Howard Gutman

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Howard Gutman
Howard W. Gutman.jpg
33rd United States Ambassador to Belgium
In office
August 14, 2009 – July 23, 2013
President Barack Obama
Preceded by Wayne Bush
Succeeded by Denise Bauer
Personal details
Born (1956-07-08) July 8, 1956 (age 58)[1]
Bronx, New York City, New York, USA
Political party Democratic
Occupation Ambassador, actor, attorney

Howard William Gutman (born July 8, 1956) is a lawyer, actor and former United States Ambassador to Belgium. After being nominated as Ambassador by United States President Barack Obama, Gutman was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on July 29, 2009 and sworn in as Ambassador on August 14, 2009.[2][3]

Early life and education[edit]

Gutman is the son of Polish immigrant and Holocaust survivor Max Gutman, who worked in New York’s garment district. He attended public elementary schools and then the Bronx High School of Science in New York. Gutman is a summa cum laude graduate of Columbia University (1977) and a magna cum laude graduate of Harvard Law School (1980).


Gutman clerked for Judge Irving Loeb Goldberg on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit (1980–1981). After that, he joined the law firm of Cravath, Swaine & Moore. He left the firm to clerk for Justice Potter Stewart on the United States Supreme Court.

After clerking, in 1982, Gutman joined the Washington D.C. law firm of Williams & Connolly LLP. He left the firm in 1985 to become Special Assistant to F.B.I. Director William H. Webster, focusing on counter-intelligence and counter-terrorism.[3] Gutman rejoined Williams & Connolly in 1986, and in 1988, Gutman became a partner at the firm, where he focused on commercial litigation, including securities, contracts, antitrust, labor, banking, real estate, intellectual property, insurance coverage, international law, and partnership disputes.

Gutman represented a wide variety of clients during his 25-year career, including acting Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger and many states’ attorneys general in suits against Microsoft Corporation. Gutman also once represented Susan Rosenberg, a former member of the Weather Underground accused, but never indicted or convicted, in the 1981 Brinks robbery in post-conviction, constitutional litigation. Gutman also provided representation to Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, a former Bolivian president, and José Carlos Sánchez Berzain, a defense minister, who were sued in American courts by Bolivians following an attempted coup in Bolivia. The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit recently dismissed the case against Sánchez de Lozada and Sánchez Berzain.[4]

Ambassadorship to Belgium[edit]

Gutman has been dubbed by one Belgian newspaper as “the most popular ambassador ever in Belgium”[5] and is the second longest serving U.S. Ambassador to Belgium in the last 35 years.[6] The Flemish municipality of Buggenhout erected a monument marking the Ambassador’s visit to the municipality. U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt) placed Gutman’s speech on Memorial Day at Flanders Field into the Congressional Record.[7] Among his 100+ television appearances in Belgium,[6] Gutman was chosen to present the final award at the Belgian Music Industry Awards. On September 7, 2011, Le Soir, a leading Belgian newspaper, ran a major profile entitled: “The Ambassador Who Makes Us Love America Again.”[8] Noting the change in Belgian-American relations, one Belgian newspaper stated that "there is no doubt that [Ambassador Gutman] would be elected if he were to run at a [Belgian] election."[9]

He also had the goal of visiting each of the 589 municipalities in Belgium. His intention was not only to visit managers and politicians, but also ordinary citizens and employees. On May 5, 2013 he completed his tour when he visited the last municipality on his list, Voeren. Gutman will leave his post as ambassador on July 23, 2013.[10]

Antisemitism speech[edit]

Speaking at a legal conference on antisemitism organized by the European Jewish Union on November 30, 2011, Gutman talked about historic antisemitism, as well as a trend he described as "a tension and perhaps hatred largely born of and reflecting the the Middle East over the continuing Israeli-Palestinian problem". He added that "an Israeli-Palestinian peace treaty will significantly diminish Muslim anti-Semitism."[11] The comments were then misquoted in what Salon, the Economist and Mother Jones then demonstrated was a “woefully inaccurate account of his remarks.”[12][13][14] Reliance on the misquotes led to high profile criticism from a number of rival politicians, including Republican presidential candidates Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney and Rick Perry[15] as well as Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League.[16] Gutman issued a statement saying "I deeply regret if my comments were taken the wrong way", highlighting his history of condemning and combating anti-semitism, and making reference to his background as the son of a Holocaust survivor.[17] The subsequent press demonstrated both that Ambassador Gutman had been misquoted and the accuracy of his speech.[18][19][20][21] Lubavitch Chabad leader Rabbi Levi Shemtov also came to the defense of Ambassador Gutman, citing his service to the Jewish community and noting that calling Ambassador Gutman an “anti-Semite” was like calling Rabbi Shemtov an “astronaut.” At the end of his ambassadorship, Ambassador Gutman won the European Jewish Union Building’s Prize for Friendship and Service to the Jewish Community.

