IOWA CITY, Iowa — The Philippine ambassador to the U.S. personally called Iowa Public Safety Commissioner K. Brian London on Friday to seek an explanation of London’s statement that he believed Filipinos were difficult to polygraph and said he accepted his apology.
Ambassador Jose Cuisia, Jr., told London the statement was inappropriate and unacceptable and had offended Filipinos in the U.S. and abroad, embassy spokesman Elmer Cato said. London profusely apologized for offending anyone even as he insisted his remark had been taken out of context by his critics, he said.
“I told Commissioner London that I would convey his apologies to the members of the Filipino community,” Cuisia said in a statement Friday evening. “I also suggested that he reaches out to the more than 3,500 Filipinos residing in Iowa so he would have a better understanding and appreciation of who we are as a people.”
London’s spokesman did not immediately return a phone message.
The Associated Press reported Wednesday that London confirmed through a spokesman that he told a group of polygraph examiners earlier this year that, in his experience as a Secret Service agent in the 1980s, he found that “completing polygraphs with Filipinos was difficult.”
London’s spokesman said the remark was meant only to illustrate the cultural and language barriers that can complicate polygraph tests. London did not mean to disparage Filipinos or imply they are less truthful than other nationalities, said the spokesman, Lt. Rob Hansen.
After the AP raised questions about the remark, London briefed the office of Gov. Terry Branstad about it Tuesday. On Wednesday, he called a meeting in his office with the polygraph examiners who were present for the initial remark to explain what he meant and “that his comments during the meeting several months ago were potentially taken out of context,” Hansen said.
London told Cuisia that he was referring to a specific 1986 polygraph examination he conducted on a Filipino that required an interpreter, and that he regretted using that as an example, Cato said. The ambassador wanted to know why an interpreter was needed since the Phillipines is the world’s third-largest English speaking country, and London said he did not recall since it was so long ago, he said.
Hansen has said that no transcript or recording exists of the remarks, which were made months ago in a conference room at an Iowa State Patrol post in Des Moines.
The Philippine embassy in Washington and its consulate in Chicago expressed interest in the remark after learning about it earlier Friday through news reports.
The diplomatic dustup comes after Branstad’s administration has taken steps to improve Iowa’s relationship with the Philippines.
Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds led a trade mission to the Philippines and Vietnam from Feb. 22 to March 2, saying she wanted to help the state increase exports of Iowa pork and other products to growing markets in Southeast Asia and help Iowa companies expand there. The trade group visited Manila, among other places, and met with government officials and business leaders. Comprised of more than 7,000 islands, the Phillipines has a population of roughly 98 million.
Branstad’s aides have not returned multiple inquiries about the matter this week.