As US Ambassador to the UK, Robert Wood Johnson should be a master of the diplomatic arts, particularly when his president happens to be a bit of a loose cannon.
Yesterday, however, Mr Johnson managed to irritate Scottish politicians with some less than tactful remarks about Donald Trump’s Hebridean ancestry.
Looking ahead to Mr Trump’s visit to the UK this summer, Mr Johnson went on the radio to enthuse about the president’s desire to meet the Queen and his determination not to let protests get in the way of his visit.
But north of the border there were raised eyebrows when His Excellency suggested Mr Trump’s somewhat bombastic style could be put down to the fact he is half Scottish.
“The Scots are tough and argumentative,” Mr Johnson told LBC radio. “All the things he (Trump) brings to the table to the American people come from Scotland.”
Mr Trump has often spoken of his pride in the fact he is the son of Mary Anne MacLeod, a Gaelic speaker from Lewis who emigrated to the USA in the 1930s.
But last night Scottish politicians were less than happy with the notion Mr Trump’s character could be attributed to his Scottish background.
“The first bit might be true – the Scots can be tough and argumentative,” said the Labour MSP for Glasgow Pauline McNeill. “But by all accounts the characteristics of the US president suggest that he hasn’t adopted other Scottish qualities like not being racist.
“I think his comments about Muslims and Mexicans and all the other racist remarks he has made completely overshadow anything his mother passed down to him.”
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The Green co-convener and prominent Trump-critic Patrick Harvie said: “I’m sure Mr Johnson didn’t mean to be gratuitously offensive, but I think most people would acknowledge that whatever Donald Trump has, we don’t want back. “We will be ready to demonstrate that very publicly if he comes to Scotland. As for the Queen, I’m certainly no fan of the monarchy, but I certainly wouldn’t inflict him on her or anybody.”
Alyn Smith, the SNP MEP, said: “I don’t think too many folk in Scotland would be too quick to claim Donald Trump as Scotland’s contribution to the world.
“I’m not sure anyone in Scotland would claim him as an export.”
Mr Trump will come to the UK in July despite widespread opposition to his trip.
Plans are said to have been made so he does not spend too much time in London in order to avoid protests.
He will meet the Queen and go to Chequers to be with Theresa May.
Unlike previous US presidents, Mr Trump will not address the Houses of Parliament because of opposition from the Commons Speaker John Bercow.
As Mr Trump’s man in London, Mr Johnson will play an important role in the organisation of the president’s visit.
At first glance the two men have much in common.
Both are businessmen in their 70s with a passionate interest in sport. At home, Mr Johnson – a scion of the Johnson and Johnson health care company – owned the New York Jets.
But in contrast to the president, he is seen as a quiet, genial individual – except perhaps in Scotland.