Grenell Pushback

The employment and resignation of openly gay Romney foreign policy spokesman Ric Grenell has not cast Team Mitt in the most favorable light, making them look like wimps who first boasted of the benevolent tolerance exhibited by the Great White Father in hiring the man, but then fell silent the moment the incoming began from social conservatives who implicitly said: “This is the sort of thing we warned you he’d do the moment he won the nomination!” It was not lost on the chattering classes, BTW, that the chatterer breaking the news in a series of angry posts was none other than WaPo’s Jennifer Rubin, arguably the most relentless Mitt-o-phile in the conservative universe.

Now, finally, the pushback is beginning to emerge from the Romney camp, most notably in an article today from the Washington Examiner‘s Byron York, one of the Right’s most influential political reporters:

Romney campaign officials say strongly that they did not keep Grenell under wraps or in any other way discourage him from taking the job. First, they point out that at the time (last week) in which Grenell was supposedly being held back, he was not yet an employee of the Romney campaign. Like a number of other new hires, officials say, Grenell was getting ready to move to Boston to begin work May 1. Romney officials fully anticipated he would begin his public role as spokesman then.

Instead, last weekend, officials say, Grenell got in touch with the campaign to say he would not take the job, after all. Some top Romney staffers, including Eric Fehrnstrom, one of Mitt Romney’s closest advisers, urged Grenell to reconsider. In all, several Romney aides encouraged Grenell to come to Boston and start work. Whatever the criticisms from social conservatives, officials say, they wanted Grenell on the job.

In other words, Grenell wasn’t out there speaking for Romney, and Romney didn’t lift a finger to defend Grenell, because he was just some soon-to-be new employee who hadn’t filled out his withholding forms or been issued his stapler and bathroom key. He quit before he was hired, so don’t ask us about it, ask him!

But why would Grenell do this? York doesn’t quite say, but his article suggests, twice, that it was about “gay politics.” The very broad hint is that Grenell planned all along to make himself a martyr to the cause, and basically used poor Mitt–and presumably Jennifer Rubin–to draw attention to the fact that an awful lot of Republicans consider him a filthy sodomite who should have stayed in the closet.

My, my. This is some pretty aggressive spinning, folks. Mitt’s just going about the business of saving the country he loves, and has gotten mousetrapped by an alliance of bible-thumping homophobes and gay rights activists, as has his favorite blogger, Ms. Rubin, who should have ignored Grenell’s phone calls and stuck to safer subjects like the imminent realignment of Jewish voters into the GOP column.

We’ll see which story sticks.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.