The first openly LGBT nominee of President Trump’s administration is encountering opposition from Democrats, who are objecting to his history of sexist comments.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee narrowly voted Thursday to approve gay foreign policy expert Ric Grenell as U.S. ambassador to Germany on 11-10 party-line basis.
A Democratic aide said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) spoke for Democrats on Grenell’s nomination and expressed concern about his public commentary, including degrading comments about the appearance of women. Those remarks, Murphy reportedly said, could be a problem if Grenell becomes the U.S. representative to a country led by arguably the most powerful woman in the world.
During Grenell’s confirmation hearing, Murphy raised concerns about Grenell’s remarks on Twitter about the appearances of women. Grenell deleted those tweets and apologized for them in 2012 during his brief stint of two weeks on Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, which he noted during the hearing.
“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.”
But Grenell has a history of making offensive comments about women long before the advent of social media. A 1995 Washington Post profile on Grenell quotes his fellow staffer in the 1992 Bush-Quayle re-election campaign as saying he once told a female colleague, “‘Didn’t your mother ever tell you only whores and very small children wear red shoes?’”
The narrow vote in committee could spell trouble for Grenell when his nomination comes to the Senate floor. If all Democrats vote against his nomination and at least three Republicans vote “no,” his confirmation will be sunk.
The opposition to a gay nominee from Democrats marks a considerable contrast to years past when Republicans would be the voice against presidential gay appointments, citing objections to their sexual orientation. But Grenell’s sexual orientation isn’t the issue for Democrats.
Gregory Angelo, president of Log Cabin Republicans, criticized the Democratic opposition to Grenell’s nomination.
“Clearly no Republican is immune from the Democrats’ unhinged opposition to anything and everything proposed by the Trump administration — even a highly qualified openly gay man appointed to represent our interests in a center-right nation that just realized marriage equality,” Angelo said. “Pathetic, but not surprising.”
Also receiving a 11-10 party-line pick was Sam Brownback, Trump’s pick as U.S. ambassador at large for religious freedom, who also has an anti-LGBT record.
Prior to the vote, the Human Rights Campaign sent a letter to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee urging senators to reject the nomination.
“Over his long career in the U.S. Senate and as governor of Kansas, Gov. Brownback has consistently opposed basic civil and human rights for lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender people and queer (LGBTQ) people,” wrote Human Rights Campaign Governmental Affairs Director David Stacy. “These positions stand in contrast to longstanding policies of the U.S. State Department and could do severe damage to LGBTQ people living abroad.”
During his confirmation hearing, Brownback refused to say under questioning from Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Kaine) that religious motivations aren’t sufficient justification for foreign laws instituting the death penalty for homosexual acts.
Approved on a unanimous basis by the committee was former Rep. Pete Hoekstra for the position of U.S. ambassador to the Netherlands. Hoekstra had unanimous support despite an anti-gay history and objections to his nomination from a Dutch LGBT group based on his opposition to same-sex marriage.