Did Grenell Jump or Was He Pushed?

This post has been updated with more information from the New York Times and Talking Points Memo

Jim Burroway

May 3rd, 2012

Or did he just simply let go?

On April 19 when Gov. Mitt Romney named Richard Grenell, a longtime GOP communications strategist as his national security and foreign policy spokesman, conservative blogger Andrew Sullivan hailed the announcement as “a real outreach to gay Republicans” while Karen Ocamb said is marks “the day Romney pivots to appeal to mainstream voters for the general election.”

But if that was a pivot, it ended Tuesday when Grenell resigned from the campaign. His very brief announcement hinted at why he left such a high-profile post in a national presidential campaign: “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.”

What “hyper-partisan” discussions was he referring to? At first, some speculated that it may have been related to the initial criticisms from pundits and bloggers over provocative Twitter posts that he made about Rachel Maddow’s appearance, Newt Gingrich’s wife Calista’s appearance, Hillary Clinton’s appearance, Michele Obama’s accent, and other snarky tweets. But it quickly seemed unlikely that those criticisms led to Grenell’s sudden departure. Most of them came from left-of-center and beyond, which Republicans tend to wear as a badge of honor (as many Democrats do with criticism from the right). And besides, by April 22 when Grenell deleted some 800 tweets and took his personal web site offline, those criticisms were already loosing traction. The world quickly moved on to the next outrage.

Well, most of the world anyway. One key component of the restive GOP base didn’t. SPLC-certified hate-artist Bryan Fischer of American Family Association called Grenell’s appointment “a deliberate poke in the eye” to Christian conservatives, and mounted a campaign for Grenell’s removal with a six-point list of demands for Gov. Romney. Family “Research” Council warned that Grenell’s support for same-sex marriage would have him lobbying “for foreign policy more in line with the current administration than the last Republican one.” National Review’s Matthew Franck wrote that Grenell supported marriage equality “with a kind of unhinged devotion that suggests a man with questionable judgment.” He even suggested that Grenell’s gayness would cause him to turn traitor to the Republican cause and switch teams if Obama were to come out for same-sex marriage.

Those criticisms apparently spooked and paralyzed the Romney campaign. Andrew Sullivan did some “actual reporting from yours truly” and got to the bottom of Grenell’s resignation:

It seems clear from sources close to Grenell and reporters on the foreign policy beat that his turning point came last week. He’d been part of organizing a conference call to respond to Vice President Biden’s foreign policy speech, now known best for the “big stick” remark. So some reporters were puzzled as to why Grenell, a week into his job as Romney’s national security spokesman, was not introduced by name as part of the Romney team at the beginning of the call, and his voice completely absent from the conversation. Some even called and questioned him afterwards as to why he was absent. He wasn’t absent. He was simply muzzled. For a job where you are supposed to maintain good relations with reporters, being silenced on a key conference call on your area of expertise is pretty damaging. Especially when you helped set it up.

Sources close to Grenell say that he was specifically told by those high up in the Romney campaign to stay silent on the call, even while he was on it. And this was not the only time he had been instructed to shut up. Their response to the far right fooferaw was simply to go silent, to keep Grenell off-stage and mute, and to wait till the storm passed. But the storm was not likely to pass if no one in the Romney camp was prepared to back Grenell up. Hence his dilemma. The obvious solution was simply to get Grenell out there doling out the neocon red meat — which would have immediately changed the subject and helped dispel base skepticism. Instead the terrified Romneyites shut him up without any actual plan for when he might subsequently be able to do his job. To my mind, it’s a mark of his integrity that he decided to quit rather than be put in this absurd situation. And it’s a mark of Romney’s fundamental weakness within his own party that he could not back his spokesman against the Bryan Fischers and Matthew Francks.

This confirms what the Washington Post learned shortly after Grenell’s resignation, when Jennifer Rubin wrote: “The ongoing pressure from social conservatives over his appointment and the reluctance of the Romney campaign to send Grenell out as a spokesman while controversy swirled left Grenell essentially with no job.” She later reported that many members of the campaign privately reached out to Grenell over the weekend to try to persuade him from resigning, but they were unsuccessful. She then reiterated the root of the problem: “Despite the controversy in new media and in conservative circles, there was no public statement of support for Grenell by the campaign and no supportive social conservatives were enlisted to calm the waters.”

