Aug 12, 2020 - World

Ambassador to U.K. Woody Johnson accused of inappropriate comments

Johnson (center) at Downing Street during President Trump's state visit to the U.K. Photo: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

U.S. Ambassador to the U.K. Woody Johnson made "inappropriate or insensitive comments" in the workplace on topics "such as religion, sex, or color," according to a report from the State Department's Inspector General's Office.

Why it matters: Johnson, an heir to the Johnson & Johnson fortune who owns the New York Jets football team, has been under scrutiny for his behavior as ambassador, including reportedly attempting to help steer the British Open golf tournament to one of President Trump's courses.

Details: The inspector general report doesn't address those claims, but finds that Johnson's leadership style at times harmed morale at the embassy.

  • In addition to the "inappropriate or insensitive comments," the report finds that when staff resisted Johnson's suggestions, "he sometimes questioned their intentions or implied that he might have them replaced."
  • "This caused staff to grow wary of providing him with their best judgment," the report notes, citing interviews with staff members.

The report also addresses Johnson's poor relations with his former deputy, a career diplomat named Lewis Lukens, which it says harmed "mission morale."

  • Johnson had Lukens removed after "speeches in which he praised the Obama administration," per AP.
  • Lukens has since said that he raised concerns about Johnson's alleged lobbying over the British Open with State Department officials.

Johnson has denied any wrongdoing, and responded specifically to the report's recommendation that his comments be reviewed "for compliance with Department Equal Employment Opportunity" and other policies.

  • "If I have unintentionally offended anyone in the execution of my duties, I deeply regret that, but I do not accept that I have treated employees with disrespect or discriminated in any way," Johnson wrote.
  • He added that morale at the embassy was now "better than ever."

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