'Hyperpartisan discussion' ends gay spokesman's stint with Romney

May 3 2012 - 6:53am

The tenure of an openly gay spokesman for Mitt Romney's campaign lasted less than two weeks.

On April 19, Romney's campaign announced it had hired Richard Grenell, 45, as its foreign policy spokesman. On Tuesday, Grenell tendered his resignation, citing a "hyperpartisan discussion of personal issues that sometimes comes from being on a presidential campaign."

Grenell never had a chance to make an impression with the public in this job. Last Thursday, the Romney campaign held a conference call with reporters to blunt a foreign policy speech that Vice President Joe Biden was about to deliver. Although Grenell was on the phone, he did not speak.

Grenell, an unabashed supporter of gay marriage who has a longtime partner, was attacked by evangelical Christian conservatives who, like Romney, oppose gay marriage, and claimed Romney was compromising himself on the issue by hiring Grenell.

"The message Gov. Romney appears to be sending to the pro-family community ... is 'drop dead,'" wrote Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association, which was designated as a "hate group" in 2010 by the Southern Poverty Law Center for its anti-gay comments. Tony Perkins of Family Research Council intimated that Grenell would be sympathetic to the foreign policy goals of the Obama Administration because he is gay.

Grenell -- who was director of communications and public diplomacy while at the United Nations, and worked for U.S. Ambassador John Bolton, among others -- was also slammed for a series of impolitic tweets about women such as Callista Gingrich, wife of former presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, and Rachel Maddow, the openly gay MSNBC host. Some U.N. reporters complained that he was dishonest as a spokesman.

In announcing his resignation Tuesday to Jennifer Rubin, a conservative blogger for The Washington Post, Grenell wrote, "I want to thank Gov. Romney for his belief in me and my abilities and his clear message to me that being openly gay was a non-issue for him and his team."

The Romney campaign said Grenell was not forced out. "We are disappointed that Ric decided to resign ... for his own personal reasons," campaign manager Matt Rhoades said in a statement. "We wanted him to stay because he had superior qualifications for the position he was hired to fill."

The campaign had supported Grenell earlier as well, when his controversial tweets were revealed. In an e-mail disseminated by the campaign on April 24, Bolton said Grenell was "a thoroughly professional press spokesperson. During his time at the U.S. Mission to the U.N., he showed discretion and good judgment, and did an excellent job representing our country during often very difficult circumstances."

Gay groups, originally heartened by the hire, were deeply disappointed.

"Ric was essentially hounded by the far right and far left," said R. Clarke Cooper of the gay GOP group Log Cabin Republicans. "The Romney campaign has lost a well-known advocate of conservative ideas and a talented spokesman, and I am certain he will remain an active voice for a confident U.S. foreign policy."

Another high-profile gay Republican, Jimmy LaSalvia, blamed Romney. "At the end of the day the campaign should have come to his defense as Bryan Fischer and Tony Perkins continued to beat the drums," said Jimmy LaSalvia of GoProud. "They were not denounced. And they should have been. "

On Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Mary Bono Mack, R-Calif., who met Grenell recently at a Los Angeles event honoring her transgender stepson, Chaz Bono, indicated in a tweet that Grinell would not be out of politics for long: "Richard Grenell is coming back to his home in Palm Springs & has offered to help with my campaign. That's terrific."

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