UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Kelly Craft presented her credentials Thursday as the new U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and said she is coming to the world organization “as a voice of America’s unwavering commitment to democracy, freedom, human rights and, whenever possible, peaceful resolution of conflicts.”
A longtime Republican activist from Kentucky who previously served as U.S. ambassador to Canada, Craft expressed “extraordinary gratitude for the bold leadership” of President Donald Trump, saying she will “seek to maintain and grow … the reinvigorated policies of this administration.”
“In a world marked by humanitarian crises and geopolitical challenges, strong American leadership is absolutely critical, and I intend to provide it,” she said.
“I will defend America’s values and interests,” Craft said. “I will stand by our friends and allies. I will advocate for the poor and the weak. And I will never fail to work with those who genuinely wish to advance the cause of human dignity.”
Craft spoke briefly to reporters after presenting her credentials to Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and attending her first Security Council meeting, where she delivered a statement about easing the arms embargo on the Central African Republic.
It was Craft’s first appearance at the United Nations since she was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on July 31. She replaces Nikki Haley, who stepped down from the U.N. post in December.
Deputy ambassador Jonathan Cohen has been the acting U.S. ambassador since then, and he will remain through late September’s annual gathering of world leaders before taking up his new job as U.S. ambassador to Egypt.
Craft and her husband, Joe Craft, have donated millions of dollars to Republican political candidates, and she is the first major political donor to occupy the top U.N. post for any administration. Joe Craft is chief executive of Alliance Resource Partners, one of the largest coal producers in the country.
At her confirmation hearing, Craft vowed to continue Haley’s efforts to push for reform at the world body and to fight against anti-Israel resolutions. During Haley’s tenure, the U.S. withdrew from the U.N. Human Rights Council and UNESCO over what it called anti-Israel bias.
Democrats criticized Craft at her confirmation hearing for previous remarks she had made doubting the causes and severity of climate change and suggesting that climate change skeptics have valid arguments. They were also concerned about possible conflicts of interest as she holds extensive investments in fossil fuels.
Craft acknowledged the “vast amount of science” regarding climate change and the role humans have played saying: “If confirmed, I will be an advocate for addressing climate change.” Earlier, she had said, climate change is a “real risk to our planet” that must be addressed.
Democrats also expressed concerns about her time away from Canada during her tenure as ambassador. Craft testified that all of her travel had been approved in advance by the State Department, that much of it was work-related and that she and her husband had paid for all personal trips.
A report just before Craft’s confirmation vote by the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, called her “inexperienced,” ”unknowledgeable” and “outmatched.” It said Craft’s lack of “diplomatic or substantive policy experience” could threaten her ability to defend U.S. national interests against other powerful nations.
Republicans, including her home-state senator, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, came to her defense. McConnell cited her work in helping to facilitate the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement, Trump’s long-sought revamp of the North American Free Trade Agreement.