White House responds to allegations involving Ambassador Howard Gutman

The White House has responded to allegations involving the US Ambassador to Belgium, Howard Gutman, and other members of staff at the US State Department. A White House spokesman insists that President Obama has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to criminal misconduct. The US State Department emphasizes that the allegations are based on rumour and says that it would be preposterous to respond with action.

A White House spokesman told the VRT: "I wanna make clear the President has zero tolerance for misconduct by any government employee. We're not going to pre-judge based on unfinished investigations... "

The White House was responding to allegations in the press on Tuesday involving the US Ambassador to Belgium, Howard Gutman, and a number of State Department staff members. The broadcaster CBS claimed that a US ambassador had repeatedly used the services of prostitutes. The US tabloid The New York Post identified the ambassador as Ambassador Gutman.

Mr Gutman, who leaves his job in Belgium this summer, has denied the allegations. In a press statement he said: "“I am angered and saddened by the baseless allegations that have appeared in the press and to watch the four years I have proudly served in Belgium smeared is devastating. I live on a beautiful park in Brussels that you walk through to get to many locations and at no point have I ever engaged in any improper activity."

Whether there is any substance to the allegations is extremely unclear. So far, no evidence has come to light to substantiate the allegations of sexual misconduct.

Allegations have also been made suggesting that the State Department swept the matter under the carpet. The State Department says that this allegation is ‘preposterous’. Spokeswoman Jen Psaki: "You know the notion that we would not vigorously pursue criminal misconduct, is not only preposterous, it is inaccurate."

Ms Psaki insisted that every allegation of misconduct was taken seriously and was thoroughly investigated: "This is exactly what we are doing or are in he process of doing or have completed doing in all these cases."

The allegations hinge on an internal memo written by an Inspector General at the State Department that was leaked to the press. The memo states that several investigations into possible misconduct were influenced, manipulated or called off.

The memo says that the US ambassador routinely ditched his protective security detail. Investigators suspected he did this in order to solicit sexual favours from prostitutes.

The CBS report claimed the ambassador had contacts with prostitutes in a park in Brussels and ordered his security detail to leave him alone so that he could do what he wanted. The ambassador was reportedly called to account in Washington, but allowed to return to Brussels.

The broadcaster CBS speaks of eight cases of possible abuse. They include allegations that in Beirut, Lebanon, a staff member of the US security service assaulted Lebanese workers, who were hired to guard the embassy. Other allegations centre on the security detail of the then Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, who stand accused of repeatedly using the services of prostitutes during trips.