A senior German lawmaker told DW that Richard Grenell had used language reminiscent of the pre-WWII period when he spoke of "empowering" anti-establishment European leaders. Grenell's comments sparked a broad backlash.
US Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell,who met with German Foreign Ministry officials on Wednesday, needs to rethink his role in Germany or risk becoming a "highly ineffective" ambassador, a prominent lawmaker from Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives told DW.
"[Grenell's] time may be quickly running out to be an effective and workable ambassador to this country," Andreas Nick, a Christian Democratic Union (CDU) lawmaker who also sits on the Foreign Affairs Committee in the German parliament, said on Tuesday.
'Learn more about German history'
Grenell has been roundly condemned in Germany after he said it was his goal to "empower" anti-establishment conservative forces in Europe in an interview with right-wing news outlet Breitbart.
Grenell's language, Nick said, was "highly inappropriate" and, when translated into German, reminiscent of language used by extremist politicians in the 1930s.
"If you translate 'awakening' and 'empowering' in this context, very ugly German language comes up, which resonates with the 1920s and 1930s," he said, adding that Grenell would "be well advised" to learn more about German history "and the sensitivities that result from that."
Read more: Opinion: The US is fueling European divisions
'PR person for the alternative-right'
Grenell, 51, had already caused a stir in May when he told German companies to "immediately" wind down their business in Iran following US President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
Asked whether Germany should expel Grenell, Nick said it was up to the United States to decide on its representative in Berlin. But he added that Grenell risked his long-term clout in Germany if he continued to act as he had until now.
"If he is not here to be a traditional ambassador but a PR person for the alternative-right movement in Europe," Nick said, "we will have an issue."
Among the German politicians expressing concern at Grenell’s behavior has been former Social Democrat leader and ex-European Parliament president Martin Schulz. "What this man is doing is unheard of in international diplomacy," Schulz told the German press agency DPA.
US State Department defends Grenell
The US State Department defended Grenell's comments on Tuesday. Spokeswoman Heather Nauert said US envoys "have a right to express their opinions."
"As an American, we believe in the right to free speech that other countries elsewhere around the world have the right to elect whoever the population chooses," Nauert said.
"They're representatives of the White House, whether it's this administration or other administrations, and we hear them voicing their opinions," she added. "And they're sometimes opinions that people may or may not like. And there is the right to free speech as well."
Grenell contrite after German government meeting
On Wednesday, Grenell appeared contrite after a meeting at the Foreign Ministry in Berlin. State Secretary Andres Michaelis said that Grenell "did not want to be taken as a partisan for right-wing forces in Germany," but rather wanted to building "close and trusting cooperation with German partners."