Obama chief of staff Rahm Emanuel called award of Nobel to president ‘fawning’

PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 May, 2014, 10:44pm
UPDATED : Friday, 16 May, 2014, 10:44pm


A senior Norwegian diplomat says his country's former ambassador to the United States was given a verbal lashing by Barack Obama's chief of staff when the president was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009.

Morten Wetland said on Thursday the ambassador, Wegger Stroemmen, was approached by Rahm Emanuel, now Chicago's mayor, who accused Norway of "fawning" to the newly elected US leader.

Wetland, the Norwegian ambassador to the United Nations at the time, said he did not witness the dressing down but said there was an air of embarrassment in Washington that Obama had been given the award so early in his presidency.

"I think everyone wanted to know what motivated the [awarding] committee. But when I was going down to the UN in New York, nobody talked about it," he said. "It was weird because the UN is a talking shop. And people just looked at their shoes. People didn't raise it with me."

Wetland, who was Norway's UN ambassador from 2008 to 2012, would not reveal how he knew about Emanuel's meeting with Stroemmen.

Wetland was interviewed after he wrote a column in Thursday's edition of the Norwegian daily business paper Dagens Naeringsliv, relating how his "most painful day" at the UN was when the prize was awarded to Obama.

The five-member Nobel committee, appointed by the Norwegian Parliament, cited Obama's support for the UN and multilateral diplomacy, and credited him with giving the world "hope" when it gave the award.

Obama had been in office only 12 days before the nomination deadline date.

"To be honest, I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures who have been honoured by this prize," Obama said when he heard the news.

Wetland said Emanuel was known for having a sharp tongue and that it was "the job of ambassadors to be available for those lashings out".