The White House withdrew its nomination of Sam Fox for ambassador to Belgium, after Senate Democrats criticized Fox’s contributions to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, an organization that attacked Sen. John Kerry’s military record during the 2004 presidential campaign.
Fox, 77, the national chairman of the Republican Jewish Coalition, is a St. Louis businessman known throughout the community for his support of charitable causes and educational and cultural institutions.
The White House nominated Fox for the ambassadorship on Jan. 9, sending his name to the Foreign Relations Committee of the Senate.
But during his confirmation hearing in February, Fox encountered opposition from Sen. John Kerry, D-Massachusetts, over a $50,000 donation to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. At the hearing, Fox said, “When we’re asked, we generally give.”
Just before the committee was scheduled to vote on Fox’s nomination on March 28, the White House sent a short email statement to committee members stating that Fox’s name had been withdrawn from consideration.
At a press briefing, White House spokesperson Dana Perino said Fox’s name was pulled because the Bush administration found out that all of the 11 Democrats on the 21-person committee planned to vote against the nomination of Fox.
“Unfortunately, we received word that because of politics, some members of the Senate would have voted against his nomination, which would have prevented him from serving in this important position,” Perino said. “We are disappointed that they made their decision based upon partisan politics instead of his leadership abilities, and that’s why we withdrew the nomination.”
Perino said the withdrawal of Fox’s nomination was not because he was not qualified for the position.”The President believes that Mr. Fox is qualified to serve as ambassador to Belgium. He has a proven record of leadership and a strong willingness to serve our country. He has a long list of accomplishments, including one of them being named the St. Louis Citizen of the Year,” Perino said.
Missouri Sen. Kit Bond said he supported Fox, and had strong words for the Democrats who opposed him.
Sen. Bond was quoted in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, saying Democrats had “decided to launch a jihad” against Fox.
“I’m very disappointed that they interfered with his appointment. He’s a man who is extremely well-respected in the community, very generous, gives to a lot of good causes,” Bond said.
A spokesperson at the Washington, D.C. office of Missouri’s Sen. Claire McCaskill, who previously supported the nomination of Fox, said McCaskill was declining to comment on the situation.
High-profile Democrats on the Foreign Relations Committee praised the decision to withdraw Fox’s name.
“Sam Fox had every opportunity to disavow the politics of personal destruction and to embrace the truth. He chose not to,” said Sen. Kerry in a statement to the press. “The White House made the right decision to withdraw the nomination. I hope this signals a new day in political discourse,” he said.
Senator Christopher Dodd, D-Connecticut, said in a statement on Wednesday, “The White House’s withdrawal of Sam Fox’s nomination to the post of Ambassador to Belgium is a wise decision, and one which I welcome. Mr. Fox’s prior activities notwithstanding, his unwillingness to denounce the reprehensible activities of the Swift Boat organization and express regret for providing $50,000 to bankroll the organization convinced me that he would not be an acceptable candidate to represent the United States abroad.”
Fox declined to speak to reporters, deferring to the White House for comment on the situation. A spokesperson for the Republican Jewish Coalition said the organization also had no comment.
In addition to being a major donor for the Republican Party, Fox, the CEO and founder of the Harbour Group, Ltd., has been a community leader, serving on numerous boards throughout the area, including Barnes-Jewish Hospital, The Muny, the St. Louis Science Center, and Opera Theater of St. Louis. He has served as president of the St. Louis Art Museum’s Board of Commissioners, and chairman and president of the Greater St. Louis Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America. He has been honored several times for his philanthropic endeavors which include the Fox Family Foundation, which helps support charities. In 2003, he was named St. Louis Citizen of the Year.
Fox has also been active with his alma mater, Washington University, where he and his wife, Marilyn, are the namesakes of the Sam & Marilyn Fox Scholarship through the Olin School’s Scholars in Business Program, and more recently, the Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts at the university.