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Former Romney aide breaks his silence

11:42 AM, May 27, 2012   |    comments
Richard Grenell
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PALM SPRINGS, CA - For Richard Grenell, buying a house in Palm Springs and setting out to renovate it with his partner is just the diversion he may need after a tumultuous year. 

Grenell, known as "Ric" to his Palm Springs friends, made headlines this year after he resigned as the openly gay national security spokesman for the Mitt Romney campaign. He lasted less than two weeks on the job.

Now that he is beginning to talk about that experience for the first time, Grenell denies he was forced out, while acknowledging he took heat from both the political left and the right.

In an interview with The Desert Sun, Grenell said: "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."

But it was the far right that gloated louder than the far left after Grenell's resignation. Leading the charge was the conservative American Family Association's Bryan Fischer, who called Grenell's resignation a "huge win for us."

Grenell denies he was forced out by social conservatives, noting that he's been an openly-gay Republican spokesman for decades.

"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." 

So if he wasn't forced out why did he quit?

Grenell says all the publicity about him being an openly gay Romney staffer obscured the message he was trying to get out.

"They did not force me to resign. I resigned because I'm very passionate about foreign policy and national security issues." But, he says, "When the messenger becomes part of the message - if you really care about these issues - you should step aside."

Grenell didn't help himself when news broke that his Twitter account included numerous tweets from him that ridiculed prominent Republicans and Democrats alike, including Hillary Clinton, Callista Gingrich and Michelle Obama.

But his tweet about openly-gay newscaster Rachel Maddow especially angered many fellow gays and lesbians. Grenell seemed to mock her as being too masculine and a lesbian stereotype, saying, "Rachel Maddow needs to take a breath and put on a necklace."

That brought this response from influential gay journalist Michaelangelo Signorile, who wrote in The Huffington Post, "It was the kind of crack many would expect from a homophobic straight guy."

Still, members of the Romney campaign said afterwards they wished Grenell had not resigned, with Romney himself calling Grenell "a capable individual."

And after all the controversy Grenell continues to support Romney over President Obama, despite the fact that Grenell's support of same-sex marriage is more in line with Obama's position than Romney's.

"I think I am like most Americans in that we're multi-dimensional. We have varied views and we don't fit comfortably in a one-dimensional box that either the news media or some extremists on the left or the right want to put us in."

As for his life in Palm Springs, the 45-year-old Grenell plans to be active in Desert politics, saying, "I'm committed to help Congresswoman (Mary) Bono Mack in any way I can ... I like her policies very much."

Then, there's that newly purchased house.

"We're doing a lot of renovation on it, so I think we will be spending quite a bit of time here."

He can use that time to decompress from his turbulent year.

"I love Palm Springs," he says. "First of all I am a huge fan of midcentury modern architecture, furniture, culture, and I combine that with the Southern California sensibilities of life: being very smart but not having to wear it on your sleeve and prove to everybody you're so smart."

 

USA Today

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