When Rufus Gifford, the U.S. ambassador to Denmark, won a Danish television award for his reality show, he ran onto the stage, beaming. “Oh man,” he said, surprised. “Wow.” The show, Jeg Er Ambassadøren fra Amerika (or I Am the Ambassador From America), was renewed for a second season (and will come to U.S. viewers this fall via Netflix). A Danish biography of Gifford was a best seller. At a music festival in June, the chart-topping Danish pop band Lukas Graham dedicated its song “Nice Guy” to him.
“Rufus Gifford is a rock star,” Nicolai Wammen, a Danish MP and a friend of Gifford’s, told me. As an appointee of President Obama’s, Gifford is likely nearing the end of his diplomatic stint, though Danes frequently ask him to stay. His biographer, Stéphanie Surrugue, remembers walking alongside Gifford at a political gathering and noticing that he was getting as much attention as the nearby prime minister. “People were shouting ‘Rufus!’ as they were shouting ‘Lars’ after the prime minister.” It was, she says, “a little bit crazy.”
Gifford’s popularity is partly a function of his ubiquity: He rarely turns down an invitation from the Danish morning shows. “Press officers from other embassies have told me their ambassador was kind of envious about all the publicity,” Surrugue says. Gifford is also good-looking, with a glamorous pedigree as a Hollywood producer turned finance director of Obama’s reelection campaign. And he’s openly gay; his marriage last year to Stephen DeVincent at Copenhagen’s city hall only added to the good feelings among Danes, who see his appointment as an affirmation of their tolerant outlook.