Republican senators urge Obama to withdraw Iraq envoy pick

WASHINGTON Wed Jun 13, 2012 1:39pm EDT

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A group of Republican senators on Wednesday called on President Barack Obama to withdraw the nomination of Brett McGurk to be ambassador to Iraq, following reports that he had engaged in an extra-marital affair with a journalist.

Six of the nine Republican members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee wrote to Obama requesting a new choice to head the huge U.S. embassy in Baghdad.

"We believe the nominee lacks the leadership and management experience necessary to head America's largest embassy, in one of the world's most volatile regions," the Republican senators wrote.

Their letter referenced "the public release of information detailing unprofessional conduct" that they said "demonstrates poor judgment and will affect the nominee's credibility in the country where he has been nominated to serve."

The White House was standing behind McGurk's nomination. "We believe that the United States will be greatly served by Mr. McGurk's experience in Iraq, which is substantial," White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters.

According to media reports, a Wall Street Journal reporter who had been covering the Iraq war had an affair with McGurk when he lived in Baghdad and served in the Bush administration's National Security Council.

The two have since married.

A series of email exchanges between the reporter, Gina Chon, and McGurk have surfaced as the ambassadorial nomination has been pending in the Senate.

Chon has since resigned from the Wall Street Journal, according to newspaper reports.

The senators - Jim DeMint, James Risch, John Barrasso, Mike Lee, Marco Rubio and James Inhofe - cited other reservations with McGurk, including concern over "reports that some Iraqi political groups have stated they will not work with Mr. McGurk if confirmed as the next ambassador."

Aides to Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry were not immediately available for comment on prospects for McGurk's nomination in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

(Reporting By Richard Cowan and Caren Bohan; Editing by Marilyn W. Thompson and M.D. Golan)

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