Samoa party witness: U.S. Ambassador behaved 'like he was channelling Trump'

28 October 2017, 12:00AM

A priest shouted “f... Trump” at a Peace Corps celebration party at Vailima after being rudely “shushed” by United States Ambassador Scott Brown, an attendee claims.

Brad Flahive, of Stuff, reports that the clash is alleged to have occurred at the July event that sparked a State Department investigation, to which Brown referred as a “cultural misunderstanding” in a Stuff interview on Wednesday. 

At the Peace Corps’ 50th anniversary celebrations, the reverend was thanked by people who left the party feeling embarrassed at a “belligerent American who is now ambassador” and meant to “build trust”, said the attendee, who did not wish to be named.

“When he was giving a speech he rudely shushed everyone … [it] was a cocktail party so it was supposed to be a fun event, and there were a lot of heads of state at the party,” she said.

“People were appalled, it felt like he was channelling [U.S. President Donald] Trump.”

The source acknowledged there was tension because a lot of the Americans who came over with the Peace Corps were Democrats, and Brown was one of the first ambassadors to be appointed by the Republican president after his inauguration in January.

Brown had not done anything to “release the tension”,  she said.

The ambassador was the subject of an official administrative inquiry into his conduct at the Peace Corps event in Apia, Samoa, in July.

U.S. officials said Brown had been counselled on standards of conduct for government employees after two complaints that originally came from two female Peace corps volunteers.

The source described Brown as “arrogant, fake, and put off a lot of people”.

She felt he spoke to the Samoan people with total contempt, “like we were a quaint little country that didn’t know any better”. 

“In his apology, he called the people outside the event dirty and grungy - I mean who says that?”

The source alleged Brown was “quite drunk” at the cocktail party, and could tell “from the way he acts he gets a lot of attention from women”.

“He doesn’t hide where his eyes are looking, he was really obvious about that.”

Speaking to Stuff this week, Brown confirmed there had been an administrative inquiry into his behaviour at the event and said he had chosen to front the issue because of the rumour and innuendo that had been circulating.

He blamed “cultural misunderstandings” for people taking offence, which he blamed on comments he made about some of the guests looking beautiful, and a reference to one woman being able to make hundreds of dollars in the hospitality industry in the U.S.

Brown said he made the comments after seeing the guests earlier in the day looking “dirty and grungy”. “Gail and I both walked in and said ‘you guys are beautiful, you look really handsome sir, you guys are great’,” he said, referring to his wife, Gail Huff.  

“And apparently somebody took offence to that.”

“Fine...I did say it. Gail and I did say it absolutely,” he said.




The source said Brown’s claim he didn’t know his comments would be offensive because of “cultural differences” didn’t make sense because the complainant was an American woman.

“The event was being catered by the Peace Corps volunteers who are all Americans,” a source who attended the event in Apia, Samoa.

Speaking to Stuff on Wednesday, the diplomat said the complaints had come as a complete surprise to he and his wife, and nothing had been said at the time or in the days following.

“When we found out what the issues were what the comments were, yes I absolutely said the first thing, we both did. Absolutely told people they could make great waitresses.” 

“I would say that to my kids too, in between jobs, hustling one, two, three jobs. Just get some money in your pocket and get out of there,” Brown said.

“And as a result of that I was told that, ‘you know, listen you’re not Scott Brown from Rye, New Hampshire any more, you’re an ambassador and you have to be culturally aware of different cultures, and different sensitivities’ and I’m always welcoming that kind of advice.”

Brown said he was not allowed to know who lodged complaints. 

Huff said she was with her husband the whole time and saw nothing that could have caused offence. 

Asked if he believed that was the extent of the complaints, and whether there might have been other behaviour that prompted the investigation, Brown said that was everything he had been informed of.

The inquiry had concluded with a warning that he should be more culturally aware, Brown said.

He said there were a lot of people at the event who did not like Trump.

“Sadly, it’s politics and it is what it is,” Brown said.

Asked if he was suggesting the complaints were politically motivated, Brown responded: “There was an element to that certainly. And I also think that culturally ... there were differences.”

Questioned about the latest allegations, a spokeswoman for the US Embassy said Brown and his wife had nothing to add to the comments they made in the Stuff interview on Wednesday.

“The State Department takes allegations of misconduct seriously and we investigate them thoroughly,” she said.

“We hold all employees to the highest standard.” 

“The Office of Inspector General conducted an independent review of the allegations and reported its findings to the Department. 

Senior leadership at the State Department has been in contact with Ambassador Brown and he has been counselled on standards of conduct for government employees, which also includes Ambassadors. Ambassador Brown welcomes this advice.”

28 October 2017, 12:00AM

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