Newly appointed British foreign secretary Boris Johnson held his first joint press conference with his American counterpart, secretary of state John Kerry, today (July 19) in London. And it was certainly not one of the former London mayor’s more glorious moments.
Brad Klapper, an American reporter for the Associated Press, ripped into the foreign secretary, resurrecting some recent, rather undiplomatic soundbites uttered by Britain’s chief diplomat.
“You’ve accused the the current US president Barack Obama of harboring a part-Kenyan’s, quote, ‘ancestral dislike for the British Empire,’ unquote, while claiming, I think untruthfully at the time, that he didn’t want a Churchill bust in the White House. You‘ve described possible future US president Hillary Clinton as someone with, quote, ‘dyed blond hair and pouty lips and a steely blue stare, like the sadistic nurse in a mental hospital,’ unquote. You’ve also likened her to Lady MacBeth. Do you take these comments back? Or do you want to take them with you into your new job as some sort of indicator of the type of diplomacy you will practice?”
Klapper tacked on an equally devastating follow-up for secretary Kerry:
“Given that Mr. Johnson led a campaign that your government viewed pretty universally as detrimental to UK, EU, and even US interests, what confidence do you have that as foreign secretary Mr. Johnson will represent the interests of anyone but himself? If the Mr. Johnson you saw during the referendum campaign what the US, UK, and EU need right now, at a time of so many challenges?”
Johnson, clearly taken aback by the line of questioning, managed to eke out a rather impressively lyrical, albeit florid, response: “I’m afraid there is such a rich thesaurus now of things that I have said that have been—one way or another, through what alchemy I do not know—somehow misconstrued, that it would really take me too long to engage in a full, global itinerary of apology to all concerned.”
Despite a few precarious moments toward the beginning of Klapper’s questioning, in which Kerry teetered dangerously close to cracking a smile, the secretary heroically held it together for the cameras.