It was a balmy 32 degrees when the US ambassador to New Zealand, Scott Brown, touched down in Apia, the capital of the South Pacific island nation of Samoa.
Brown had flown in with his wife, Gail Huff, in July for a party to celebrate 50 years of the peace corps in the country. It was his inaugural visit to Samoa – of which he is also the official US representative – and one he was looking forward to.
The party was intended as the climax of the ambassador’s trip, a night for celebration. People were in high spirits. They were offered beer, wine, champagne and local hors d’oeuvres, including slices of taro topped with palusami, spring rolls and chicken skewers.
But something went wrong that night. As one attendee describes it, something was “off”, and the party has been at the centre of a US state department investigation over the ambassador’s conduct towards two women.
On Wednesday, Brown admitted he was being investigated by officials who had flown to Wellington, New Zealand, to interview him.
Brown said he wanted to address “innuendo and rumour” and claimed he had been admonished for praising the appearance of several attendees of the party. He also said he had remarked that the waiting staff were good enough to earn hundreds of dollars in the US.