27 Oct 2017

US ambassador's Samoa comments investigated

1:29 pm on 27 October 2017

The US ambassador to New Zealand has revealed he was investigated for remarks he made at a government event in Samoa.

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Photo: RNZ/ Rebekah Parsons-King

Scott Brown said that he did not know his comments in Samoa, where he is also the US ambassador, would be deemed offensive.

He called guests at a Peace Corps event in July "beautiful" and told one woman she could "make hundreds of dollars" as a waitress in the US.

Mr Brown suggested that the complaints may have been politically motivated.

New Zealand media report that the State Department sent investigators to Wellington.

Mr Brown said in a video statement released on Wednesday that he wanted to address "rumour and innuendo" reports of an "administrative investigation" into his comments in Samoa, an independent state in the Polynesian islands.

He said the reason he had commented on the guests' appearances in Samoa was because people he had seen prior to the event "were all dirty and grungy, and when we walked in, they were all dressed to the nines; they looked great".

"Apparently someone took offence to that," he told the news website, seated beside his wife. "Fine. I did say that."

The former Republican senator from Massachusetts added the comments to about 250 Samoan dignitaries were meant as a compliment.

One guest told a New Zealand news channel that the ambassador had behaved "obnoxiously".

"Would I say it again? Probably not," Mr Brown said on Wednesday.

He said he was told by US government employees to be more "culturally aware of different cultures' and he "welcomed" the advice.

Mr Brown, who was among the first lawmakers to endorse US President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign, has served as ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa since June.

In his statement he suggested that there was a political element to the complaints, as some members of the crowd did not like the US president.

"Sadly its politics and it is what it is," he said, adding that "politics is a blood sport".

The US embassy in Wellington said they had nothing to add to the ambassador's statement.