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Woody Johnson Asked State Dept. Auditors to Delete Claims of Offensive Remarks From Report

  • August 12, 2020

“We do not believe a formal assessment is required,” Mr. Reeker concluded, but said that all staff, including the ambassador, would be given additional training “to heighten awareness on these important issues.” He also said Mr. Johnson has since watched a department video on workplace harassment.

The inspector general’s office dismissed Mr. Reeker’s response and said it would consider the matter “unresolved” until his office ensured the complaints were properly investigated and addressed, as required by State Department policy.

The complaints about Mr. Johnson began soon after he arrived in London.

One Black female diplomat told colleagues that Mr. Johnson disparaged her efforts to schedule events for Black History Month, asking her whether he would have to address an audience that was “just a bunch of Black people.” He told the diplomat, who later left the Foreign Service, that she was “marginalizing” herself.

After a visit by the education secretary, Betsy DeVos, Mr. Johnson lashed out at his staff for arranging a reception at his residence that included teenagers, some of whom were people of color who had won scholarships to make recruiting visits to American universities.

At his weekly staff meeting, Mr. Johnson once pointed out to colleagues that he had seen a female employee working out in the embassy’s gym that morning. He joined an exclusive men’s club in London, White’s, that does not allow women, and as a result, did not invite the embassy’s female political affairs counselor, but rather her male deputy, when he held business lunches there.

A State Department spokesman declined to comment on whether Mr. Pompeo or other top officials would review the allegations, as the inspector general’s office recommended. But in a statement, the department said Mr. Johnson had served “honorably and professionally.”

“We stand by Ambassador Johnson and look forward to him continuing to ensure our special relationship with the U.K. is strong,” the statement said.

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