WASHINGTON — Sen. Al Franken said Tuesday he opposes President Obama’s nominee to serve as ambassador to Norway, businessman George Tsunis.
Leaders in Minnesota’s Norwegian-American community, the largest in the country, had launched a campaign against Tsunis’ nomination after his rocky testimony before the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee in January. In a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, Franken said he would vote against Tsunis’ nomination, “on the basis of my constituents’ concerns about Mr. Tsunis’ ability to serve effectively as our nation’s ambassador.”
“What I have heard from Minnesotans is that Mr. Tsunis’ performance at his confirmation hearing and the controversy that followed it will make it impossible for him to serve effectively as our ambassador to Norway,” Franken wrote. “Many Minnesotans have expressed concern that Mr. Tsunis’ remarks during the hearing have deeply damaged his credibility with the government of Norway, the people of Norway, and the American people.”
Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s office said she told the White House earlier this year that she also opposes Tsunis’ nomination.
Tsunis’ January testimony was rife with missteps. He said he’s never been to Norway, and didn’t have a strategy for improving American-Norwegian trade. He called the Progress Party, a member of the country’s coalition government, a “fringe element” that “spews hatred” with its hard-line position on immigration.
After the testimony, Norwegian news services slammed his nomination, and he was mocked by the Daily Show. A group of Norwegian-Americans in Minnesota and North Dakota wrote a Star Tribune op-ed against his nomination and have pushed senators from Minnesota and other Midwestern states heavy with Scandinavian heritage to oppose his nomination.
The Foreign Affairs Committee eventually sent Tsunis’ nomination to the floor, where he’s still awaiting a vote.
Devin Henry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.