Boris Johnson’s appointment as Foreign Secretary late yesterday caught many people by surprise, including US State Department Deputy Spokesman Mark Toner.
Toner was asked about Philip Hammond becoming the new Chancellor of the Exchequer following George Osborne’s resignation, and Johnson’s subsequent appointment to the foreign office during a State Department briefing.
Toner couldn’t prevent a grin from breaking out on his face as a member of the media asked: “The Secretary’s friend Mr Hammond has been appointed to be the Chancellor of the Exchequer in Britain and his replacement as Foreign Secretary has just been announced as Boris Johnson.
“How do you think this will affect - or if it will affect at all - both the US/British relationship in the diplomatic area and also is this someone the Secretary thinks he’ll be able to work with given his ‘previous positions?’”
Johnson once compared Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton to a ‘sadistic nurse in a mental hospital’ in a comment piece in the Daily Telegraph in 2007, and suggested earlier this year that outgoing President Barack Obama’s ‘ancestral dislike of the British empire’ was a result of his Kenyan heritage.
Toner managed to regain composure - and a straight face - and replied: “We’re always going to be able to work with the British, no matter who is occupying the role of Foreign Secretary because of our deep, abiding special relationship with the United Kingdom.
“We congratulate Foreign Secretary Hammond on his new role and we look forward to engaging with Boris Johnson as the new Foreign Secretary.
“This is something that goes beyond a relationship, that goes beyond personalities. It is an absolutely critical moment in England’s history but also in the US/UK relationship.
“We’re committed to working productively going forward. The British people voted, and they voted to leave the European Union, and now our focus is the future.”