FACT CHECK: Did Ryan Zinke Have A Special Flag Raised Whenever He Entered Agency Headquarters?

Brad Sylvester | Fact Check Editor

Anderson Cooper, host of “Anderson Cooper 360,” claimed on his show that former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke would have a personal flag hoisted atop the Department of Interior headquarters whenever he entered the building.

“There was also the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, remember him, who apparently thought he was Queen Elizabeth because he ordered a special flag to be raised whenever he entered the building,” stated Cooper May 2.

Verdict: True

During his time in office, Zinke instructed staff to raise a personal flag whenever he was in the building. A spokesperson maintained that it was a way of restoring tradition and “a major sign of transparency.”

Fact Check:

Cooper made the statement during a monologue at the end of his show where he noted that many of President Donald Trump’s appointees have resigned, often amid controversy, including Zinke, former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt and former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price.

Zinke, a former Navy SEAL, served as interior secretary from March 2017 to January 2019, and according to reporting by The Washington Post, the claim is true – during his tenure, Zinke instructed staff to raise a personal flag when he entered Interior Department headquarters and take it down when he left.

WaPo described the flag as a “blue banner emblazoned with the agency’s bison seal flanked by seven white stars representing the Interior bureaus.” When Zinke was away, the process was repeated with a different flag for then-Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt.

For part of the 20th century, it was fashionable for civilian heads of government to have personal flags, but the practice really has its roots in military tradition. High-ranking military officials will, on occasion, fly a personal flag that displays their rank above a military installation to mark their presence, but the flag is not raised or lowered every time the official enters or leaves the site, a Pentagon spokesperson told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

A spokesperson for Zinke told WaPo that the practice was implemented for his agency as a way of “restoring honor and tradition to the department.” Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson reportedly flew a personal flag in front of his department’s headquarters, but it remained up whether he was in the building or not.

As Cooper alluded to, the U.K.’s royal standard flag is flown when Queen Elizabeth II is in residence at one of the royal palaces.

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Brad Sylvester

Fact Check Editor
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