Wrongful Allegation of sexual misconduct and State Department Apology[edit]

A State Department whistleblower alleged that an Inspector General's report accused Gutman of soliciting prostitutes and minors for sex while serving as Ambassador, but that Undersecretary of State Patrick F. Kennedy ordered it removed from the report.[22] Gutman denied the accusations as "baseless" and the State Department adamantly denied that any allegations of questionable or illegal behavior by diplomats have been covered up, and that any proven wrongdoing would be punished administratively or prosecuted criminally.[23] On June 11, 2013, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney confirmed that the allegations were under active investigation by an independent inspector general.[24][25][26] But in fact, no evidence of any wrongdoing was ever found and no negative action was ever taken against Ambassador Gutman.[27] Ambassador Gutman served his full term, including representing the United States at the invocation of the new Belgian King on July 21, 2013.[28] As had long been planned, on June 21, 2013, the White House announced Denise Bauer as the new nominee to be the next U.S. ambassador to Belgium.

After his completion of service, when he was free to talk, Ambassador (Rtd.) Gutman appeared on a popular Belgian talk show, Reyers Laat, and addressed the allegations and "nonsense" towards the end of his ambassadorship and explained what actually occurred.[28] Finally, in October 2014, the State Department investigation cleared Ambassador Gutman and the State Department issued the following Statement in apology: "The Inspector General's report makes clear there was no wrongdoing and that the allegations wrongfully leaked from internal OIG documents were in fact unsubstantiated. It can't erase the pain these leaks caused those public servants who were falsely accused, but it does vindicate them and puts an end to a painful chapter for many. Most importantly, the report concludes there is 'no systemic problem' in the Department's investigations. The irresponsible leaks did not occur on the watch of this Inspector General, but we appreciate that he has brought this difficult story to a conclusion."[29][30][31][32]

Today Ambassador Gutman serves on the boards of several Belgian companies, has a consulting practice for several Belgian, U.S. and international companies, and is a Senior Advisor to an Irish SMS marketing company, a French market research firm based on social media, a global infrastructure advisory company, and a NY corporate debt/bond firm. He also has taken on some chairman and senior advisor posts to some start-ups, including SR2, a commercial drone company.[33] Ambassador (Rtd.) Gutman also is a frequent speaker and is booked by the London Speakers Bureau.[34]

Relationship to the Democratic Party and Obama administration[edit]

Gutman has long been active in Democratic politics, working on policy issues, speech writing, constituency work, legal representation, and media. He also has helped raise money for Democratic presidential, gubernatorial, and congressional candidates, including Al Gore’s presidential campaign in 2000. Gutman served on the legal team representing Gore in the Supreme Court case Bush v. Gore.

According to, in 2008, Gutman was part of the Obama National Finance Committee and later a trustee on the Presidential Inauguration Committee. Gutman and his wife, Michelle Loewinger, have contributed at least $86,150 to Democratic candidates, parties and committees since 1989. Gutman contributed the legal maximum of $2300 to Bill Clinton’s presidential bid. Both he and his wife contributed the legal maximum of $4600 a piece to Obama’s presidential run. Gutman bundled at least half a million for Obama’s campaign committee and another $275,000 for his inauguration.[35]

Media appearances and popular culture[edit]

Among the media work Gutman performed during the 2008 U.S. presidential campaign, Gutman was a frequent contributor to Fox News. Gutman also acted in several episodes of the HBO series K Street, the Tim Robbins’ film Noise and the 2009 film Fame.[2][36]


