Nantucket summer resident Elizabeth Bagley was sworn-in Monday as the new United States Ambassador to Brazil by Vice President Kamala Harris during a ceremony in Washington D.C.
For Bagley, who owns a home on Eel Point Road and has been a longtime fundraiser and supporter of the Democratic party, her confirmation by the Senate last month marks her second stint as an ambassador. Under President Bill Clinton, Bagley served as Ambassador to Portugal.
Her assignment in Brazil comes amid political turmoil in that country following the election of new President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Supporters of Lula's opponent, Jair Bolsonaro, who was defeated by Lula in a tight election last October, recently stormed Brazil's Congress, protesting that the election had been stolen.
“This was an obvious and clear attack on a democratic process and we condemn it, of course,” Vice President Kamala Harris said after swearing-in Bagley on Monday. “I will also say that, as I've said to the ambassador, Ambassador Bagley, that I'm very confident in her ability to represent the United States and to extend to President Lula all that we mean in terms of the work that we will do together as allies on some of the most important issues facing our world. So we are very much looking forward to her leadership and to working with President Lula.”
Bagley’s confirmation itself came with some controversy and bipartisan pushback in Congress. Her nomination languished for more than a year after the surfacing of a 1998 interview in which Bagley criticized the influence of the “Jewish lobby” in U.S. politics.
“There is always the influence of the Jewish lobby because there is major money involved,” Bagley said, commenting further that Democrats “always tend to go with the Jewish constituency on Israel and say stupid things, like moving the capital to Jerusalem always comes up. Things that we shouldn’t even touch.”
The remarks were criticized by Senators during her confirmation hearing, and Bagley apologized for her “choice of words.”
According to the State Department, Bagley’s diplomatic experience spans over 20 years, including her earlier service as Congressional liaison for the Panama Canal Treaties, Special Assistant for the Camp David Accords and Congressional liaison to the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (Helsinki Accords) in Madrid, Spain. She served all of those positions under President Jimmy Carter. In 1994, Ms. Bagley was confirmed as U.S. Ambassador to Portugal under President Bill Clinton, and in 1997 she served as Senior Advisor to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to head the office of Media Acquisition for the Balkans.
During President Barack Obama’s administration, Bagley was appointed as the first Special Representative for Global Partnerships, under Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.