[Update: The New York Times this morning has more. During that foreign policy conference call:

It turned out he was at home in Los Angeles, listening in, but stone silent and seething. A few minutes earlier, a senior Romney aide had delivered an unexpected directive, according to several people involved in the call.

“Ric,” said Alex Wong, a policy aide, “the campaign has requested that you not speak on this call.” Mr. Wong added, “It’s best to lay low for now.”

For Mr. Grenell, the message was clear: he had become radioactive.

After interviewing more than a dozen aids and advisers, The Times describes the episode as “halting attempts by the campaign to manage its relationship with the most conservative quarter of the Republican Party.”

“It’s not that the campaign cared whether Ric Grenell was gay,” one Republican adviser said. “They believed this was a nonissue. But they didn’t want to confront the religious right.”]

This leaves many wondering if there is any room for gay Republicans in visible positions. GOPRoud’s Jimmy LaSilva said, “This was an opportunity to send an important message that Mitt Romney wants everybody to get behind him and to support his campaign. They let that opportunity pass.” [Update: Go Proud’s Christopher Barron added, “It doesn’t bode well for the Romney campaign going forward if they couldn’t stand up to the most outrageous attacks about him being gay.” Fred Karger, who ran against Romney as an openly gay candidate told TPM,

“It’s going to be difficult for Romney to take other steps like this. And that’s what’s really frightening to me. It’s just too tough to stand up to these groups because they have a lot of money and power. You’ve got to be able to do that, that’s leadership.”]

Sullivan was more direct:

So if all gay Republicans who support marriage equality are banned even from speaking on other topics entirely (like Iran or Afghanistan, where Grenell is a fire-breather), who’s left? The answer, I’m afraid, is no one. Grenell was prepared to stay silent on gay issues entirely and do his job. But that wasn’t enough. Romney’s anti-gay agenda is therefore deeper and more extreme than Bush’s.

Meanwhile, AFA’s Bryan Fischer is declaring Grenell’s resignation a huge win. With continued silence from the Romney camp, this leaves likes of Fischer to operate as the de-facto gatekeepers of acceptable members of the Romney campaign — and perhaps even of a Romney administration.


May 3rd, 2012

Something else that may be worth considering: Romney (or his campaign) was willing to hire somebody to handle areas as important as foreign policy and national security who he was unwilling to let actually do the job. That strongly suggests he doesn’t take those aspects of the presidency seriously; a far more dangerous flaw than thinking men should only marry women and vice versa.


May 3rd, 2012

I did very much enjoy seeing Bryan Fischer on the Daily Show tonight, though. If only everyone gave his statements the same respect Jon Stewart does.


May 3rd, 2012

I really wish fundamentalist Christians would prepare a list of occupations that are acceptable for LGBT people to work in. Politicians, political advisors, judges, teachers, doctors, nurses, policemen, and soldiers are all apparently off limits to LGBT folks…

Priya Lynn

May 3rd, 2012

I was surprised to see Goproud members taking the side of Grenell rather than the Republicans who abused him. I guess they’re not unconditionally upside down on every LGBT issue.

Priya Lynn

May 3rd, 2012

Homer, I think fundamentalist christians believe there are no occupations that are acceptable for gays to work in. They think no gay should be allowed a job or place to live until they repent and “change” their orientation to heterosexual.


May 3rd, 2012

Priya, “change” is the condition upon which many would allow us to continue to live. But they’d still never trust us.

Ned Flaherty

May 3rd, 2012

5 corrections:

1. In para. 4, “Grennell’s supported” should be “Grennell has supported.”

2. In para. 13, “aids” should be “aides”.

3. In para. 14, delete right bracket.

4. In para. 15, change “ran” to “is still running in primaries”.

5. In para. 19, change “top” to “to”.


May 3rd, 2012

Looks like his misogyny was irrelevant to most people.

Mark F.

May 3rd, 2012

I don’t think Romney is a seething gay hater, but this incident should raise real doubts about his judgment.

