Jets Owner Probed Over Bigoted Remarks, Pushing Trump Businesses While Ambassador to UK: Report

John Healy
July 22, 2020 - 1:14 pm

New York Jets owner Woody Johnson was investigated by the State Department watchdog for allegedly making racist and sexist remarks, as well as using his current position as U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom to benefit President Donald Trump’s business interests in the UK, according to a CNN report.

The State Department began investigating Johnson and the embassy in fall of 2019 and had staff from the Office of the Inspector General conducting interviews with embassy workers and Johnson over the past year.

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Diplomats reportedly told investigators that Johnson complained ahead of an event for Black History Month in 2018, asking if the audience would be “a whole bunch of Black people.” He also allegedly questioned why there was a need for a Black History Month, citing that absent Black fathers was “the real challenge.”

Johnson would also hold meetings at a centuries-old men’s-only club in London, which came to an end in late 2018 after a diplomat told him to stop because the embassy’s female diplomats could not attend.

Johnson allegedly made “cringeworthy” remarks about women, commenting on how many attractive women were present at certain public events, and also would make comments on the way women dressed around the embassy.

The report also details several instances in which he pushed back on attending women-based events. He allegedly questioned why he had to attend a “feminist event” for International Women’s Day – which is celebrated at embassies worldwide – and also voiced his disinterest in going to an event on gender-based violence because he is “not a woman.”

In addition to his alleged bigoted actions, honed in on allegations that he used his position in government to in an attempt to benefit Trump’s personal business interests.

Shortly after a visit to the U.S. to meet with Trump in 2018, Johnson allegedly inquired to his former deputy chief of mission, Lewis Lukens, about which British government officials he could speak to in order to try and get The Open golf tournament hosted at Trump’s Turnberry resort in Scotland.

Per CNN’s source, Lukens warned Johnson not to bring it up to government officials as it would be unethical, but Johnson indeed raised the matter with UK cabinet minister David Mundell, who was the most senior British government official responsible for Scotland.

A UK government spokesperson told CNN no such request was made.

CNN contacted Johnson about all the specific allegations, which he did not deny, but said that it was the “honor of a lifetime” to serve as the ambassador.

Later on Wednesday, Johnson tweeted from his official ambassador account that these "false claims of insensitive remarks about race and gender are totally inconsistent with my longstanding record and values."

Steve Linick, the State Department inspector general when the investigation began, was fired in Mid-May. The final report from the OIG’s findings is still pending.

Johnson, 73, has held the position of U.S. ambassador to the UK since 2017. In order to accept the role he had to cede control of the Jets to his brother, Christopher Johnson, in the interim.

His alleged behavior comes in the wake of criticism of Washington's NFL owner Dan Snyder, who presided over a culture of sexual harassment in the workplace, according to a Washington Post story that was released last week.

The specific persons involved in the story are no longer with the organization, although Snyder remains.

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