EPA Head Apologizes for Saying Little Girl's Moose Meat Gift Could 'Gag a Maggot'

Matt Vespa
By Matt Vespa | March 17, 2014 | 4:29 PM EDT

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy has come under fire over remarks she made about a can of moose meat that was handed to her as a gift from a little girl.  "It could gag a maggot," she reportedly said.  Well, such antics have drawn the ire of Alaska's congressional delegation, who have labeled her remarks as disrespectful.

It's a somewhat shocking development given that McCarthy has won over staunch anti-EPA politicians, like Sen. James Inhofe, through her work ethic.  Even U.S. energy company executives acknowledged that McCarthy listens to their concerns over regulations.  McCarthy has even been known to offer concessions, highlighting her reputation as a pragmatist.  All of this was documented in a March 6 piece in the Wall Street Journal, which also captured "moose meat- gate:"

She has been surprised by the government's ethics bureaucracy and its gift guidelines, remarking how officials chased her down for a dinky North Pole pin someone gave her at an event ("I threw the f-ing thing away," she told them), and for a jar of moose meat that "could gag a maggot" she accepted from a little girl during a hearing in Alaska.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski said the comments were surprising. (via Alaska's

"This is not coming from some random bureaucrat who's never been to Alaska, this was from a Cabinet secretary," Murkowski said.

Murkowski called McCarthy's comments were a mistreatment of Alaska's culture.

"What is more part of our culture than the foods that our Alaska Native peoples eat, whether it is moose or whether it is salmon?" Murkowski said. "Sometimes smoked salmon doesn't smell that appealing to other people, but it is a rich resource for us and it just demonstrates, again, a lack of understanding -- it was an unforgivable statement, I think."

Rep. Don Young said in a written statement, "Gina McCarthy's words sound like they come from someone who has contempt for, rather than an appreciation of the rich customary traditions of Alaska's people."

EPA spokesperson Mark MacIntyre issued a written statement on McCarthy's words Friday, which he provided to

"EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy has offered her heartfelt apology to her hosts for some unfortunate remarks she made to the press recently regarding gifts she received while visiting Alaska.  She was truly humbled by the kindness, warmth and hospitality shown to her throughout the trip and insists that she meant no disrespect.

"During her address at the recent National Congress of American Indians, Administrator McCarthy underscored her deep appreciation for the cultural value of gift giving, reconfirmed her commitment to strengthening partnerships between EPA and native people throughout Indian Country and emphasized her respect for the 'important government-to-government relationship we share.'"