Remember Ryan Zinke? You know, President Trump’s former Secretary of the Interior. The guy who advocated drilling in all American waterways, compared Confederate General Robert E. Lee to Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King Jr, enjoyed extravagant holidays instead of working, called himself a geologist even though he wasn’t a geologist, and wrote his resignation letter in thick red marker, rendering it absolutely illegible? Yeah, him. Well, apparently he’s had some portraits done commemorating his short tenure in the Trump administration, and they’re absolutely ridiculous.
On Tuesday, Zinke, his wife, and their many admirers gathered—indoors, largely unmasked despite rising covid-19 numbers—for the unveiling of his official portrait. It depicts a rugged Zinke riding a horse during a 2017 visit to Bears Ears National Monument in Utah.
Bears Ears sits on Indigenous land and was designated as a national monument by President Obama in 2016. It’s worth noting that during his tenure, Zinke considered reducing the size of the 1.35 million acres national monument or reversing its protected status entirely. (This was met with protest during his 2017 visit. In response, Zinke wagged a finger in the face of Native American activist Cassandra Begay and told her to “be nice.”)
Somehow, the protesters didn’t make it into the final version of this portrait, but a backward cowboy hat might have.
Apparently, Zinke has a history of wearing hats backward... and doing other things backward as well (and not just his environmental policy).
But before this official portrait was unveiled, Zinke had a little fun with the audience: In front of the “real” portrait was an exaggerated portrait of a musclebound Zinke wearing a Zorro-esque mask—once again, on horseback—battling a massive rattlesnake with a battle ax.
In a video taken at the event, Zinke appears to compare the snake to D.C., the implication being that the rendering depicts Zinke’s arrival to help President Trump “Drain the Swamp.” But Zinke didn’t even tame the swamp. In his two year tenure, the former Montana Congressman left behind an ugly legacy of sidelining Native Americans, both in his employ and those living on the lands he was meant to protect. Ethics violations racked up, and his disregard for the environment soon became clear: Drilling, mining, and hunting were his priorities, not the preservation of vast expanse of land, animals, waters that define America’s natural beauty.
But, hey, cool ax, right?