The U.S. ambassador to Belgium is under fire for comments he made appearing to blame Israel for anti-Semitism among Muslims.
Howard Gutman made the remarks Wednesday at a Jewish conference on anti-Semitism, reportedly apologizing to the audience in advance if his words were not to their liking, according to Israeli news site YNet News.
Gutman said "a distinction should be made between traditional anti-Semitism, which should be condemned, and Muslim hatred for Jews, which stems from the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians," reported YNet, which appeared to paraphrase his comments.
YNet said legal experts in the audience were "visibly stunned" by Gutman's comments, and the next speaker gave a "scathing rebuttal" to his remarks."
Gutman was a Washington D.C. attorney and major fundraiser for President Barack Obama's 2008 campaign. Obama nominated Gutman to his post in 2009.
The Obama administration sought to distance itself from Gutman's remarks Sunday, with White House spokesman Tommy Vietor telling ABC News, "We condemn anti-Semitism in all its forms and believe there is never any justification for prejudice against the Jewish people or Israel."
Gutman, who is Jewish according to YNet, issued his own statement apologizing if his comments were taken the wrong way.
"I strongly condemn anti-Semitism in all its forms. I deeply regret if my comments were taken the wrong way. My own personal history and that of my family is testimony to the salience of this issue and my continued commitment to combating anti-Semitism," Gutman said.
Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich reacted to Gutman's remarks in a message on Twitter Saturday, writing "Pres Obama should fire his ambassador to Brussels for being so wrong about anti-semitism."