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Mitt Romney on controversy surrounding departure of gay spokesman

Republican candidate says he wanted Richard Grenell to remain part of his team

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney says Richard Grenell, who briefly worked as his spokesman on national security issues, was not driven out of his job by the Romney campaign.

Grenell had served as George W. Bush's spokesman at the United Nations and was under fire from social conservatives because he is gay.

'We wanted him to stay with our team,' Romney said in an interview with Fox and Friends on Friday (4 May). 'We are 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.'

In submitting his resignation earlier this week, Grenell said to The Washington Post: 'My ability to speak clearly and forcefully on the issues has been greatly diminished by the hyper-partisan discussion of personal issues that sometimes comes from a presidential campaign.'

Romney described Grenell as 'a capable individual' and said his sexuality was not an issue.

'He is a very accomplished spokesperson,' Romney said on Fox. 'And we select people not based upon their ethnicity or their sexual preference or their gender but upon their capability.'

But the New York Times reported this week that Grenell was furious at being muzzled by the campaign because of the noise being made by some social conservatives over him being gay. Pressure had been mounting on the Romney campaign from such groups as the American Family Association.

'It’s not that the campaign cared whether Ric Grenell was gay,' one Republican adviser insisted on anonymity told The Times. 'They believed this was a non-issue. But they didn’t want to confront the religious right.'

The Times reported that Grenell pressed senior aides to allow him to speak about national security issues believing that defending his boss and taking swipes at President Barack Obama would be the best way to silence the socially conservative critics.

But Romney advisers wanted Grenell to keep a low-profile which became evident when he was kept off an April 26 conference call with reporters effectively making him a spokesman without permission to speak.

Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese slammed the Romney campaign for its handling of the Grenell debacle.

'The fact that Grennell is gone so quickly after a right-wing uproar is a troubling harbinger of the kind of power that anti-gay forces would have in a Romney White House,' Solmonese said in a statement.

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