(WASHINGTON) — Scott Brown, the U.S. ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa, said Wednesday an inquiry had been opened into his conduct at a summer event he attended in Samoa. He said his comments to some guests and a food server were taken as offensive.
Brown told New Zealand news website Stuff that the blowback to his remarks at the July Peace Corps celebration were a cultural misunderstanding and may have been politically motivated.
Upon arriving at the July event, he and his wife Gail encountered a receiving line where he said people who had looked “dirty and grungy” earlier were dressed well and “all looked great.”
“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,’” Brown said. “And apparently somebody took offense to that.”
He later complimented a server, he said, and someone was offended by his comments.
“When someone came over and served food, I said, ‘You know what, you can make hundreds of dollars in the services industry, you know, waitress, bartender, sales. You’re doing a — you guys are doing a great job,’” Brown said. “And somebody took offense to that, as well.”
Brown, who is a Republican and was a supporter of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign last year, suggested complaints about his remarks may be based on political preferences. Brown previously served as a U.S. senator from Massachusetts and was nominated for the ambassadorship by Trump.
“Politics is a bloodsport back home,” Brown said, “and at this event, it was a — there were a lot of people that didn’t like the president. Sadly, it’s politics. It is what it is.”
The State Department and Peace Corps did not respond to ABC News’ requests for comment.
Brown said he was in Samoa to present his credentials and attended the Peace Corps’ 50th anniversary in Samoa celebration, in his first day there. Photographs from the event show he and his wife speaking to attendees.
Brown and his wife, who sat beside him while he spoke to Stuff, said that they had learned to be more careful with their words. He said the inquiry had concluded with a warning to be more aware of cultural sensitivities.
“I was in fact told by my people that, ‘Listen, you know, you’re not Scott Brown from Rye, New Hampshire, anymore, you’re an ambassador. And you have to be aware, culturally aware, of different cultures, different insensitivities,'” Brown said. “And I’m always welcoming that kind of advice.”
“Will I say it again?” Brown added, laughing. “Probably not.”
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