CNN source: Openly gay Romney spokesman quit after being told not to speak on conference calls

posted at 9:05 pm on May 2, 2012 by Allahpundit

That jibes with what Jen Rubin heard yesterday. She claimed that Grenell was being kept “under wraps” by the campaign; the campaign countered that Grenell hadn’t even moved to Boston to officially start work for them yet. What about conference calls, though? Lots of those lately thanks to the Bin Laden anniversary. Was Grenell in on them or not?

According to CNN, yep:

A foreign policy spokesman for the presidential campaign of Mitt Romney left his job in part because he was restricted from speaking publicly, a source with direct knowledge of the situation told CNN on Wednesday.

The source said Richard Grenell, who was hired to the Romney camp less than two weeks before his departure, was told on several occasions not to speak on the campaign’s conference calls with reporters…

In a Wednesday interview on CNN’s “The Situation Room,” Romney senior adviser Dan Senor said that Grenell had apologized for the tweets, and “he certainly wasn’t speaking for the campaign.”

“Richard Grenell was an extremely talented public servant who worked for four US ambassadors to the United Nations,” Senor told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. “I worked with him in the early part of the 2000s and [he] is an extremely talented guy and we were lucky to have him.”

I still can’t figure out why, if this is some sort of anti-gay purge, Team Romney continues to praise Grenell publicly. Here’s Senor saying the campaign was lucky to have him and yesterday campaign manager Matt Rhoades issued a statement insisting that “We wanted him to stay because he had superior qualifications for the position he was hired to fill.” If you’re trying to placate social conservatives who object to Grenell’s hiring, that’s an odd way to do it.

Maybe keeping him on and muzzling him was their way of kinda sorta standing by Grenell while bowing to social cons anyway? Andrew Sullivan has also heard that Grenell was told to keep quiet on conference calls — even though he allegedly helped organize them:

Some actual reporting from yours truly. 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.

I wondered about that too. Why try to turn down the heat over Grenell’s hiring by making him lie low when you could have turned him loose as an attack dog against Obama and won conservatives over that way? Unless I’m missing something, there have been no surprises about Grenell since he joined the campaign: He’s openly gay and was well known for being confrontational and sometimes snotty with his political opponents on Twitter. The backlash from some social cons and lefties was thus entirely foreseeable. Why didn’t Team Mitt foresee it and plan accordingly?

On the other hand, I keep seeing liberals reach for Fischer as an example of social conservative pressure on Romney to cut ties with Grenell. That’s insane. As Byron York pointed out last night, it was Fischer to whom Romney alluded at the Values Voter Summit last year when he criticized certain speakers at the event for betraying the values of decency and civility by using “poisonous language.” Fischer, meanwhile, went on to say, “The next president needs to be a man of sincere, authentic, genuine Christian faith.” This is not a guy who’s getting Romneyworld to jump through hoops. But maybe Tony Perkins or Gary Bauer might? They’ve also criticized the Grenell hiring publicly, which was to be expected; the question is, have they or some other prominent social con criticized it privately and vehemently enough that Team Mitt thought better of bringing Grenell on after they hired him. That’s the only explanation I can come up with for why they’d muzzle him — that they simply underestimated the degree of opposition from the right, because of his orientation, or from the left, because of the fake-outrage ginned up over his snotty tweets. The thing is, Mitt’s organization usually doesn’t underestimate anything; that’s why he’s the nominee despite the base’s general “Anyone But Romney” sentiment. Mystifying.


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Comment pages: 1 2 3

Grenell isn’t any kind of victim here. The man obviously has a problem keeping his ego in check and in understanding the bigger picture. Maybe it’s good that a campaign advisor who might have a real problem staying message, being a team player, and avoiding becoming a story in and of himself, is no longer with the campaign.

bluegill on May 3, 2012 at 10:13 AM

I hope bluegill is right. Overall, gays need to keep their priorities sane. A functioning economy is more important than marriage equality is. And nationwide marriage equality is at least a decade away. The outcome of this election will have no affect on it at all.

thuja on May 3, 2012 at 2:11 PM

thuja on May 3, 2012 at 1:40 PM

Wouldn’t you only see this as evidence of GOP bigotry toward gays if you were already inclined to think of the GOP as being bigoted toward gays?

A man had a job.

A man resigned his job (before his official start date) due to “the hyper-partisan discussion of personal issues that sometimes comes from a presidential campaign.”

The group that hired the man said they regret that he is quitting and really wish he would stay.

The man reiterates that the group was very supportive of him.

Without inserting anything about his sexual orientation, it looks like a guy decided to quit a job. You insert the orientation in there and suddenly it’s evidence that the GOP is bigoted toward gays?

JadeNYU on May 3, 2012 at 2:18 PM

Also, the man was recommended by John Bolton which is generally enough for me as evidence that someone is a good hire.

However, it should be noted that it appears that this guy quit less than two weeks after a soft start (and before an official start) and the reason seems to be that he was asked to stay quiet on conference calls.

Seriously?!?

We expect this guy to go toe to toe with the dems about national security and fight for us but he quits days into the job because someone said to be a quiet listener?

I’m not sure I believe that someone that couldn’t hang in and push back internally for at least a month was actually going to be that effective of a fighter for our side.

JadeNYU on May 3, 2012 at 2:21 PM

I don’t see how this is a screw-up for the Romney campaign. Grenell just decided to be a drama queen and quit.

rockmom on May 3, 2012 at 10:40 AM

I’m totally pro-gay rights, and, from what I’ve read, I put the blame here squarely on Grenell, who appears to be a drama queen and seems to sometimes let his support for same-sex marriage override his concern for other issues.

Richard Grenell was asked to lay low…and Grenell’s ego couldn’t take it. Grenell refused to be a team player…

Grenell isn’t any kind of victim here. The man obviously has a problem keeping his ego in check and in understanding the bigger picture. Maybe it’s good that a campaign advisor who might have a real problem staying message, being a team player, and avoiding becoming a story in and of himself, is no longer with the campaign.

bluegill on May 3, 2012 at 10:13 AM

Based on what I read in this article, I’d say the above conclusions are on the money. Of course, the Times gets the headline wrong; the Romney camp hardly stirred the storm.

It looks like Grenell made this all about him instead of being a disciplined team player. Like the debate coach who started hogging the credit before the time was right, Grenell ended up without a job, although this time it was the showboater’s decision to leave.

While this mess was hardly the fault of Romney’s campaign, they still failed when they vetted Grenell. Those tweets would have sent a warning about Grenell’s ability to stay on message and leave his ego at the door. The Romney team is supposed to be about organizational competence, so I hope this is not a sign of things to come.

Mr. Arkadin on May 3, 2012 at 2:57 PM

How about being fired for not following orders? Why does it always have to be about his being a queer?

LizardLips on May 5, 2012 at 12:21 PM

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