In one of the first moves depicting a shift to a general election footing, Mitt Romneyâs campaign announced last week the hiring of Richard A. Grenell as a national security and foreign policy adviser. This week, the campaign and Grenell were dealing with backlash from the left and right.
Grenell, who spent seven years at the United Nations heading the communications department for the U.S. mission, has had to scrub snarky tweets aimed at women â particularly Democrats and liberals â and the media, while the Romney campaign has had to fend off criticism from social conservatives who object to Grenellâs appointment because he is gay.
In one entry removed from his Twitter account, Grenell wrote of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton: âHillary is starting to look liek Madeline Albright.â
Of MSNBCâs liberal-leaning Rachel Maddow, he wrote that she should âtake a breath and put on a necklace.â
The snark was not limited to the political opposition. Grenell, a former spokesman for Newt Gingrich, said of Gingrichâs third wife, Callista, that he wondered whether her âhair snaps onâ and that she âstands there like she is wife #1â at political events.
The tweets were in line with Grenellâs reputation as a quick-witted and sometimes confrontational spokesman, who would add a different component to the Romney operation.
Some social conservatives, whom Romney has to yet fully consolidate, have criticized the appointment because Grenell, who served four U.S. ambassadors after President George W. Bush named him to the post in 2001, is openly gay.
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, took issue with Grenell over his criticism of the Bush administrationâs failure to sign a December 2008 U.N. resolution that called for decriminalizing homosexuality across the globe.
While at the United Nations, Grenell fought unsuccessfully to have his partner, Matt Lashey, listed among the spouses in the United Nationsâs Blue Book, a personnel directory.
âItâs concerning that you would have somebody tapped to be potentially in an administration that would continue the policies that weâre seeing in the Obama administration,â Perkins said.
Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association shared his disappointment with the Grenell pick on Twitter: âRomney picks out & loud gay as a spokesman. If personnel is policy, his message to the pro-family community: drop dead.â
Grenell, who is based in Los Angeles where he is a partner at a public relations firm, is well-known in Washington circles, having served on former House speaker Gingrichâs transition team in 1994.
In a 1995 Washington Post article, Grenell, who was the press secretary for then-congressman Mark Sanford of South Carolina, was profiled as the young, fresh face of the Republican revolution.
âIt was such a validation of âitâs great to be a Republican,âââ Grenell said at the time.
Grenell and his supporters have since responded to the recent attacks, saying that much of what he said was meant as a joke.
The 1995 Post piece, in which Grenell recounts his love for strong women, including Clinton and Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington, who remains a friend, details a similarly snarky incident.
Grenell had an uneasy relationship with some reporters, who found him difficult to deal with, his supporters said, but it is that very aggressiveness with the press and knowledge of policy that makes him qualified to be Romneyâs top flack on foreign policy.
âIf he saw a reporter inaccurately characterize U.S. positions, he would take them to task, but in terms of half answers, half truths, that wasnât the case,â said Mark Groombridge, who was a top aide for John R. Bolton, then the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and worked closely with Grenell. âBut what reporter is ever satisfied with a spokesman? Thatâs true no matter the party. Anytime you are dealing with a spokesman, I have heard these same frustrations.â
Groombridge said Grenellâs sexual orientation is a ânonissue.â