US Ambassador to Belgium goes from hero to zero

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The US Ambassador to Belgium Howard Gutman has become one of the most popular the country has had following his project to visit every single one of Belgium’s 589 municipalities – a feat accomplished by few Belgians. His new-found role as darling of the Belgium media came crashing down last week following allegations of sexual misconduct during his time in Washington. 

Although not pre-judging the popular Ambassador, slots on Belgian TV have been cancelled. VRT spokesman Stijn Ombelets: “We decided not to show the item with Mr Gutman on our screens this week. We are talking about a person who may be involved in scandal. It is a precautionary measure, but we are certainly not making any judgment.”

At the end of the week VRT will decide whether the ambassador’s popular contribution returns to the screens or is dropped for good.

A White House spokesman said: “The President has zero tolerance for misconduct by any government employee. We’re not gonna pre-judge based on unfinished investigations… “

The White House was responding to allegations in the press involving the US Ambassador to Belgium and a number of State Department staff members who are accused of using the services of prostitutes. 

Mr Gutman, who leaves his job in Belgium this summer, has denied the allegations. In a 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’.

The allegations hinge on an internal memo written by an Inspector General at the State Department that was leaked to the press. 

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.