White House defends ambassador despite 'jaw dropping' stumble

McClatchy Washington BureauJanuary 24, 2014 

The White House is sticking up for President Obama's pick for ambassador to Norway, who this week made what a Norwegian website dubbed a "jaw-dropping diplomatic blunder."

The Local reported that under questioning by Sen. John McCain, Greek American businessman George Tsunis referred to the "anti-immigration" Progress Party -- which is part of the ruling coalition -- as "fringe elements."

The Local said the remarks "came after a faltering, incoherent performance from Tsunis, in which he made a reference to Norway's 'president,' apparently under the impression that the country is a republic rather than a constitutional monarchy."

Press Secretary Jay Carney defended Tsunis, though he said he didn't see the hearing or the testimony.

"I can tell you that this president has confidence in all of the nominees he's put forward for ambassadorial positions, as well as other positions in the administration, in the government," Carney said.

An Obama fundraiser, Tsunis is founder, chairman and chief executive officer of Chartwell Hotels, which owns, develops and manages Hilton, Marriott and Intercontinental hotels throughout the Northeast and Middle Atlantic states.

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