The recent departure of an openly gay foreign policy adviser and communications hand from Mitt Romney's presidential campaign has left many in political circles scratching their heads, but one conservative radio host is praising the move as a win for American families.
Ric Grenell, who served as foreign policy spokesman in President George W. Bush's administration, was recently hired by Romney and according to the campaign, was officially scheduled to begin work May 1. But when Tuesday came, Grenell voluntarily stepped down from his position.
According to a statement released to the Washington Post, it was because he felt the pushback from conservative groups regarding his sexual orientation and his advocacy for gay marriage rendered him ineffective.
"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.
Both Grenell and the Romney campaign have said they wanted Grenell to stay. But others have come to a different conclusion.
Bryan Fischer, issue director at the American Family Association, a conservative group opposed to same-sex marriage, bragged about his role in the episode.
"It's very clear from the Washington Post that he resigned because of pressure that was put on the Romney campaign by the pro-family community," he said on his radio show, Focal Point. "So ladies and gentlemen, this is a huge win, and it's a huge win for us in regard to Mitt Romney, because Mitt Romney has been forced to say, 'Look, I overstepped my bounds here, I went outside my parameters here, I went off the reservation with this hire, the pro-family community has called me back to the table here, called me back inside the borders of the reservation.'"
Fischer then boasted, "There is no way in the world that Mitt Romney is going to put a homosexual activist in any position of importance in his campaign."
The Romney campaign would not respond to requests for comment on Fischer's remarks.
In a statement released upon Grenell's announcement, campaign manager Matt Rhoades said, "We are disappointed that Ric decided to resign from the campaign for his own personal reasons. We wanted him to stay because he had superior qualifications for the position he was hired to fill."
But Grenell's friend and former Bush colleague Clarke Cooper, executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans, has a different take on the situation.
Cooper, whose group is the largest gay Republican organization in the country, says it was tough for Grenell to be sidelined during the recent political debate over Osama bin Laden and policy surrounding the war in Afghanistan. Ultimately, Grenell decided he couldn't effectively function in the role he was hired for if there was pressure to keep him out of the spotlight.
"It probably could have been managed better and it seemed like Ric, if you equate him to a star football player sitting on the sidelines, was saying 'Coach, put me in the game,' especially when there was a lot happening in the world when it came to the portfolio he was hired for," Cooper says.
There's no doubt in Cooper's mind as to why events unfolded as they did.
"Obviously, within conservative circles one of the challenges gays and lesbians have is that a majority of Republicans are supportive, but a small, very, very vocal minority in the party that makes so much noise, and it seems that the noise is that much louder," he says. "I'll admit I don't think anybody, including Ric, was really sure that there was going to be this much rancor."
Cooper says because of recent gains made by gay rights supporters on issues such as 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' and in public opinion surveys concerning gay marriage, conservative groups are putting up more of a fight than ever before. When he and Grenell were hired by Bush in 2000, there was no such pushback, he adds.
"I don't remember gay hires being such an issue for candidate Bush, and maybe it's because advances have been made in the last 12 years, and maybe that's what's causing the cacophony of the homophobes," he says. "News to Bryan [Fischer], there were gays on the campaign before Ric arrived and there still are. As there are in the RNC and as there are on Capitol Hill. It's a losing battle that they have."
Rebekah Metzler is a political writer for U.S. News & World Report. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter.