Mitt Romney’s decision to hire an openly gay foreign policy spokesman this past week prompted criticism from the director of the socially conservative American Family Association.
Bryan Fischer, who has made controversial comments about Islam, homosexuality and the Mormon faith, said in a tweet Friday night that Romney’s pick of “out & loud gay” Richard Grenell is a message to the “pro-family community” to “drop dead.”
Romney has previously distanced himself from Fischer — who had Rick Santorum as a guest on his radio show earlier this year — denouncing his language as “poisonous” at the conservative Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C. in October.
“Our values ennoble the citizen and strengthen the nation. We should remember that decency and civility are values too,” Romney said. “One of the speakers who will follow me today, has crossed that line, I think. Poisonous language doesn’t advance our cause. It’s never softened a single heart nor changed a single mind.”
Grennell previously served as the director of communications for the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under President George W. Bush.
Jimmy LaSalvia, executive director of the leading gay Republican group GOProud, told BuzzFeed Grenell is “the best person for the job.”
“That’s why Governor Romney hired him. Throughout his entire career, Mitt Romney has brought together top talent to tackle the tasks at hand. All Americans should want the best people helping to elect him to take on the job of bringing America back,” LaSalvia said. “It’s too bad that Mr. Fischer doesn’t agree.”
Chuck Wolfe, CEO of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, similarly praised Grenell for taking on the role in comments to the Washington Blade.
“Good for him,” Wolfe said. “We applaud the participation of out professionals in government and politics. Whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican, serving openly is important. It allows you to speak honestly about yourself and the LGBT community to colleagues inside campaigns and government offices.”
Grenell’s first days with the Romney campaign haven’t been without controversy of a different sort: On Friday he apologized for past mocking tweets about Newt and Callista Gingrich, including ones that postulated, “do you think callista’s hair snaps on?” and “what’s higher? The number of jobs newt’s created or the number of wives he’s had?”