(I have always supported Ron Paul for the GOP nomination and will vote for the Libertarian candidate in November.)


May 3rd, 2012


You criticized the perfectly acceptable “Grenell’s” for “Grenell has” but missed the misspelling of Jimmy LaSalvia’s name and the “GOPRoud” and “Go Proud” for “GOProud” in para 15?

Thoughtful take on the issues, Jim.


May 3rd, 2012

Well, I guess everyone know nows who’s boss in Romney’s campaign.

Timothy Kincaid

May 3rd, 2012

Homer, I think fundamentalist christians believe there are no occupations that are acceptable for gays to work in. They think no gay should be allowed a job or place to live until they repent and “change” their orientation to heterosexual.

This is an interesting statement.

If, indeed, this is the belief of fundamentalist christians – in general – then that is a rather startling belief. It is a form of bigotry that is shocking.

If, however, fundamentalist christians do NOT think that no gay should be allowed a job or place to live until they repent, this is is an aggressive accusation. In fact, if this is not what fundamentalist Christians believe, then this accusation is bigotry. (After all, if making up lies about someone to convince others to think negatively about them isn’t bigotry, what is?)

So let’s see if it holds up:

Jerry Falwell (surely a fundamentalist Christian) said:

“I may not agree with the lifestyle,” Falwell said. “But that has nothing to do with the civil rights of that… part of our constituency.”

“Judge Roberts would probably have been not a good very good lawyer if he had not been willing, when asked by his partners in the law firm to assist in guaranteeing the civil rights of employment and housing to any and all Americans.”

How about the average joe fundamentalist. Here’s an essay by Phil Scovell ranting about the homosexuals:

Do homosexuals have rights?

Of course. They are human beings just like anyone else. they have the right to be treated as such; to hold jobs, pay taxes and to function in society as anyone might as long as it is within the law.

Rick Santorum – not exactly a fundamentalist Christian, but surely an extreme reflection of the most adamantly anti-gay attitudes – says:

sure, they have the right to employment

I really have searched. I looked in the archives of the Southern Baptist Convention.

I’ve found a good deal of opposition to ENDA and I found that fundamentalist conservatives want the right to fire gay people if they want to do so. I found that fundamentalist Christians want the right to not rent to you if they don’t want to and the right to not hire you if they don’t want to. And I found some limited occupations (teachers, politicians, etc.) in which a subset (though certainly not all) fundamentalists Christians would not want gays to work.

But I have not one single instance of any fundamentalist Christian even suggesting that “there are no occupations that are acceptable for gays to work in” or that “no gay should be allowed a job or place to live until they repent”, much less change their orientation.

Perhaps the author of this accusation can provide some instance in which some fundamentalist Christian – one that is representative of any denomination or group – has made such a statement.

Otherwise the author may wish to consider that they are behaving in a bigoted manner and perhaps even consider that they should recant their accusation and apologize.

Priya Lynn

May 3rd, 2012

Timothy said “In fact, if this is not what fundamentalist Christians believe, then this accusation is bigotry. (After all, if making up lies about someone to convince others to think negatively about them isn’t bigotry, what is?)”.

You’re making a baseless assertion that I made that up to convince others to think negatively of fundamentalists. Perhaps that is bigotry. You once again are guilty of what you accuse others of.

Many, many fundamentalists christians oppose anti-discrimination laws that protect gays in employment and housing and such christians insist that they must have the right to deny gays housing and employment based on their “sincere religious beliefs”. Of course few will admit openly to the depths of their bigotry and state they believe no gays should be allowed a job or a place to live unless they repent – they know total honesty wouldn’t serve them well.

Some time back I mentioned how christian fundamentalists claim they oppose marriage equality for “the sake of the children” and I said none have responded when I said if they are cocerned about children then they should support marriage for gay parents.

You and I both agreed that if you could get them to be open and honest they’d probably admit that they favour taking away the children of gay parents. Of course none of them will admit that because honesty wouldn’t serve them well – just as is the case with what occupations they feel gays should be allowed to have.

