Richard Grenell, openly gay Romney aide, resigns after backlash

ByABC News
May 1, 2012, 4:47 PM

— -- An openly gay Republican operative hired as Mitt Romney's foreign policy spokesman has abruptly resigned from the campaign, suggesting the focus on his personal life had become a distraction.

The Romney campaign hired Richard Grenell, who had previously served as George W. Bush's spokesman at the United Nations, just two weeks ago, but his brief tenure had been the subject of controversy.

First, Grenell was criticized for posting a series of crude Twitter messages—that he later deleted—attacking several women, including Hillary Clinton, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow and Newt Gingrich's wife, Callista. He also reportedly came under fire from social conservatives for being gay.

In a statement to the Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin, Grenell implies that the controversy over his sexual orientation ultimately drove him from the campaign.

"While I welcomed the challenge to confront President Obama's foreign policy failures and weak leadership on the world stage, my ability to speak clearly and forcefully on the issues has been greatly diminished by the hyper-partisan discussion of personal issues that sometimes comes from a presidential campaign," Grenell said. "I want to thank Gov. Romney for his belief in me and my abilities and his clear message to me that being openly gay was a non-issue for him and his team."

A Romney aide, speaking on background, tells Yahoo News the campaign tried to convince Grenell to stay with the campaign, but he declined—calling it "completely his decision, not ours."

The aide declined to say whether Grenell's Twitter messages had prompted any concern within the campaign.

"We are disappointed that Ric decided to resign from the campaign for his own personal reasons," Matt Rhoades, Romney's campaign manager, said in a statement provided to reporters. "We wanted him to stay because he had superior qualifications for the position he was hired to fill."

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