Richard Grenell at the signing of an agreement between Kosovo and Serbia in Munich on February 14, 2020. (THOMAS KIENZLE/AFP/Getty)
Last week Donald Trump appointed his first openly gay cabinet member as acting head of national intelligence, and it wasn’t long before conservatives had something terrible to say about it.
Richard Grenell, the former US ambassador to Germany, has taken over the position from former US Navy admiral Joseph Maguire.
The high-profile role comes after years of loyally supporting Donald Trump and defending Mike Pence from accusations of bigotry and homophobia. “Rick has represented our country exceedingly well and I look forward to working with him,” Trump tweeted shortly after the announcement.
While he may have Trump’s endorsement and the problematic Twitter tantrums to match, many figures on the far-right have been unable to see past his sexuality.
Pointing to his work leading US efforts to decriminalise homosexuality abroad, they claim that he’s unfit for the position because he’s “a gay activist first and a loyal Republican second”.
“There is concern among our pro-family allies around the world that ambassador Grenell will engage in LGBT+ activism as acting director of national intelligence, a cabinet-level position,” he wrote in a statement.
“An effort to impose the same redefinition of marriage upon other nations that was imposed upon Americans by an activist Supreme Court would be reminiscent of the cultural imperialism of the Obama administration.
While supposedly ‘denouncing’ the eight countries that hold the death penalty for homosexuality, Perkins also warned “that does not mean we should engage in ‘cultural imperialism’ by imposing policies that were imposed upon us by our own Supreme Court on other countries with different cultures, traditions, and values”.
He continued: “Let’s find common ground in calling for an end to all forms of physical violence against homosexuals – but let’s refrain from imposing the values of the sexual revolution on the rest of the world.”
Other conservatives are clearly torn over the dissonance between Grenell’s steadfast Republican views and his homosexuality.
Doug Mainwaring, a journalist for LifeSiteNews, described Grenell as “an interesting hybrid” because as a “self-described gay Christian” he advocates for both pro-life, traditional conservative positions and LGBT+ rights.
And Peter LaBarbera, president of Americans for Truth about Homosexuality, said that: “As an open and proud homosexual, [Grenell] bills himself as an evangelical Christian. This only confuses the Gospel and undermines true, biblical Christianity.”
Many in the president’s inner circle are equally as suspicious of Grenell and have flagged fears that he may colour what intelligence he presents to Trump.
“This is a job requiring leadership, management, substance and secrecy,” said John Sipher, a former CIA officer, to the New York Times. “He doesn’t have the kind of background and experience we would expect for such a critical position.”