The comment seemed to come out of left field in an otherwise sober hearing, but Inhofe was apparently referencing the fact that Fox's father was in the room in what a spokesperson told CNN was a "lighthearted joke." Fox laughed in response.
Eyebrows raised during an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) nominee’s Senate confirmation hearing on May 12, 2021, when Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma told Radhika Fox, a female EPA nominee for assistant administrator for the Office of Water, that he would “talk to [her] daddy” if she did not “behave.”
Inhofe said, after interrupting Fox’s answer to his question: “[…] I appreciate your comments particularly in your opening statement, I enjoyed that. And so I will look forward to working with you. And if you don’t behave, I’m going to talk to your daddy.”
Fox laughed in response. She has not commented publicly on the exchange since, so it’s not clear how she interpreted his comment.
A full video of the hearing can be seen below. The exchange took place around the 2:02:10 mark:
A spokesperson for Inhofe told CNN that, “Sen. Inhofe is always moved by the family stories of nominees, and was especially touched by Ms. Fox’s tribute to her father during the opening remarks. He made a lighthearted joke at the end of his questioning to recognize her father again since he was present for the hearing. As he said in the hearing, Inhofe looks forward to working with Ms. Fox once she is confirmed.”
Fox did not make any jokes about her father or misbehaving prior to the senator’s comment. Earlier in the hearing, Fox introduced herself to the committee as a first-generation American, whose family were rural farmers in India. “Everything I have accomplished is because I stand on the shoulders of my parents’ hard work,” she said, and acknowledged her father who was sitting behind her at the hearing.
Fox was nominated by U.S. President Joe Biden in January 2021. If confirmed, she would be the first Asian American and woman of color nominated to lead the EPA’s Office of Water.
Given that the exchange was recorded and a spokesperson for Inhofe has acknowledged the comment, we rate this claim as a “True.”