It’s a huge break in the Nobel prize tradition, but the former secretary of the Nobel Peace Prize committee is now publicly stating some regrets for giving the award to President Barack Obama in 2009. Geir Lundestad says the 2009 award to President Barack Obama “failed to live up to the panel’s expectations,” according to the Associated Press.
Lundestad, who expressed his regrets in a book to be released on Thursday, says that the committees expectations of awarding the prize early to Obama didn’t happen. The award was met with fierce criticism in the U.S., where many argued Obama was not worthy of the Nobel.
“Even many of Obama’s supporters believed that the prize was a mistake,” Lundestad wrote in excerpts of the book. “In that sense the committee didn’t achieve what it had hoped for.”
Lundestad, who stepped down last year after 25 years as the non-voting secretary of the secretive committee, noted that Obama also investigated whether to skip the award ceremony in Oslo.
“In the White House they quickly realized that they needed to travel to Oslo,” Lundestad wrote. Skipping the ceremony has happened only on rare occasions, such as when dissidents were held back by their governments.
Speaking to AP on Wednesday, Lundestad said said the committee “thought it would strengthen Obama and it didn’t have this effect.”
It is rare for Nobel officials to discuss the proceedings of the secretive committee or publicly criticize each other. But in the book Lundestad also fired a parting shot at Thorbjorn Jagland who was the committee chairman for six years and is now a regular member.
Lundestad said that as a former Norwegian prime minister and sitting head of the Council of Europe human rights organization, Jagland should never have been appointed to the committee, which frequently emphasizes its independence.
Jagland declined to comment, said Daniel Holtgen, his spokesman at the Council of Europe.