Two weeks later, the same reporter accompanied Zinke as he toured downtown D.C. on a snow day. The resulting 2,500-word article saw the new secretary of the Department of the Interoir personally shoveling snow from the Lincoln Memorial steps, chatting up tourists, and promising never to close off monuments during a government shutdown like President Barack Obama once did. In his articles for IJR, Johnson often painted the former Navy SEAL as an irresistible figure—a patriot with respect for authority; a tough guy who carries an “ISIS Hunting License”; a kind-hearted soul who loves puppies. Zinke, as Johnson wrote, was an “all-around badass.”
Sixteen months in, Zinke’s cowboy image has been dented. He’s worn both a park ranger hat and a cowboy hat backwards. He botched a fishing rod while being profiled by Outside Magazine. He’s been criticized by Teddy Roosevelt’s grandson—twice.
But more significantly, the self-proclaimed “Teddy Roosevelt guy” has been quietly dismantling environmental protections for cherished public lands, repeatedly yielding to oil industry interests and big-game trophy hunters, and leading the administration’s charge against protecting endangered species. He’s also been the subject of nearly a dozen federal investigations, which include allegations of taxpayer waste (like ordering $139,000 doors for his office) and ethics violations (like flying on a private plane owned by oil and gas executives).
Zinke is increasingly vulnerable. The latest polling, from March, shows he has the lowest approval rating of all of the Trump administration’s cabinet members. He’s even gotten on the president’s bad side. Now, after Scott Pruitt’s resignation as head the EPA last month, environmental groups have marked Zinke as their next top target—and the last month has given them plenty of ammunition.
Many observers, including myself, told you weeks ago that Zinke would move to the top of the list after Pruitt's departure. It would appear the media's campaign officially began with this piece in Rolling Stone.