Maher denies making disparaging remarks


Staff Writer

Kevin Maher, a former senior U.S. diplomat sacked in March after allegedly making derogatory remarks about Okinawans, on Wednesday denied ever making the comments and accused the reporter who broke the story of breaching journalistic standards.

Speaking in Tokyo to promote his new book, “Ketsudan Dekinai Nihon” (“The Japan That Can’t Decide”), Maher, a former director of the State Department’s Office of Japan Affairs, said he also asked Kyodo News on Wednesday to reveal the full facts behind the article and asked the news agency to either publish a correction or retract the story.

The March 6 article by Kyodo staff writer Eiichiro Ishiyama claimed Maher, 57, described Okinawans as “lazy” and “masters of extortion,” apparently referring to the financial subsidies the government pays Okinawans in exchange for hosting U.S. military bases.

“The March 6 article created a fiasco, leading to my replacement. I’m obviously still frustrated with what happened,” Maher told reporters at the headquarters of his publisher, Bungei Shunju, in Chiyoda Ward.

The alleged remarks were made during a Dec. 3 briefing to American University students in Washington on U.S. military bases and their impact on Okinawa.

The disparaging remarks Maher allegedly made about Okinawa residents were based on notes students made during the meeting that were subsequently obtained by Japanese media.

As news of Maher’s alleged comments made headlines, the State Department scrambled to limit the fallout, saying the remarks did not represent the U.S. government’s views.

Maher was removed from his post March 10, the day before the Great East Japan Earthquake, but was immediately called in to help lead the State Department’s disaster-relief task force.

Maher called for the facts behind the article to be reinvestigated, saying the American University students who gave Ishiyama the notes were on close terms with the reporter, and even stayed at his Tokyo home when they visited Japan in late December.

He also noted that a followup Kyodo article claimed the students gave Ishiyama the notes in mid-February — about 2½ months after Maher’s controversial briefing.

“The main point is, for a journalist to host someone like that and then have them write something and claim that it’s an objective record of something that was said almost three months earlier just doesn’t have credibility, it violates journalistic standards,” Maher told The Japan Times after the news conference.

Maher, a long-time resident of Japan who is fluent in Japanese, said what frustrated him the most was not being able to explain his side of the story.

Maher retired from the State Department on April 6.