Richard Grenell, the Romney camp’s foreign policy spokesman, resigned this week, the same week in which he was to officially take the job. In a statement announcing his departure, Grenell, who is openly gay, wrote that his “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.”
After the late-April announcement of his hiring by the Romney camp, Grenell attracted the ire of social conservatives. One, the American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer, has been particularly adamant that by hiring an openly gay spokesman, Romney was giving the cold shoulder to Christian conservatives.
Grenell’s defenders say that the Romney campaign’s sin is one of omission rather than commission. It remained mute as a chorus of social conservatives raised their voices against the new hire. After the resignation, a Romney spokesman put it this way, “We are disappointed that Ric decided to resign from the campaign for his own personal reasons. We wanted him to stay because he had superior qualifications for the position he was hired to fill.”
Indeed, Grenell has long worked as a spokesman for Republicans. And he’s been aggressive in representing his employers’ positions. One, the outspoken conservative U.S. ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton, during the Bush administration, was satisfied with Grenell’s work. Some reporters who covered the U.N. during this period describe Grenell as hyper-critical of any journalist who didn’t follow the administration’s desired talking points.
In fact, Grenell could be quite aggressive in his public comments on the passing scene, something bolstered by the fact that he did an extensive scrubbing of his social media before accepting the job with Romney. The Twitterverse is missing 800 Grenell tweets, some of which employed sharp elbows.
The Romney camp’s defense is that Grenell was not yet on the clock; his start date was scheduled for last Tuesday. Of course, the campaign’s relative silence in the midst of the controversy spoke loudly, and Grenell reckoned that his presence would only make things worse. That’s the conclusion any competent message-maker would come to — negatives to a campaign must be silenced before they grow any louder.
Thus, Grenell’s departure strongly suggests which wing of the Republican Party Mitt Romney must most actively court: the one least likely to be comfortable with a gay person in a position of authority.