The US's next ambassador to Norway has committed a jaw-dropping diplomatic blunder before he even begins, describing politicians from the Progress Party, which has seven ministers, as "fringe elements" that "spew their hatred" in a US Senate hearing.
Asked by Senator John McCain what he thought it was about the "anti-immigration" Progress Party that appealed to Norwegian voters, Greek American businessman George Tsunis seemed unaware of the party's role in the ruling coalition.
"You get some fringe elements that have a microphone and spew their hatred," he said in the pre-appointment hearing. "And I will tell you Norway has been very quick to denounce them."
McCain interrupted him, pointing out that as part of the coalition, the party was hardly being denounced.
"I stand corrected," Tsunis said after a pause. "I would like to leave my answer at... it's a very,very open society and the overwhelming amount of Norwegians and the overwhelming amount of people in parliament don't feel the same way."
The blunder came after a faltering, incoherent performance from Tsunis, in which he made a reference to Norway's "president", apparently under the impression that the country is a republic rather than a constitutional monarchy.
Tsunis founded the hotel management company Chartwell Hotels, which operates properties for InterContinental Hotels, and other major hotel groups. He is one of the leading figures in the Greek-American establishment, and is heavily involved in the Greek Orthodox Church.
He donated $267,244 to the Democratic party in the 2012 election cycle, and $278,531 in 2010, making him one of the party's top individual donors.