Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke has claimed more than 40 times to be a geologist — including under oath before Congress — but he has never held that job, according to a new CNN report.
Discussing the Trump administration’s reduction of Bears Ears National Monument by 85 percent, Zinke cited his experience. “I’m a geologist,” he told Congress last week. “I can assure you that oil and gas in Bears Ears was not part of my decision matrix. A geologist will tell you there is little, if any, oil and gas.”
Add résumé embellishment to the list of controversies Ryan Zinke has racked up since joining Trump’s Cabinet. The former Montana congressman has drawn scrutiny for his use of private jets on the job: In one instance, he took a $12,375 chartered plane instead of a $300 commercial flight to visit a supporter’s hockey team. Zinke has also raised eyebrows by commissioning a personal flag to be flown when he’s inside the Interior Department offices and ordering commemorative agency coins with his face on them. Last month, it was reported his department spent $139,000 on an office door.
Throughout, he has referred to himself as a geologist more than 40 times. “I can tell you, from a geologist, offshore mining of sand is enormously destructive environmentally, as in comparison to seismic,” he told the House Natural Resources Committee last month. Last May, he criticized the U.S. Geological Survey, citing his credentials as a geologist. “I think the assessments of the USGS has done previous, I think they fall short, from a geologist’s point of view,” he said.
Ryan Zinke majored in geology at the University of Oregon — a major he chose at random, his autobiography says — but never held a job as a geologist, CNN reports. He joined the Navy SEALs after college and later went into business and politics. (In the late ’90s, the Navy officer was officially reprimanded and ordered to repay federal money he spent on restorations to his childhood home in Montana.)
“Ryan Zinke graduated with honors with a B.S. in Geology,” said an Interior Department spokesperson in a statement. “His intended career path was underwater geology — and he had college jobs to support that career. Upon graduation he was recruited to be an officer in the US Navy SEALs where he proudly served for 23 years and retired with the rank of Commander.”
This week, CNN also reported that in 2016, then-Congressman Zinke appeared on a radio show titled “Where’s Obama’s Birth Certificate,” which promoted birther conspiracy theories.