Nov 15, 2012 1:02 AM by Eric Ross

Controversy continues over threat by government official to "punch" local newspaper reporter

Controversy continues following an audio tape released of U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar threatening to "punch out" a reporter from the Gazette at an election event in Fountain earlier this month.

Reporter Dave Phillips asked Salazar for a comment on current investigation into a shady deal involving an organization he was in charge of overseeing.

Witness and filmmaker Ginger Kathrens saw the incident first-hand Nov. 6.

"I think the secretary should step down," she said.

Salazer oversees the Bureau of Land Management which has a program in place to find loving homes for unwanted horses but since 2009, the agency may have been doing just the opposite.

They are being accused of selling hundreds of horses believed to have been slaughtered through a government loophole.

According to BLC, Tom Davis, a southern Colorado advocate for slaughterhouses was able to buy roughly 1,700 horses from them.

Unconfirmed reports hint Davis illegally took the horses outside state lines and into slaughterhouses in Mexico.

The whereabouts of those horses are unknown.

Shortly after an investigation was launched, rumors began circulating Salazar knew Davis.

News 5 is still working to confirm the extent of that relationship.

"We take these allegations that the horses may have ended up in a Mexican slaughterhouse seriously," said Tom Gorey, Senior Public Affairs Specialist with the BLM.

Although Salazar has yet to comment publicly on the allegations he deliberately sold horses to a man he knew would slaughter them, he did offer an apology to Phillips following their confrontation.

The apology letter reads:

"As I said to you by phone today, I apologize and regret the statement I made to you in Fountain, CO. I also will be happy to speak with you officially on the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Program.

Meahwhile, the Bureau of Land Management released this media statement to News 5: 

"The Bureau of Land Management condemns any sale of wild horses for slaughter. We care deeply about the well-being of wild horses, both on and off the range, and the BLM does not and has not knowingly sold or sent horses or burros to slaughter. We take seriously all accusations of the slaughter of wild horses or burros. The Office of the Inspector General at the Department of the Interior has initiated an investigation into the situation and will work in conjunction with the State of Colorado throughout its investigation. We look forward to the results of that inquiry. Anybody that is found to have violated the law should be held accountable."

No word yet on when the investigation is scheduled to be completed. 



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