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White House

Will Trump Make History by Appointing the First African-American Ambassador to Japan?

President Donald Trump at a campaign rally in Manchester, N.H., February 10, 2020. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

President Trump is rumored to be considering appointing the first African-American ambassador to Japan.

John Gibbs, an early Trump supporter who appeared frequently on Fox News during the 2016 election to talk about voter fraud has spent the last three years as a top aide to Housing secretary Ben Carson. But he is now in the running to be the top diplomat in Japan, a country where he spent five years as an IT consultant for American missionaries.

Hudson Institute head Kenneth Weinstein still enjoys frontrunner status for the position, which opened up after Ambassador Bill Hagerty left Tokyo to run for the Senate. But questions have been raised in the Japanese press about the Japanese government’s funding of Hudson’s Japan Chair, causing some to believe that Weinstein would have to recuse himself from any dealings with Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe.

Gibbs, who reads and writes Japanese and moved to Japan after a successful career at Apple, is the son of a retired autoworker from Detroit and is expected to push hard for Japan to further open its market to American automobiles. Carson is said to have written a letter of support to Trump, recommending his protege for the post.

Others mentioned for the post in the past have included former Kentucky governor Matt Bevin (who attended university in Japan), former Mets manager Bobby Valentine (who managed a Japanese baseball team), and Hollywood movie producer Mark Joseph (who grew up in Japan and worked as an anchor on Japanese television after college). Valentine took himself out of the running in 2017, Bevin has been buffeted by political controversy over controversial pardons as he left the governorship, and Joseph is producing several films and is said to be unavailable.

Gibbs would be a historic choice, following Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg’s selection as the first female ambassador to Tokyo during the Obama administration.

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