Republican presidential nominee apparent Mitt Romney has begun his run toward the political middle, and one aspect of that shift appears to have been the choosing an openly gay man to his team of campaign advisors.
The advisor is Richard Grenell, 45, who also served the administration of President George W. Bush, as a spokesman for the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. He was also appointed by Ambassador John Danforth in 2004 to serve as an alternative representative of the United States to the U.N. Security Council.
The campaign’s announcement last Thursday (April 19) did not identify Grenell as gay, only that he was joining the campaign to serve as its spokesman on national security and foreign policy issues.
Grenell has served a long line of prominent Republicans in various capacities, including New York Governor George Pataki, former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, and San Diego Mayor Susan Golding.
The fact that the Romney campaign announced Grenell’s appointment suggests the campaign intends to go after those one in four gay voters who tend to vote Republican.
But one blogger —Doug Wead, a senior adviser to the Ron Paul campaign— notes that the Romney campaign also announced, on that same day, Romney’s plan to speak at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University. He called the same-day announcements “a clumsy attempt to show respect to both the evangelical and gay communities.”
“Instead,” wrote Wead in his blog dougwead.com, “it shows that the Romney campaign understands neither one.”
But Grenell may turn out to be a little too abrasive to attract any but the hardcore Republicans in the LGBT community. Just last month, he penned an op-ed piece for the Washington Blade that derided gay Pulitzer Prize winner Jonathan Capehart for defending President Obama’s evolving position on same-sex marriage.
MetroWeekly in Washington, D.C. reported that Grenell and his longtime partner live in California. Other media reported Grenell is expected to be working out of Romney headquarters in Boston.
Grenell is a member of Log Cabin Republicans, the national gay Republican group, and spoke about foreign policy issues at its national conference last year.
Jimmy LaSalvia, head of the national gay conserviative group GOProud, said he feels sure Grenell “will be an outstanding addition” to Romney’s foreign policy and national security team.
“Mitt Romney has a record, throughout his entire career, of assembling top notch teams to execute the tasks at hand,” said LaSalvia, “and I think this choice shows that he’ll attract the top talent to help him bring America back. And that’s good for all Americans – gay or straight.”
Politico.com columnist Alexander Burns reported Friday on Grenell’s passion for Tweeting, especially crass observations about GOP presidential long-shot Newt Gingrich’s current wife, Callista. According to Burns, Grenell has Tweeted cutting remarks about Mrs. Gingrich’s hair, her quiet demeanor, and the fact that she is Gingrich’s third wife.
Presumably, that sort of Tweeting will stop, given that the Romney campaign, just one week ago, criticized lesbian Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen for commenting on the fact that Ann Romney has not held a paying job while raising her five sons.
The Advocate magazine reported in September 2008 that Grenell, while at the U.N., sought to have the name of his partner, Matthew Lashey, listed in the U.N. directory that lists diplomatic personnel and their spouses. Grenell said that he and Lashey considered themselves married even though, at the time, it was not possible for them to obtain a marriage license in New York. A U.S. State Department official said the Defense of Marriage Act precluded the U.S. from submitting Lashey’s name for inclusion.
Grenell is currently a partner with a communication and public relations firm, Capitol Media Partners, based in Los Angeles. Grenell’s biography on the firm’s website indicates Grenell served as a delegate to a wide variety of U.N. conferences, including the “High Level Event on HIV/AIDS” in May 2006. The bio notes that Grenell teaches at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School of Communication and is a regular commentator for Al-Jazeera TV.
Grenell has a master’s in public administration from the Harvard John F. Kennedy School of Government.