It is laughable that you think because you searched for a few minutes, found a few fundamentalists supporting gays’ rights to jobs and housing, and none willing to state on the record that they oppose that that therefore there are no fundamentalists christians with such beliefs.

That is in keeping with what have been your ongoing attempts to convince us that most christians who oppose marriage equality do so out of sincere concern for the good of society and are not bigots. It is also in keeping with your more recent attempts to portray LGBTs who oppose “exgay” therapy for children as being motivated solely by hate and a desire to punish religious people rather than having a genuine desire to protect gay youth.

And here is the perfect example of you doing exactly what you’re accusing me of:


The author of that comment may wish to consider that they were behaving in a bigoted manner and perhaps even consider that they should recant their accusation and apologize.

As for me I won’t be taking any moral advice from you.

Priya Lynn

May 3rd, 2012

I should add that we all know some fundamentalists have called for gays to be executed (and Timothy found none of those available quotes) so its hardly a stretch to think some believe gays should be denied jobs and housing unless they repent.

Priya Lynn

May 3rd, 2012

Timothy said “Rick Santorum – not exactly a fundamentalist Christian, but surely an extreme reflection of the most adamantly anti-gay attitudes…”.

LOL, you MUST be kidding:




That you would say Santorum is “an extreme reflection of the most adamantly anti-gay attitudes” clearly demonstrates how severely you’re trying to slant this issue.

Timothy Kincaid

May 3rd, 2012

Oh…. okay, so they really all SECRETLY think no gay should be allowed a job or place to live until they repent.

got it…

I think I’ll just stick with Occam

Timothy Kincaid

May 3rd, 2012

I should add that we all know some fundamentalists have called for gays to be executed (and Timothy found none of those available quotes) so its hardly a stretch to think some believe gays should be denied jobs and housing unless they repent.

Oh… we’re talking about some.

Kinda like “some homosexuals are pedophiles, some black people are criminals, some Mexicans are lazy, some Jews cheat in business, some Irish are alcoholics, and some atheists are really just people who hate God”.

Good ol’ some, the last refuge of bigots.

But as I’m on hiatus, I’ll let you have the last word.

Priya Lynn

May 3rd, 2012

I’ll concede that to you Timothy, I should have specified “some fundamentalist christians” believe instead of stating “fundamentalist christians” believe.

Its ironic that you say you need to take a break because “the criticism has become very personal in nature and very hurtful”, that its “personal abuse”
and then you call me a bigot. Has it ever occurred to that what goes around comes around?

Timothy Kincaid

May 3rd, 2012

Well then we are in agreement. Indeed there are some fundamentalist Christians with some pretty frightful beliefs. No doubt about it.


May 3rd, 2012

Reading the exchange between Timothy and Priya was so engrossing that I forgot what the original topic was about.

Now that’s communication.

Timothy Kincaid

May 4th, 2012


No, (he says in his best Carol Channing voice) That’s Entertainment!

Which reminds me of the time that I went to the Hollywood Bowl to see the LA Philharmonic back up Pink Martini (always a sold out show).

Well that night they were honoring ancient people or something and they had Carol Channing and some really old Caribbean French guy. They thought they’d do an impromptu That’s Entertainment and passed out the words to the ancients on stage.

The French dude couldn’t see well so Carol was helping him with the words.

“The world is a shtaaazj… no, a SHTAAAZJ”


May 4th, 2012

I have no doubt that it was the Christian right wing that was responsible for Grenell’s firing. Let’s be honest, the resignation was the effort of the good underling to protect his boss. I am reminded of Congressman Kolbe who spoke at the 2000 convention. I don’t remember the topic of the speech but it had nothing to do with gay rights in anyway, yet the right wing haters stood and turned their backs to him and now we find out that Grenell was told not to even speak on a conference call that he had organized.

The people who organized this attack on Grenell label themselves Christian fundamentalists or evangelicals. I take them at their word and as long as the people who identify with the leaders I have to consider them my enemies who will slay me if they get the chance.


May 4th, 2012

Many of the *overall* best people I know are in the fundamentalist end of Christianity.* They just have… a blind spot, essentially, and we’re in it.

*You don’t get much further that way than Hard-Shell Primitive Baptist.

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