in a statement.