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The State Department's Spokesman Almost Laughed When He Learned About Boris Johnson's New Job

The former mayor of London is now Britain's chief diplomat, and the special relationship has never been more special.

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In a shocking turn of events, newly appointed British Prime Minister Theresa May has named this man to be the next foreign secretary.

Oli Scarff / AFP / Getty Images

Foreign secretary, Britain's version of the secretary of state, is one of the four Great Offices in the United Kingdom and thus kind of a big deal.

The new foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, is the former mayor of London and led the charge for Brexit, drawing on his populist base to help swing the vote.

Oli Scarff / AFP / Getty Images

He was in the running to be prime minister himself before withdrawing in a shocking turn of events soon after the vote. He's now going to be the person leading the negotiations with the European Union for Britain's exit so sometimes life just finds new ways to surprise and/or disappoint us.

The reason for everyone's shock is that Boris has a history of being less than diplomatic, including within the last few months saying President Obama has an "ancestral dislike of the British Empire."

Clive Brunskill / Getty Images

Johnson was actually referring to the fact that Obama moved a bust of Winston Churchill from the Oval Office. Really. Obama himself brushed it off, noting that the statue now sits outside his personal office on the White House's second floor.

"Right outside the door of the Treaty Room, so that I see it every day – including on weekends when I'm going into that office to watch a basketball game – the primary image I see is a bust of Winston Churchill," Obama said. "It's there voluntarily because I can do anything on the second floor. I love the guy."

(Johnson also called Obama "hypocritical" in April for backing the UK remaining in the European Union and has made too many other diplomatic faux pas for us to list in this article.)

As befitting the spokesperson for the diplomatic heart of the United States, what Toner said aloud was decidedly civil:

"I mean, look, we're always going to be able to work with the British, no matter who is occupying the role of foreign secretary, because of our deep abiding special relationship with the United Kingdom. We congratulate Foreign Secretary Hammond on his new role [as chancellor of the exchequer] and we look forward to engaging with Boris Johnson as the new foreign secretary. This is something that, frankly, goes beyond — a relationship that goes beyond personalities. And it is an absolutely critical period in, certainly England's history, but also in the U.S.–U.K. relationship, so absolutely we're committed to working productively going forward."

You can watch the full moment of realization here:

WATCH: @StateDept Deputy Spokesman @toner_mark react to @BorisJohnson's appointment as Foreign Secretary. https://t.co/7Fu6OW1jSx

Hayes Brown is a world news editor and reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.

Contact Hayes Brown at hayes.brown@buzzfeed.com.

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