Scott Brown, the United States’ ambassador to New Zealand, said guests at a Peace Corps event in Samoa were “beautiful” and told a woman server she could make hundreds of dollars in hospitality in the US — prompting a State Department inquiry into his propriety at official events.
“Apparently somebody took offense to that,” the former Republican senator from Massachusetts said in a video addressing the incident. “I was in fact told by my people, 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, and I’m always welcoming that kind of good advice.”
One witness at the July event told New Zealand’s television station 1 NEWS that the ambassador had behaved “obnoxiously” in front of the 250 guests, which included New Zealand dignitaries.
Brown said the incident was a misunderstanding, and likely based in political motivations. “Politics is a blood sport back home and at this event there were a lot of people that didn’t like the president,” Brown said in the video statement.
The reports come amid heightened scrutiny around sexual harassment claims in politics and entertainment. Brown has been accused of inappropriate comments in the past: In August 2016, a former Fox News host alleged in a lawsuit that Brown, who was a network contributor, had made sexually charged comments to her, suggesting she would “be fun to go to a nightclub with.” Brown denied the claims, calling them “totally false.”
Brown, an early supporter of President Donald Trump’s candidacy in 2016, has been serving as the ambassador to New Zealand — and the envoy to Samoa — since June. He served as the senator from Massachusetts from 2010 to 2013, claiming an upset win to fill a vacant seat after Ted Kennedy’s death. He was unseated by Sen. Elizabeth Warren in 2012 and ran another unsuccessful senate bid in New Hampshire in 2014.
In the video statement, Brown said both he and his wife made similar comments at the event, explaining that they had seen people at the event earlier in the day “and they were all dirty and grungy, and when we walked in, they were all dressed to the nines; they looked great,” which is why he said they were “beautiful.”
His comment to the female server, who he told could make hundreds in the United States, he said, was his way of complimenting the caliber of the service.
“Will I say it again? Probably not,” Brown said.