Mitt Romney’s foreign policy spokesman Richard Grenell resigned Tuesday afternoon, and the fact that he is openly gay appears to have been at least part of the reason.
Grenell, who was living in California with his longtime partner, served during the Bush administration as communications director for the US ambassador to the United Nations. In April the Romney campaign appointed him spokesman for foreign policy. He was the first openly gay spokesperson for a Republican presidential candidate. On Tuesday he sent a statement to Jennifer Rubin, a conservative blogger at the Washington Post:
I have decided to resign from the Romney campaign as the Foreign Policy and National Security Spokesman. While I welcomed the challenge to confront President Obama’s foreign policy failures and weak leadership on the world stage, my ability to speak clearly and forcefully on the issues has been greatly diminished by the hyper-partisan discussion of personal issues that sometimes comes from a presidential campaign. I want to thank Governor 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.
Rubin attributes his resignation to “a full-court press by anti-gay conservatives.”
Surely that didn’t help, although it may not be the entire story.
Grenell’s online persona—a curmudgeonly combativeness that some might find unpleasant—quickly became a minor campaign issue. His penchant for sexist attacks on women was noted by Think Progress, who reported, “[Grenell] has gone after Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama, Callista Gingrich, Sandra Fluke and others.” They posted screenshots of his unfunny jokes about the appearance of Rachel Maddow, Clinton, Albright, Callista Gingrich and others. He also tweeted heavy-handed jabs at Republicans such as “im rick santorum and gay people should be deported.” He also took an arguably racial shot at Michelle Obama, suggesting her saying at an event, “Because I got to get home after this” was “slang.” Mostly, though, he tweeted aggressive criticism of the Obama administration from a hawkish perspective, complaining repeatedly, for example, that Secretary Clinton and UN Ambassador Susan Rice were “ignoring” the government repression in Syria. Grenell sifted through his extensive twitter feed and deleted more than 800 potentially embarrassing tweets.
No sooner had that brouhaha died down, though, than conservatives began fretting that his sexual orientation would prevent him from serving conservative foreign policy interests. Grenell had written op-eds in favor of gay marriage. But he generally did so in a partisan Republican vein. He devoted a Washington Blade column for attacking gay writers for giving Obama too much credit, and Dick Cheney too little, on gay rights.