Jon Huntsman Jr., the U.S. ambassador to Russia and former Utah governor, revealed in an interview that he has stage 1 cancer, Salt Lake City’s Deseret News reported in a wide-ranging feature on Thursday.
“It’s just stage 1,” Huntsman told the paper. “So we’ll probably get it taken care of, and we’ll be fine.”
Huntsman received his diagnosis ― melanoma ― after having moles removed at the Huntsman Cancer Institute in Utah over the summer. The ambassador noted that it was the same type of cancer that Sen. John McCain had prior to 2008 (that cancer was different from the cancer that took McCain’s life earlier this year). The former Arizona senator was a mentor figure to Huntsman, who also lost his father to cancer this year.
“It kind of puts things in perspective,” the ambassador said of his diagnosis.
He will need regular checkups to ensure the cancer does not spread.
Huntsman said he has been careful not to reveal his condition to anyone in Moscow until now. According to the Deseret News, he is wary of “what they [Russia] might do with the information,” since he has already found himself the target of state media propaganda. He assumes his Moscow residence is bugged.
The lengthy feature touched on Huntsman’s experience navigating diplomatic ties between the U.S. and Russia, strained by the latter’s alleged interference in the U.S. 2016 election. He also discussed his relationship with President Donald Trump, who named him ambassador to Russia in July 2017.
Although Huntsman faced calls for his resignation after Trump’s highly controversial Helsinki summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, he would not speak negatively of the president.
On the alleged election interference, Huntsman told the paper that there is “no lingering doubt about the importance of this issue” between the two nations.
“It’s a very, very serious violation of our political sovereignty. I say political sovereignty because it went right to the heart and soul of our values and our belief system as a country, whether you’re a Republican or Democrat,” he told the paper.
“It’s the believability, the trust in our democracy, our system, and when you start to rip that down and divide and create propaganda messaging that begins to split people and take positions on both extremes on issues like guns and race relations, this has potentially a deleterious impact on the well-being of our civil society.”
Huntsman would not say how the U.S. would respond were Russia to interfere in the upcoming midterm elections, but he said “it could be pretty dramatic.”
This story has been updated to include more details about McCain’s cancer.