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article imageRomney's gay spokesman quits, citing conservative intolerance

By JohnThomas Didymus     May 4, 2012 in Politics
Romney's gay former foreign policy and national security spokesman, Richard Grenell, left the campaign because he felt his professional standing was being eroded not only by far right criticism but also by his boss who was muzzling him.

It is claimed that Grenell announced last weekend that he was quitting at a time the Romney campaign thought the controversy accompanying his hiring had blown over. According to Huffington Post, Romney's aides were surprised when they learned that Grenell was quitting.
The Washington Post reports Grenell said in a statement: “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.” He added: “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.”
A source close to the Romney campaign, said: "In the scale of things, we didn't view it as a major story and in fact thought it had blown over."
According to knowledgeable sources most "of the criticism was from a person on the far right that Romney had taken on before." The "far right" person was Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association whose "poisonous language" Romney had earlier condemned in relation to an alleged attack on Mormonism, Romney's religion.
According to Huffington Post, Fischer made critical comments about Grenell on Twitter, in a blog post on April 23, and on April 24 during an appearance on CNN. A blog post on the National Review on April 24 discussed whether conservatives should be concerned that Grenell could become a "national security risk" in a Romney White House administration.
Other far right conservatives joined in the attack on Grenell. On April 25, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council expressed his disapproval of Grenell's hiring. Then Gary Bauer, founder of American Value, spoke publicly against Grenell's hiring. He said he was worried that Grenell's hiring could send the wrong signal that Romney supported gay marriage. Bauer, however, said: "We should not exaggerate this. Homosexuals were part of the Reagan Administration and the Bush Administrations. Our concern is policy."
Bauer said in an interview with Huffington Post that "I never called for [Grenell] to be replaced and I think the most important thing here is the policies."
Critics say that the Romney campaign reacted passively to the controversy and only made a move to persuaded Grenell to stay after he had said he was quitting. Huffington Post reports Romney campaign asked the former Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlam, an openly gay GOP figure, to help appeal to him to stay.
Grenell, however, felt that Romney campaign officials could have done more to confront the criticism but were unwilling to do so either privately or publicly. But Romney campaign defended itself, saying it circulated statements in defense of Grenell. Huffington Post notes, however, that Romney campaign distributed the statement to reporters only on request and did not send it out on its email list. The feeling is some quarters is that the campaign did not react strongly enough in defense of Grenell. It maintained a passive rather than an active posture while the controversy raged.
Analysts say the Romney campaign reaction revealed its fear about alienating Christian conservatives who oppose homosexuality and gay marriage. Romney campaign apparently felt it had to tread softly to avoid offending the conservative evangelical base of the party at a time it was working to win their support.
What placed Grenell in a difficult position among GOP conservatives was that he was not only openly gay but he had also been publicly involved in the agitation for legalization of gay marriage.
Sources close to Grenell say he felt "boxed in" because the Romney campaign told him to "be quiet and not to speak up until it [the criticisms] went away." Grenell, therefore, could not defend himself against his critics. Romney campaign, however, said it asked Grenell to "lay low only on the issue of his tweets about Callista Gingrich and First Lady Michele Obama, for which he, in fact, had already apologized."
Observers have noted that the campaign frustrated Grenell and effectively pushed him out by keeping him from dong what he was hired to do, which was talking about foreign policy issues. Romney campaign simply said he was not scheduled to do so before May 1. But analysts say the explanation does not make sense. A former high ranking official of Bush administration, said: “Why wasn’t Rick the spokesman in the last couple of days, when foreign policy was paramount? That's the piece I don't understand. I don't know why he wasn't the spokesman on foreign policy for the last several days. It's something that nobody understands."
Daily Mail says he "final straw" came last week when Grenell was told to "shut up" before a foreign policy conference call with reporters. This, he felt, eroded his standing with journalists.
According to Daily Mail, "Without a clear timeline of when he would be able to do his job and a barrage of criticism on both sides of the political arena, Mr Grenell quit the campaign."
Daily Beast's Andrew Sullivan praised Grenell for taking the right decision: "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."
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