King apologized for medal mess

It’s not often that royals make public apologies, but King Harald V did just that after first awarding a service medal and then revoking it after realizing the recipient was widely viewed as being anti-gay and anti-Semitic.

King Harald himself apologized for last week’s service medal mess, during a visit to the Norwegian Parliament. PHOTO: Det Kongelige Hoff

The unusual apology came when both King Harald and Queen Sonja appeared in Parliament to witness the unveiling of a new portrait of the couple. Reporters had been asked not to bring up the incident that dominated Norwegian media last week, which also embarrassed staff at the Royal Palace who then were viewed as being incommunicative. The palace chief of staff eventually did apologize, not least to rebuffed recipient Trond Ali Linstad, and admitted they’d done a poor job of screening Linstad as a medal candidate.

But the king seemed open questions anyway, and he answered them. “We have tried to do as well as we could, but we wound up in a terribly difficult situation,” King Harald told reporters. “We’re most sorry that we put Linstad in a situation that he absolutely hadn’t asked for.”

Linstad had been nominated for the service medal by a colleague, to honor his work with Muslim immigrants over the years, and it was forwarded by county officials before being approved by the palace staff, presumably with King Harald’s assent. Oslo Mayor Fabian Stang notified the palace several weeks ago that he didn’t want to present the medal, because of the controversy around Linstad’s statements on his own website, but the palace initially went ahead with the award anyway before public uproar led to its revocation.

Jo Benkow, a former president of the Norwegian Parliament who is Jewish himself, was back in the parliament when King Harald made his apology. He said it was the “correct” thing to do, because giving a service medal to Linstad was “meaningless in my opinion.” Benkow told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that someone at the palace made a major mistake.

The grounds for the revocation, Benkow said, were “solid, first because of (Linstad’s) attacks on homosexuals, also for the serious statements against the minority I myself belong to, the Jews.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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