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Obama Nominee As Ambassador To Iraq Withdraws

Brett H. McGurk.
Harvard Institute of Politics
Brett H. McGurk.

Revelations that President Obama's nominee for ambassador to Iraq had an extramarital affair with a reporter have cost Brett H. McGurk his nomination.

As The New York Times reports, a series of leaked racy e-mails between McGurk and Gina Chon, who was a reporter for The Wall Street Journal, caused Republican opposition to his nomination as ambassador.

The Times reports:

"'Iraq urgently needs an ambassador,' Mr. McGurk wrote to Mr. Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. 'The country is in the midst of a political crisis, and our mission is undergoing rapid transformation.'

"Mr. McGurk's withdrawal was a blow to the White House as it seeks to manage relations with Iraq in the postwar phase and preserve a fragile stability amid sporadic violence and Iranian influence. Mr. Obama pulled the last American troops out of Iraq last December in keeping with a 2008 agreement negotiated by Mr. McGurk when he was a top national security aide to President George W. Bush."

McGurk and Chon are now married.

The leaked emails (careful, there's graphic language in them) appeared on the website Cryptome on June 5, a day before McGurk was set to appear before the Senate's Foreign Relations Committee.

A few days after the emails were leaked, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland was asked about the emails. She refused to comment on their content.

"With regard to Mr. McGurk's nomination, I think you know that he spent the better part of the last decade serving our country in and out of Iraq, working for a Republican administration, a Democratic administration," Nuland said. "He is, in our view, uniquely qualified to serve as our ambassador, and we urge the Senate to act quickly on his nomination."

Chon resigned from The Wall Street Journal last week. The newspaper said Chon had shared "certain unpublished news articles" with McGurk, which is in violation of the company's policy.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.