U.S. Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., went on a profanity-laced tirade aimed at Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke after a recent leadership shakeup at the Bureau of Land Management in Nevada, an audio recordingobtained by the Reno Gazette Journal reveals.
Audio of the colorful remarks, made this month during the Churchill County GOP’s Lincoln Day Dinner, emerged only days after Amodei faced an uproar over his office’s role in the suspension of a McQueen High School student who used profanity while taking part in student walkouts seeking action on gun control.
The comments also came a little more than a month after Nevada BLM chief John Ruhs’ sudden departure to take over the bureau’s top firefighting post in Boise, Idaho — a move Amodei lamented in a lengthy text message to Zinke read aloud to Lincoln Dinner attendees.
The Carson City congressman hinted the departure may have had something to do with tensions between Ruhs and a top Zinke deputy.
“While I think the world of Mr. Ruhs, I’m not going to try and get between him and your deputy guy, whatever is going on with those two,” Amodei said he told Zinke. “With all due respect, I’ve been to enough rodeos to sense an issue there and let’s just move on.
“Nevada has suffered through a decade of shit BLM leadership,” he continued. “To put a strong successful leader in there for a net 18 months and then, for any reason, ship him, or let him leave to a position in Boise, is absolutely tone deaf.”
Northern Nevada’s lone congressman went on to decry “bullshit” legal provisions he said were cited by a Zinke subordinate in explaining why Amodei wasn’t told of Ruhs’ departure. That explanation, he felt, amounted to Zinke’s office indirectly telling him to “eat shit” over the incident.
Zinke, in Amodei’s telling, kept his response brief, replying in a text: “Totally understand. That would piss me off too. Just call me and not staff.”
Reached on Friday, Amodei said he’d since had a few conversations with Zinke about Ruhs’ departure, during which he said he received assurances that Ruhs wasn’t forced out. Still, he maintains that Ruhs would’ve preferred to stay in Nevada.
“John Ruhs is a top-flight, world-class land manager,” Amodei added. “So I’ll tell you my selfish motivation here: When I’ve got a strong manager who’s going to be leaving, I’m pissed.”
Amodei said he was still seeking details on a controversial proposed BLM reorganization that could deprive Nevada of any top agency manager in the state.
Asked if he was on good terms with Zinke, Amodei said “you’d have to ask him.”
“Nobody’s deigned to talk to me about it,” Amodei said of the proposed reorganization. “So I guess that’s the underlying theme here — communication.
“I want a state director. (Zinke) said you’re going to have a state director. So I may well walk out of (upcoming briefings) and say ‘I can live with that.’”
The plainspoken GOP congressman hasn’t shied away from criticizing the BLM during his seven years at the U.S. Capitol, frequently chastising the agency’s sage grouse preservation efforts and calling for the return of some of the nearly 50 million acres the agency owns in Nevada. Just last month, he called the agency “uncollaborative” in an editorial board meeting with the RGJ.
Nor has Amodei been bashful about the use of public profanity, something critics were happy to point out amid public outcry over a McQueen high schooler who was disciplined after cursing during a phone call with the congressman’s office.
The student, Noah Christiansen, was handed a two-day suspension hours after an Amodei staffer complained to the school about salty language Christiansen used in a call to his office during student-led protests seeking legislative action on gun control measures.
Washoe County School District officials on Friday abandoned the suspension, citing legal threats from the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada.
Christiansen, 17, has also asked Amodei to apologize and withdraw his office’s complaint.
The three-term congressman has declined to do so and repeatedly defended his staffer’s First Amendment right to complain about the call. He did not endorse McQueen’s decision to punish Christiansen in connection with that complaint.
Christiansen’s suspension garnered national media coverage and put a spotlight on Amodei’s own past uses of profanity.
This month, the Nevada Appeal reported Amodei said a new Carson City library was “kicking ass.” In October 2016, the Record-Courier quoted him asking constituents if they needed anything from the White House ahead of a return trip to Washington D.C., “because I know they're not talking to your lily white ass.”