STAVANGER, Norway — 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 Thursday the ambassador, Wegger Stroemmen, was approached by Rahm Emanuel, now Chicago’s mayor, who accused Norway of “fawning” to the newly elected U.S. 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 U.N. in New York, nobody talked about it,” he said. “It was weird because the U.N. is a talking shop. And people just looked at their shoes. People didn’t raise it with me.”
Wetland, who was Norway’s U.N. ambassador 2008-2012, would not reveal how he knew about Emanuel’s meeting with Stroemmen.
The AP interviewed Wetland by telephone after his column appeared in Thursday’s edition of the Norwegian daily business paper, Dagens Naeringsliv, relating how his “most painful day” at the U.N. was when the prize was awarded to Obama.
The decision to give Obama the prize was met with considerable derision and criticism.
The five-member committee, which is appointed by the Norwegian Parliament, cited Obama’s efforts for a world free of nuclear weapons; for a more engaged U.S. role in combating global warming; for his support of the United Nations and multilateral diplomacy; and for broadly capturing the attention of the world and giving its people “hope.”
But as many critics pointed out, Obama had been in office only 12 days before the nomination deadline date and was surprised when he was contacted.
“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 honored by this prize,” Obama said when he heard the news.
Wetland did not give further details about Emanuel’s meeting with Stroemmen but said Emanuel was known for having a sharp tongue and that it was “the job of ambassadors to be available for those lashings out.” He declined to elaborate.
Stroemmen, now a senior official at the Foreign Ministry in Oslo, did not return calls from the AP. The Norwegian Foreign Ministry said it would not comment and there was no comment from Emanuel’s mayor’s office.