Conservative leadership frontrunner Boris Johnson has refused to say whether he would keep the UK's ambassador to Washington in post following the leak of private emails.
The former Foreign Secretary sidestepped questioning on whether or not he would allow Sir Kim Darroch to remain in his job, during a televised head-to-head debate with Number 10 rival Jeremy Hunt.
Instead, he said it was important the civil service was "not politicised".
The leaked emails include Sir Kim's scathing assessments of the White House from 2017 to present day, including one calling it "uniquely dysfunctional" and "divided".
However, Mr Hunt committed to keeping Sir Kim - who the US president described as a "pompous fool" and a "very stupid guy" in the wake of the leak - in post.
"Who chooses our ambassadors is a matter for the United Kingdom government and the United Kingdom Prime Minister, and I have made it clear if I am our next Prime Minister the ambassador in Washington stays because it is our decision," he explained.
WATCH: Leadership rivals debate suspending Parliament to force no-deal Brexit
The leadership rivals also discussed the October 31 Brexit deadline during the debate, shown on ITV.
Mr Hunt challenged his fellow contender, asking if he would resign if the deadline was not met.
"I think it's very, very important not to envisage any circumstances in which we would fail to come out of the EU on October 31," Mr Johnson said.
Mr Hunt replied: "It's not do or die, is it? It's Boris in Number 10 that matters."
And he issued a stark warning about the prospect of suspending Parliament in order to force through a no-deal Brexit - something Mr Johnson would not rule out.
"When that has happened in the past, when Parliament has been shut down against its will, we actually had a civil war," Mr Hunt said.