Scott Brown says he was advised by the US Department of State to be more culturally sensitive after he called Peace Corps volunteers in Samoa “beautiful” and told servers at another function in Samoa that they could make good money in the food services industry.
“I was, in fact, told by my people that: ‘Listen, you’re not Scott Brown from Rye, N.H., anymore. You’re an ambassador. And you have to be aware, culturally aware, of different cultures, different insensitivities,’ ” the former US senator and current US ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa told a New Zealand news website. “And I’m always welcoming that kind of good advice.”
Brown sat down with the Stuff.co.nz site on camera to address “rumor and innuendo” he said he was hearing about his behavior and told them there had been an official “administrative inquiry.”
A State Department official told the Globe late Wednesday that its Office of Inspector General “has conducted an independent review of the allegations and reported its findings to the department,” but the official did not specify what the allegations or findings were.
“Senior leadership at the State Department has been in contact with Ambassador Brown, and he has been counseled on standards of conduct for government employees, which also includes ambassadors,” the official said in an e-mail.
As Brown explained it to the New Zealand website, when he and his wife, former WCVB-TV reporter Gail Huff, went to Samoa this summer to present his diplomatic credentials, they attended a Peace Corps event.
They had seen the volunteers when they looked “dirty and kinda grungy.” But when Brown and Huff walked through a receiving line, he said, everyone looked fabulous.
“Everyone really was dressed to the nines,” he said in a video on the website. “They all looked great. Gail looked great. You know, I was dressed up. And Gail and I both walked in and we said, ‘Boy, you guys look beautiful,’ ‘You look really handsome, sir,’ you know, ‘You guys are great!’ And, apparently, somebody took offense to that.”
Brown said someone was also dismayed by a comment he made at a formal dinner with top Samoan officials to mark the presentation of his credentials as ambassador to the Pacific island nation.
“During the ceremony, the presentation ceremony — they were doing the haka, they were doing the official dances, and the presentations honoring people — there are people serving food,” Brown said in the video. “And when someone came over and served food, I said, ‘You know what, you could make hundreds of dollars in the services industry, you know? Waitress, bartenders, sales. You guys are doing a great job.’ And somebody took offense to that as well.”
Brown raised the prospect that the complaints might have had some political motivation. “Listen: Politics is a bloodsport back home,” he said in the video. “There were a lot of people that didn’t like the president.”
A spokeswoman at the US Embassy in Wellington did not respond to e-mails Wednesday. The US Embassy in New Zealand told the Associated Press that Brown would not comment beyond the interview he gave to the news website.
Brown, 58, has lived an unlikely political trajectory. A backbench Massachusetts legislator, the Republican burst onto the national political scene in 2010 when he beat Martha Coakley in an upset US Senate victory that threatened Democratic plans for passing then-President Obama’s health care overhaul.
Brown was unseated in 2012 by Democrat Elizabeth Warren.
Two years later, he ran for US Senate in New Hampshire but lost to incumbent Jeanne Shaheen .
On the campaign trail in all three of his federal races, Brown’s unscripted interactions with voters, officials, and journalists sometimes helped and sometimes hurt him.
During the 2016 election cycle, he endorsed Donald Trump early. After the New York billionaire’s victory, Brown was appointed to the diplomatic post and quickly confirmed by the Senate.
Between his time as Massachusetts senator and New Hampshire Senate candidate, Brown served as a commentator on Fox News.
A former Fox News host claimed in a lawsuit that Brown made sexually inappropriate comments to her while on set and put his hands on her lower waist, the Globe reported in 2016. Brown dismissed the accusations as false.
Joshua Miller can be reached at email@example.com.