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US ambassador quits

21.01.2021 - 15:51
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Jeffrey Ross Gunter, American ambassador to Iceland, is leaving his post, he revealed through the embassy’s social media. He thanks Donald Trump for giving him an “unbelievable opportunity”.

Gunter has been a controversial figure in Iceland; among other things reported to have called for an armed guard as he believed his life was in danger. Gunter says online that he has formed strong bonds with the Icelandic government, businesses, and residents, and has thereby served the interests of the USA and American citizens in Iceland.

Gunter took the post of US ambassador to Iceland in July 2019, after an extended period during which the embassy had no ambassador. He was a political appointment made by the former president, after financially supporting his 2016 election campaign. He is a dermatologist and surgeon by profession. 

Gunter came in for some criticism last summer when he shared a tweet from Donald Trump calling COVID-19 “the China virus”. Several days later, news circulated in US and Icelandic media that Gunter felt threatened in Iceland and that he wanted an armed guard. 

US media outlet CBS reported the ambassador had become paranoid and wanted to bear arms himself, wear a stab-proof vest, and use a bulletproof car. He was reported to be convinced that many members of his embassy staff were part of the so-called Deep State. 

He also reportedly refused to return to Iceland from a trip to California last year until ordered back to his post in person by the then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. 

Then, in October, the US embassy accused Fréttablaðið of fake news and irresponsible journalism. The complaint came after the newspaper reported that, despite COVID-19 restrictions, the embassy had ordered all staff to help with the move to new premises. The move was apparently rushed because the ambassador insisted it be complete before the US presidential election. The embassy retorted that no known coronavirus infection had been recorded within its walls. 

It is unlikely a new ambassador will be appointed right away. The deputy chief of mission will run the embassy in the meantime. 

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