• Interior secretary regretful after making threat
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     | November 15,2012
     
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    U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s office said he regrets an exchange in which he threatened to hit a Colorado reporter who asked about problems in the government’s wild horse program. The incident happened Election Day at a campaign event in Fountain while Salazar was on a state tour in support of President Barack Obama’s re-election.

    COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar expressed regret Wednesday after he threatened to “punch out” a Colorado newspaper reporter who asked about problems in the government’s wild horse program at a campaign event.

    The incident happened on Election Day at an event in Fountain while Salazar was on a state tour in support of President Barack Obama’s re-election.

    In audio posted by The Gazette of Colorado Springs, reporter Dave Philipps is heard asking for an on-camera interview with Salazar, a Colorado native who previously served as a U.S. senator from the state.

    After a few general questions, the Gazette reporter asked Salazar what he knew about Tom Davis, a Colorado horse slaughter proponent who has bought hundreds of wild horses gathered from public lands by the Bureau of Land Management, and about the agency’s wild horse management program, which Salazar’s office oversees.

    Salazar answered briefly, saying the BLM has made a “major effort” to address long-standing problems with wild horses on public lands.

    Salazar added he was appearing at the campaign event about 80 miles south of Denver in a “personal capacity,” and said his office could arrange to talk about Davis “at an appropriate time.”

    After the interview, Salazar accused Philipps of setting him up. He then posed the threat, saying: “If you do that to me again, I’ll punch you out.”

    Salazar spokesman Blake Androff on Wednesday said simply that Salazar “regrets the exchange.” He did not elaborate.

    In the audio, Philipps also is heard telling Salazar that he previously got no response after trying multiple times to arrange an interview through Salazar’s press secretary.

    The Gazette reports it initially held off on posting the audio in hopes of getting an interview with Salazar. But a Colorado Springs-based wild horse advocacy group, The Cloud Foundation, publicized the exchange Monday and the Gazette published a story on Tuesday.

    The newspaper also published an editorial saying Salazar should apologize to Philipps and asking the Interior secretary to consent to an in-depth interview about wild horses.

    The BLM has struggled with how to manage growing horse herds, which can double naturally within five years if left unchecked. Horses have been injected with drugs and vaccines to slow reproduction and rounded up for adoption, but the agency currently has more horses in captivity than are left roaming the range.

    The Gazette previously reported that Davis acknowledged shipping horses out of state without inspections, in violation of branding laws. The case has been turned over to prosecutors in southern Colorado.

    In a story for the nonprofit news organization ProPublica in September, Philipps reported that Davis has purchased 70 percent of the wild horses sold by the BLM since 2009 through its sale program and signed contracts promising that the animals wouldn’t be slaughtered.

    Davis has said he has lived up to his contracts.

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