Before being caught in the middle of a political firestorm, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice earned a reputation as an aggressive negotiator, with some describing her as “blunt” and “sharp-tongued.”
Rice rose in diplomatic ranks in the 1990s after serving as a special assistant to President Bill Clinton and Senior Director for African Affairs at the White House National Security Council.
From 1997 to 2001, Rice served as the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs. Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, a family friend of Rice's who has known her since she was a child, encouraged President Clinton to appoint her.
Rice later served as Senior Advisor for National Security Affairs for President Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign.
She was confirmed as ambassador to the United Nations shortly after Mr. Obama took office in January 2009, becoming the first African-American woman to occupy the post. Under her leadership, the United States has helped secure the tougher U.N. sanctions against Iran and North Korea. Rice also played a major role in negotiating last year's resolution authorizing military intervention in Libya.
But recently, Rice's accomplishments have been overshadowed by criticism. Republican lawmakers have accused the 48-year-old diplomat of misleading the American public by suggesting the deadly September 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in the Libyan city of Benghazi was the result of a spontaneous protest, rather than an organized terrorist attack.
When Rice's name emerged as President Obama's likely choice to succeed Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, some Republicans said she was unqualified.
Rice has said her comments on Benghazi relied “solely and squarely” on the intelligence information provided to her. President Obama also defended her, calling the attacks against her “outrageous.”
Rice's defenders have also slammed critics of her strong style, accusing them of sexism, as there have been many male foreign affairs officials praised for their toughness.
Rice has also faced criticism from human-rights activists and some diplomats for the United States' silence on Rwanda's role in the worsening conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Rice was born and raised in Washington D.C. and earned degrees from Stanford University and Britain's Oxford University, where she was a Rhodes Scholar.
Despite sharing the same last name, Rice is not related to former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.