WASHINGTON – The next American ambassador to Norway may want to brush up on his history – and his current events – before he heads over to represent the United States.
During a recent Senate hearing, George Tsunis, the man President Obama tapped for the top diplomatic spot, made several incorrect references to the country's government, at one point even saying it had a president. It does not.
Norway is a constitutional monarchy. The king is formally the head of state but his duties are mostly ceremonial. The legislative and executive powers lie with the parliament and prime minister.
During another exchange with Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., Tunis was asked to describe the Progress Party’s appeal to Norwegian voters.
"That is a very seminal question," Tsunis answered during the Jan. 16 Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing. "Generally Norway has, and is very proud of being a very open, transparent, Democratic, parliamentary government. One of the byproducts of being such an open society and placing such a value on free speech is you get some fringe elements that have a microphone that spew their hatred and although I will tell you that Norway has been very quick to denounce them -- "
McCain stopped Tsunis’ take on Norweigan history mid-sentence. He then pointed out that the Progress Party is part of the center-right coalition government Norway.
"I stand corrected, and would like to leave my answer that it's a very, very open society," Tsunis responded.
In 2011, one of the Progress Party members, Anders Behring Breivik, killed 77 people when he bombed government buildings in Oslo and carried out a mass shooting. He was booted out of the party for not paying dues.
While the Progress Party has seen its membership numbers fall, it is still the third-largest party in the country's parliament.
Progress Party Leader Siv Jensen is currently the country’s finance minister.
Tsunis, 45, who claims to have a “strong interest in foreign and economic affairs,” is the CEO of Chartwell Hotels and has been a top Obama donor. He was able to raise $843,225 for the president’s 2012 re-election campaign. He also donated $300,000 to a left-leaning super PAC during that same election cycle.
While Tsunis didn’t fare well in the question and answer part of the Senate hearing, he is still expected to be confirmed.