Reporter Chon defends affair with U.S. official

June 15, 2012

Gina Chon, the Wall Street Journal reporter who lost her job after her affair with a U.S. official was disclosed, denied Friday that she received sensitive information as a result of their relationship.

Chon, who resigned under pressure Tuesday, also said that a “disgruntled” State Department employee called attention to the anonymously leaked e-mails that disclosed her affair with Brett McGurk, a former National Security Council staff member in Iraq.

In a sometimes angry, sometimes sorrowful e-mail to friends Friday, Chon defended her relationship with McGurk, whom President Obama has nominated to be U.S. ambassador to Iraq.

Chon and McGurk are now married to each other, but the revelation of their relationship in Iraq while married to others has imperiled McGurk’s nomination. Six Republican senators said this week that it was a factor in opposing his appointment.

“I want you to know . . . that while I worked in Iraq for the paper, Brett never gave me sensitive or classified information, nor did he trade his knowledge for my affection,” Chon wrote to friends in the e-mail. “We were both dedicated professionals too committed to our jobs and had too much respect for each other to do anything like that.”

Chon resigned from the Journal a week after someone posted e-mails from 2008 that showed her engaging in racy banter with McGurk about their relationship.

She had no comment when contacted Friday by The Washington Post but did confirm that she sent the e-mail explaining her actions.

Chon said in her message that the leaked e-mails were promoted to news outlets by a “disgruntled” employee on the eve of McGurk’s confirmation hearings, apparently in an attempt to undermine his nomination. She did not identify the State Department employee.

Despite facing rocket attacks and truck-bomb blasts while in Iraq, Chon said, “I’ve never felt so vulnerable, so targeted and exposed as I have in the last two weeks. . . . I feel like I have become collateral damage in this process. And, after witnessing all I have, I’m amazed that anyone would want to become a public official.”

She described her relationship with McGurk as “a fairly simple tale of two people who met in Baghdad, fell in love, got engaged and later married.” Their e-mails, she said, “reflected flirtatious banter and nothing more.”

Added Chon in her message: “The question I continue to have is when will the conversation return to issues?  Because when they do, I know Brett will become the next ambassador to Iraq.” 

Paul Farhi is The Washington Post's media reporter.
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