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

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WASHINGTON — The American ambassador to Britain, Robert Wood Johnson IV, urged State Department investigators against publicly reporting allegations that he made sexually or racially inappropriate comments to embassy staff, according to a report released on Wednesday.

The report, the product of a routine inspection of the U.S. diplomatic mission to the United Kingdom conducted over a three-month period in the fall, recommended that officials at the State Department’s headquarters in Washington review Mr. Johnson’s conduct.

In particular, it said that staff at the American Embassy in London had reported being subject to “inappropriate or insensitive comments” by Mr. Johnson on topics that may have included references to “religion, sex, or color.”

The final report from the State Department’s Office of Inspector General did not provide any specific examples of comments, although American diplomats have previously told The New York Times that Mr. Johnson had offended embassy staff multiple times with suggestive remarks since becoming ambassador in August 2017.

Investigators also reported low morale among embassy employees, some of whom said Mr. Johnson had questioned their motives, or implied he would remove them from their jobs, for raising concerns about some of his ideas.

The final report calls for the State Department’s Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs to coordinate with the department’s Office of Civil Rights to examine Mr. Johnson’s conduct, “and based on the results of the review, take appropriate action.”

In a May 27 letter to the inspector general’s office, Mr. Johnson, who is known by his nickname Woody, said he rejected the conclusion that he may have violated the civil rights of embassy employees. He also said that, since no employee had filed a formal complaint against him, inspectors should reconsider “including the recommendation in the final report and concluding that my actions have negatively affected morale.”

“If I have unintentionally offended anyone in the execution of my duties, I deeply regret that, but I do not accept that I have treated employees with disrespect or discriminated in any way,” Mr. Johnson wrote in his response to inspectors, which was included in the report.

It was the only one of the report’s 22 recommendations that drew pushback from embassy leadership.

The report does not mention a separate controversy that surfaced last month about Mr. Johnson: that he told multiple colleagues in February 2018 that President Trump had asked him to see if the British government could help steer the world-famous and lucrative British Open golf tournament to the Trump Turnberry resort in Scotland.

Investigators previously told The Times that the issue was not raised by staff during interviews at the embassy in London or consulates elsewhere in the United Kingdom between September and December 2019.

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