ROMNEY: We select people not based upon their ethnicity or their sexual preference or their gender. But upon their capability. He was a capable individual. We’re sorry to have him go and actually a whole series of the senior people on my team and my supporters called him and encouraged him to stay. But he expressed a desire to move on and I wish him the very best.
Romney’s remarks represent the campaign’s failure to actively take on the social conservative wing of the Republican party on equality issues. Rather than publicly defend Grenell from groups who labeled him a “homosexual activist,” the candidate instead chose to muzzle his foreign policy spokesperson, asking him to remain silent on a recent conference call.
As one Republican told the New York Times, “It’s not that the campaign cared whether Ric Grenell was gay. They believed this was a nonissue. But they didn’t want to confront the religious right.” Romney’s response to Grenell’s resignation demonstrates that he himself also fears alienating these extreme elements.
During an appearance on MSNBC, Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom claimed that the former Massachusetts governor has spoken out against voices of “intolerance”: