LGBTQ rights activist and pioneer Harvey Milk famously said that it was important to give the American people hope. But when asked to condemn a Trump appointee with a history of misogynistic attacks, his nephew had a different message: Nope.
Stuart Milk, who is also co-founder and president of the Harvey Milk Foundation, offered his support for Richard Grenellwho was confirmed as ambassador to Germany on Thursday following 16 months of gridlock over his nomination. Milk called Grenell “a staunch supporter of marriage equality and global LGBTQ rights.”
“Having someone like Grenellwho has been a staunch supporter of marriage equality and global LGBTQ rights, someone who was even was forced off the Mitt Romney campaign by social conservatives because he was openly gayhaving Ric at the diplomatic table, even if that table is more homophobic, makes it that much harder for our community to be on their menu,” he claimed in a statement to CNN.
Milk added that Grenell’s nomination is important in an administration that “overall has been life negating for our community and for other minorities.”
The nearly year-and-a-half wait in approving Grenell’s appointment is fairly customary for Trump nominees, who have been met with frequent opposition from Democrats across the aisle. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blamed his liberal colleagues for using “the partisan playbook to delay and obstruct even the least-controversial nominee.”
Log Cabin Republicans President Gregory T. Angelo likewise blasted Democrat Senators in a statement, who claimed they are “hell-bent on standing on the wrong side of history.”
While partisanship likely played some role in the hold-up, liberal lawmakers voiced concerns a series of sexist attacks on prominent womenincluding comments on Twitter mocking the physical appearance of Hillary Clinton, Rachel Maddow, Madeline Albright, and Callista Gingrich.
In regards to Clinton, Grenell managed to target two Secretaries of State in one tweet. The conservative posted that the former First Lady and two-time presidential candidate was “starting to look like Madeleine Albright” back in 2011. On the subject of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s wife, Grenell asked his social media followers if she “snaps on her hair.”
Maddow, meanwhile, was compared to singer Justin Bieber. In a separate post, he claimed the MSNBC anchor “needs to take a breath and put on a necklace.”
The Washington Post also reported that Grenell’s sexist behavior isn’t exclusive to the internet. A 1995 profile of the former U.S. spokesman to the United Nations featured a comment he made to a female staffer comparing her to a prostitute.
“Didn’t your mother ever tell you only whores and very small children wear red shoes?” he allegedly asked the woman.
In a statement to CNN, a representative for Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley said that Grenell’s “significant history of making misogynistic and other incendiary statements online” is troubling. He added that the nominee has “also been dismissive of the threat of Russia’s meddling in the U.S.,” calling it “doubly concerning as Germany is one of our closest and most important allies in pushing back on Russian aggression on the world stage.”
New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez added that he hopes Grenell “doesn’t start tweeting about Chancellor Merkel if he gets the position.”
“You know, respect for women and for people of different views and whatnot are essential for an ambassador, anywhere in the world,” the Democrat told the Post. “This person doesn’t clearly have, for my mind, the temperament to be the type of ambassador we want, especially to Germany, for which we have a rocky relationship right now under this administration and is one of the critical allies that we need in Europe for about everything that we want… including the Iran deal.”
Grenell has apologized for the remarks, claiming they aren’t representative of his values.
“Anybody who knows me knows that I am a very caring person and very sensitiveand I also appreciate good humor,” the Republican claimed. “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.”
He added that it was “never [his] intention to hurt anyone’s feelings.”
But even after Grenell first deleted the years-old tweets after briefly working for Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, the diplomat continued to lash out at women on Twitter. During a public spat with MSNBC’s Katy Tur two years ago, he said it was “offensive” for her to refer to herself as a journalist and asked if Tur slept her way to the top.
“Did u intern for @KeithOlbermann or date him?” he inquired. “Either way doesn’t make u a reporter.”
Although the Log Cabin Republicans have touted Grenell’s confirmation as “historic,” he’s actually one of at least eight openly LGBTQ people to serve as U.S. diplomats. The first gay ambassador, James Hormel, was tapped by President Bill Clinton back in 1999, while President George W. Bush appointed Michael Guest as ambassador to Romania just two years later.
Grenell was confirmed by a vote of 56-42.
Photo via Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images