One Alaska lawmaker is calling recent comments made by the Environmental Protection Agency's top official "disparaging" and "unforgivable."
EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy visited Alaska last August and attended hearings around the state.
During McCarthy's trip, she received gifts from Alaskans.
The Wall Street Journal quoted McCarthy online recently, criticizing the government's ethics bureaucracy. Officials apparently chased her down for accepting a North Pole pin someone gifted to her.
McCarthy was quoted in the WSJ article published March 6, saying "I threw the f-ing thing away."
In the article, McCarthy continued on about a jar of moose meat that "could gag a maggot."
Sen. Lisa Murkowski said the comments were surprising.
"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.
"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," MacIntyre wrote. "She was truly humbled by the kindness, warmth and hospitality shown to her throughout the trip and insists that she meant no disrespect."
Sen. Mark Begich said the apology was a step in the right direction.
"She was quick to recognize her mistake the way she described the food and I think that's a first sign, but at the end of the day we need people to understand that Alaska is not like New York, it's not Massachusetts, it's not like California," Begich said. "It's a very unique state that has very unique challenges."
In his statement, MacIntyre emphasized McCarthy's previous association with American Indians across the country.
"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,’” MacIntyre wrote.