The new U.S. ambassador to Germany upset his host country’s business and political leaders his first day on the job.
Within hours of assuming his post on Tuesday, Richard Grenell set an aggressive tone for diplomacy in the U.S.-allied country by tweeting a threatening message to German businesses following President Donald Trump’s decision to leave the Iran nuclear deal.
“German companies doing business in Iran should wind down operations immediately,” Grenell wrote.
Some German businesses and politicians were displeased.
“It’s not up to me to teach the U.S. ambassador how to be diplomatic, but he does seem to need a bit of tutoring,” said Andrea Nahles, the leader of Germany’s Social Democratic Party, according to German broadcaster Deutsche Welle.
Wolfgang Ischinger, chairman of the Munich Security Conference and a former German ambassador to the U.S., tweeted: “Ric, my advice, after a long ambassadorial career: explain your own country’s policies and lobby the host country — but never tell the host country what to do, if you want to stay out of trouble. Germans are eager to listen, but they will resent instructions.”
Grenell defended his comments, tweeting that he used “the exact language sent out from the White House talking points & fact sheet.”
But Grenell will find little support for that view in Germany. His confirmation came just a day ahead of a visit to the White House by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who ― like French President Emmanuel Macron days earlier ― urged Trump not to abandon the Iran deal.
The Senate confirmed Grenell’s nomination in April, filling a position that had been empty for over a year. Grenell, a Republican and close political ally of Trump, is a former Fox News commentator and worked with incoming national security adviser John Bolton at the United Nations under President George W. Bush.
With his confirmation, Grenell became one of the most prominent openly gay Trump appointees. Among his supporters is Stuart Milk, co-founder of the Harvey Milk Foundation and nephew of the late gay civil rights leader.
Elements of Grenell’s past, including derogatory comments about women, made him a controversial pick. Grenell has a history of stirring controversy on social media, and the Senate vote was initially delayed after several Democrats voiced concerns about Grenell’s reputation for launching sexist attacks through his Twitter account and disparaging women in media and politics.