  1. ^ Brinkerhoff, Noel. "Ambassador to Belgium: Who is Howard Gutman?". Retrieved 2009-10-12. 
  2. ^ a b "Biography:Howard W. Gutman". U.S. Department of State. Retrieved 2009-10-12. 
  3. ^ a b "Dr. Loewinger Is Bride Of Howard W. Gutman". New York Times. October 4, 1981. Retrieved 2009-10-12. 
  4. ^ "Eleventh Circuit Dismisses ATS Suit Against Senior Bolivian Officials". InterAmerican Security Watch. September 2, 2011. Retrieved 2011-10-01. 
  5. ^ Hans Vandeweghe (December 23, 2010). "Belgium is a Strong Brand". Het Nieuwsblad. 
  6. ^ a b "Lessons from Belgium’s Favorite American Ambassador". The Politic. Retrieved 13 December 2012. 
  7. ^ United States Congress (June 7, 2011). "Congressional Record". 
  8. ^ Le Soir Magazine (September 7, 2011).  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  9. ^ La Libre Retrieved 16 December 2012.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  10. ^ "Gutman beëindigt Belgische tournee". De Standaard. Retrieved 6 May 2013. 
  11. ^ Menachem Gantz (December 3, 2011). "'Jew-hate stems from conflict'". YnetNews. Retrieved December 3, 2011. 
  12. ^ Elliot, Justin. "An Ambassador Smeared". Retrieved 26 January 2015. 
  13. ^ Serwer, Adam. "Republicans Go After...Obama's Ambassador to Belgium?". Retrieved 26 January 2015. 
  14. ^ "Prejudice and Politics". Retrieved 26 January 2015. 
  15. ^ "Quote on Anti-Semitism Misattributed to U.S. Ambassador Doesn't Ease Criticism". December 6, 2011. 
  16. ^ Haaretz: "Jewish groups demand Obama action over Belgium envoy's anti-Semitism remarks" by Danna Harman December 4, 2011
  17. ^ U.S. Embassy Brussels. "Press Release". Statement by Ambassador Howard Gutman. 
  18. ^ Elliot, Justin. "An Ambassador Smeared". Retrieved 26 January 2015. 
  19. ^ "Prejudice and Politics". Retrieved 26 January 2015. 
  20. ^ Server, Adam. "Republicas Go After...Obama's Ambassador to Belgium?". Retrieved 26 January 2015. 
  21. ^ Berenbaum, Dr. Michael. "Was Howard Gutman Right?: Israel and Antisemitism, What Do We Know". Retrieved 26 January 2015. 
  22. ^ Miller, S.A. (June 11, 2013). "Hillary’s sorry state of affairs; Probes into her department’s sex scandals were quashed, memo says". 
  23. ^ "U.S. ambassador Howard Gutman slams park prostitution allegations". New York: June 11, 2013. 
  24. ^ Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jay Carney, 6/11/2013 | The White House
  25. ^ New U.S. Amb. to Belgium Announced After Accusations of Soliciting Underage Prostitutes | The Weekly Standard
  26. ^ Miller, S.A. "Officials at Hillary Clinton’s State Dept. accused of covering up sexual misconduct -". New York Post. 
  27. ^ Blyth, Derek (1 April 2014). "Former US ambassador Gutman thanks Belgian leaders". Flanders Today. Retrieved 11 April 2014. 
  28. ^ a b Gutman, Howard (March 27, 2014). Gutman: "In Belgium you make friends for life" (Television production). Belgium. Event occurs at 4:11. 
  29. ^ "The Nelson Report". Samuels International Associates, Inc. Retrieved 24 October 2014. 
  30. ^ "Ex-ambassadeur Gutman krijgt excuses na seksschandaal". October 24, 2014. Retrieved 24 October 2014. 
  31. ^ "Gutman krijgt excuses van Buitenlandse Zaken". De Standaard. 24 October 2014. Retrieved 24 October 2014. 
  32. ^ State Department apologises to Gutman
  33. ^ Howard, Gutman. "Official Homepage". Retrieved 28 April 2014. 
  34. ^ "Howard Gutman: The Longest Serving U.S. Ambassador to Belgium". London Speaker Bureau. Retrieved 28 April 2014. 
  35. ^ Michael Beckel (June 18, 2009). "Obama's New Ambassador Nominees Gave Big -- and Bundled Bigger". Open Secrets. 
  36. ^ "Howard Gutman". IMDB. Retrieved 2009-10-12. 

 This article incorporates public domain material from the United States Department of State document "Biography:Howard W. Gutman".

External links[edit]