WASHINGTON -- After serving as President George W. Bush's top advisor on Iraq, veteran diplomat Brett McGurk should have been a bipartisan slam dunk when President Obama nominated him to be the next ambassador to the country.
But then a blogger disclosed intimate emails between McGurk and a Wall Street Journal reporter who was covering Iraq in 2008. McGurk, who was posted to Baghdad at the time, later married the reporter.
The emails, posted earlier this week on the blog Cryptome, show reporter Gina Chon seeking information from McGurk about the U.S. relationship with Iraq, and the two of them joking about it.
Chon described reporters in one email as vultures preying on their sources. McGurk replied, "If treated to many glasses of wine, you could be the vulture."
The State Department made clear Friday that it is standing by McGurk – and hoping he doesn't become another hostage to the atmosphere of mistrust in the Senate, which has delayed approval on numerous administration nominees.
Victoria Nuland, the State Department spokeswoman, did not dispute the emails, telling reporters, "They're out there for everybody to see."
But she said McGurk was "in our view, uniquely qualified to serve as our ambassador, and we urge the Senate to act quickly on his nomination."
Not everyone is convinced.
Sen. James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.) is considering challenging the nomination out of concern that McGurk may be a poor security risk.
Inhofe hasn't decided whether to put a hold on the nomination, which could effectively kill it, or simply vote against the nomination, aides said. But he has declined to meet with McGurk, as he usually does with nominees, said Jared Young, Inhofe's press secretary.
"In regards to this nominee, Senator Inhofe has heard some concerning issues, and until those issues are cleared up, he will not meet with Mr. McGurk," Young said.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing on the McGurk's nomination earlier this week, but members did not mention the emails. No vote on the nomination has been scheduled.