Trump names first openly gay appointee
President Trump on Friday evening announced he has nominated Richard Grenell, an openly gay Republican activist from California, to be the U.S. ambassador to Germany. The nomination marks the first time President Trump has appointed an openly gay person to a position in his administration.
Grenell’s appointment has been expected since late July when major media outlets reported that sources said President Trump had offered the position to Grenell. The reports did not identify any sources. Grenell did not respond to queries.
The nomination, if confirmed by the Senate, will make Grenell one of only 10 openly gay people to serve as ambassadors; all have been men. Grenell’s post represents the country with the largest population thus far: 82 million.
President Obama appointed seven openly gay men for ambassadorial posts– to Spain, Denmark, New Zealand, the Dominican Republican, Australia, Vietnam, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. President Clinton was the first president to nominate an openly gay person to be an ambassador: Jim Hormel to Luxembourg. President George W. Bush was the first Republican president to name an openly gay ambassador: Michael Guest to Romania.
The press release announcing Grenell’s appointment was released Friday night, a time that typically guarantees as little attention as possible from the media and the public. The Trump administration was criticized the previous Friday for releasing a White House memo on banning transgender people from the military, announcing the president’s pardon of an Arizona sheriff convicted for harassing people of color, and acknowledging the departure of controversial adviser Sebastian Gorka.
The announcement of Grenell’s appointment was listed among a total of 42 appointments Friday, 10 of which were ambassadorial posts. The press release did not mention that Grenell is gay and that he was a Trump delegate to the Republican National Convention last summer. It describes him as a “foreign policy writer and commentator” and said he “founded the international consulting firm Capitol Media Partners in 2010.”
“For nearly two decades, he has served as the primary communications adviser for public officials at the local, state, Federal, and international levels, as well as for a Fortune 200 ranked company,” states the press release. “Mr. Grenell is the longest serving United States spokesman at the United Nations (2001-2008) having served four United States Ambassadors. He earned a B.A. from Evangel University and an MPA from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.”
Grenell, 50, is a frequent political commentator for Fox News. He is also a member of the national gay Republican group, Log Cabin Republicans. And, like President Trump, Grenell is a very active Twitter poster. In 2014, Time magazine called him a “Twitter provocateur, seemingly always on the hunt for what he sees as liberal media bias or Democrats’ weak-kneed foreign policy.” Among his more controversial posts was one that included unflattering observations about the wife of Republican presidential long-shot Newt Gingrich.
Grenell was a foreign policy advisor in 2012 to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. But he resigned the position after only two weeks, saying his 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 that Romney’s “clear message to me [was] that being openly gay was a non-issue for him and his team.”
The Washington Post reported that anti-gay conservatives had executed “a full-court press” to get Grenell off Romney’s campaign. An official of the American Family Association issued a statement characterizing Grenell as a “gay activist” who would be trying to promote a “homosexual agenda.” Others attacked too, claiming he had advocated for “redefining normal marriage.”
One year after leaving the Romney campaign staff, Grenell indicated in his Twitter feed that he was undergoing chemotherapy for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He mentioned in an August 31 post this year that he is “cancer free.” Grenell and his partner Matthew Lashey recently launched a free app to help people being treated for cancer to track the side effects of their medications to help doctors make better-informed judgments in adjusting treatment.
In 2008, The Advocate magazine reported that Grenell, while at the U.N., sought to have 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.
Reacting to the nomination, Deutsche Well, one German news organization, made only passing mention that Grenell is gay but quoted one Berline-based diplomacy expert as saying he would have face “a new wave of anti-Americanism” in Germany, representing a president “who is so unpopular.” But the expert, Jan Techau of the Holbrooke Forum for the Study of Diplomacy and Governance, acknowledged that Grenell was not just a Trump supporter and donor but a “real foreign policy person.”
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