David Frum

05.01.12

Did Anti-Gay Conservatives Claim a Scalp? (UPDATED)

richard-grenell-romney-gay-spokesman-cheat
Stephen Hilger / Bloomberg News

Jennifer Rubin reports that openly gay national security spokesmen Richard Grenell has resigned from the Romney campaign. Rubin has a statement from Grenell which suggests that he resigned because his sexual orientation was causing problems for the campaign:

Richard Grenell, the openly gay spokesman recently hired to sharpen the foreign policy message of Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, has resigned in the wake of a full-court press by anti-gay conservatives.

In a statement obtained by Right Turn, Grenell says:

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.

(My own bolding applied to the text.)

It is citing his orientation in his statement which is troubling. Grenell had come under fire from groups such as ThinkProgress because of past issues related to his use of twitter, but that is separate from social conservative objections over Grenell being hired.

The Romney campaign has responded to Rubin:

UPDATE (3:10 p.m.): The Romney camp has now responded via campaign manager Matt Rhoades: “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.”

Even if it is accurate that the Romney campaign did not want Grenell to go, and that he resigned of his own choice, the success of outside pressure in forcing a resignation is still troubling. Republican strategist Liz Mair, someone who has written in support of gay marraige and in expanding the GOP electorate to include gays has pointed out some of the potential problems with this resignation on twitter:

Tweet at 3:09 pm:

If this is a case of the anti-gay right forcing hiring and firing decisions, the Romney camp should be absolutely ashamed of itself.

3:43 pm:

I'd just like to point out that Grenell worked for the Bush admin (yes?) and wasn't fired. Plenty of gay Rs worked for RNC/McCain in 08 too!

3:43pm:

If Grenell was forced out/fired/allowed to leave when no other reason for resignation b/c of being gay, that'll say something given history.

UPDATE: 6:31PM

Some reporters have noted social-conservative pressure would not have been the only reason for Grenell to leave. Molly Ball notes that Grenell's framing of his exit could brush over other ways in which he was not fitting in at the campaign:

More than one Republican insider I spoke to wondered if Grenell, who had also drawn controversy for his off-message tweeting and combative persona, hadn't instead turned out to be a poor fit for the tightly disciplined, personality-averse Romney operation. If that's the case, Grenell's attempt to point the finger at voices of intolerance within the GOP may be a self-serving excuse.

For her part, Rubin notes in an update to her report that "none of the sources I spoke with mentioned the tweets as a factor in his resignation decision".

John McCormarck also wonders if there is a real story here:

To sum up: neither Grenell nor Romney camp claims he was pushed out. Rather, Grenell said he didn't like writings about his personal life.

If that is the case, then there is no real story. Anybody in politics is going to have a few unfavorable blog posts written about him.

If on the other hand Grenell was pushed out, it is inconceivable that it was because he was gay. offensive tweets must have played a role

Again, Rick Santorum had an openly gay spokesman, and no one cared.