Gay former Romney adviser says he wasn’t forced out of campaign

Richard Grenell, an openly gay foreign policy expert who left Mitt Romney’s campaign after a brief stint, denied that he was not forced off the team because of criticism or pressure from social conservatives.

“The right I'm very comfortable with, taking those hits and barbs, because I've had a 20-year career where I've worked for politicians, I've worked on elections, on campaigns, and I know exactly the trajectory of the assaults from the far right,” Grenell said in an interview with The Desert Sun of Palm Springs.

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He said his commitment to foreign policy led him to decide to leave the campaign. “I resigned because I'm very passionate about foreign policy and national security issues,” he said. “When the messenger becomes part of the message — if you really care about these issues — you should step aside.”

Grenell quit his job as a foreign policy spokesman for the Romney campaign May 1, less than two weeks after his appointment. 

Some anti-gay rights groups – including the American Family Association and the Family Research Council – had criticized the campaign’s decision to hire Grenell, who served as a spokesman for the U.S. at the United Nations under President George W. Bush.

He also faced criticism over comments he had previously made on Twitter that criticized Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Callista Gingrich, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow and others.

But Grenell's resignation brought criticism from the Obama campaign which suggested that he was forced out for being openly gay. "Today we learned that in the year 2012, a Republican nominee for president can't have a gay person as spokesman," Obama for America Digital Director Teddy Goff tweeted shortly after Grenell’s departure.

The Romney team however said they had not forced him out and that they asked Grenell to remain with the campaign. "We are disappointed that Ric decided to resign from the campaign for his own personal reasons," Romney Campaign Manager Matt Rhoades told The Hill in a statement. "We wanted him to stay because he had superior qualifications for the position he was hired to fill."

Grenell, in the interview with The Desert Sun, offers criticism of those on the left and the right.

“The far left doesn't want a gay person to be conservative and the far right doesn't want a conservative to be gay. Some of the most hateful, mean-spirited intolerant comments about me being the foreign policy and national security spokesman for Governor Romney ... were coming from the left,” he said.