President Trump’s nominee for U.S. ambassador to Germany — the first major openly gay appointment of the administration — came under fire in the recent past for snide comments on Twitter about the physical appearance of several prominent women — but a 1995 Washington Post profile story on him reveals he was making such comments long before the arrival of social media.
The more than 20-year-old profile piece on Ric Grenell, sent to the Washington Blade on Saturday, takes a look at his personality long before the Trump nominee served as spokesperson for the U.S. mission to the United Nations during the George W. Bush administration or as a Fox News commentator. The piece was written during Grenell’s days as press secretary to Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.) at the dawn of the “Gingrich Revolution.”
A key portion of the profile quotes Laurie Blackford, then a producer for Chris Matthews long before he came to MSNBC, recalling remarks Grenell allegedly made to a fellow campaign staffer on the 1992 Bush-Quayle re-election campaign.
“One of our staff people came in and had on a flowery dress and red shoes and Ric looked at her and said, ‘Didn’t your mother ever tell you only whores and very small children wear red shoes?'” Blackford is quoted as saying.
At the time the profile piece was written three years later, the Post sought a response on the remarks from Grenell, who acknowledged them as a joke.
“You know that was a joke,” Grenell is quoted as saying while chuckling. “But come on. Red shoes?”
The remarks are consistent with comments Grenell has made about women on Twitter. One 2011 tweet directed at Rachel Maddow, the lesbian MSNBC host, said she “needs to take a breath and put on a necklace” and another compared her look to that of pop singer Justin Bieber.
One tweet directed at Callista Gingrich questioned whether she “snaps on” her hair. At around the same time, Grenell tweeted Hillary Clinton “is starting to look like Madeleine Albright.”
Grenell, who also has a history of antagonizing reporters on Twitter, deleted and apologized for those tweets years ago during his brief tenure of several days with Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign. Although some point to the tweets as the reason he didn’t last long with the campaign, others say the appointment of a gay person to the GOP campaign was nixed after objections from anti-gay activists.
During Grenell’s confirmation hearing last week, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) queried him about his comments on Twitter about women, asking him if he regrets those words and can understand the concern about the impact they’ll have on his role in Germany.
“Anybody who knows me knows that I am a very caring person and very sensitive — and I also appreciate good humor,” Grenell said in response. “Unfortunately, there are times where what was intended to be humorous turned out to be not so humorous, and, again, that was never my intention and I regret that.”
The 1995 Post profile piece — written before Grenell met his partner of 15 years, Matt Lashey — never mentions Grenell’s sexual orientation.
The article, titled “Republican Party Animal,” says the then 28-year-old Grenell “is not really in the market for a relationship” between “working out twice a day, playing softball with Hill friends and just getting through each day’s work.”
“I have no time,” Grenell is quoted as saying. “It wouldn’t be fair.”
The article also quotes Blackford as saying Grenell was “the most perfect-looking person — perfectly pressed and dressed.”
Despite Grenell’s support for Trump and other GOP presidential candidates, the article calls him a fan of then-first lady Hillary Clinton.
But the article also quotes Grenell as expressing consternation over the election of Bill Clinton in 1992 over incumbent President George H.W. Bush.
“I don’t even like it when people say Clinton won. A majority of the people did not vote for him,” Grenell is quoted as saying. “Not only had my candidate lost, but I also lost my job. I felt that we had truly let President Bush down and I was depressed.”
Grenell didn’t respond to the Blade’s request for comment on the 1992 remarks about women at the time of his nomination to the Trump administration. Although the Senate has held a confirmation hearing, it has yet to hold a vote on his confirmation as U.S. ambassador to Germany.