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

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.