Richard Grenell's disrespectful comments about women came back to haunt him earlier this week during the nominee’s Senate confirmation hearing to become U.S. ambassador to Germany, Washington Blade reports.
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) brought up the "very inflammatory" remarks Grenell had made while he was a regular Fox News commentator, particularly the "litany of very derogatory comments about women’s personal appearances."
Murphy, who chose not to read Grenell’s comments aloud, noted that they were directed at the appearances of Madeleine Albright, Hillary Clinton, Callista Gingrich, and Rachel Maddow. He asked Grenell if he regrets making the statements and understands concerns about how they may impact his new role in Germany.
"It's certainly never my intention to hurt anyone’s feelings," Grenell replied. "Anybody who knows me knows that I am a very caring person, a very sensitive person—and I also appreciate good humor. 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.”
“I can simply say that going back into the State Department, I look forward to taking on that role again where it’s well-thought-out U.S. policy, not my personal opinion," he continued.
In a 2011 tweet directed at Maddow, Grenell wrote that the MSNBC anchor “needs to take a breath and put on a necklace,” and another compared her appearance to Justin Bieber. He also questioned whether Gingrich “snaps on” her hair and tweeted that “Hillary is starting to look like Madeleine Albright.”
Grenell had deleted and apologized for many of these tweets during his brief tenure with Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign.
The White House announced last month that President Donald Trump intended to nominate Grenell, 50, to be his ambassador to Germany, making him the first openly gay appointee of the Trump administration.
Grenell’s role as ambassador will be vital, as relations between the U.S. and Germany, particularly between Trump and Chancellor Angela Merkel, are strained. Trump has publicly criticized Merkel's positions on NATO, climate change, and the refugee crisis.
The longest serving U.S. spokesman at the United Nations, Grenell previously served four U.S. ambassadors to the UN under President George W. Bush. He was rumored to be Trump’s pick for UN ambassador but the job ultimately went to Nikki Haley.
Grenell acted as Romney’s advisor on national security and foreign affairs during his 2012 campaign, making him the first openly gay spokesperson to serve a Republican presidential nominee. He was allegedly forced to resign by social conservatives over concerns about his sexual orientation.
“Well, the point here is that personnel is policy," the American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer told CNN at the time. "When Governor Romney picks somebody who is an activist homosexual and puts him in a prominent position, he’s sending a shout out, it seems to me, to the homosexual lobby.”
Grenell, a vocal Trump supporter, has also spoken out on LGBT rights. In 2013, he signed an amicus brief submitted to the Supreme Court in support of same-sex marriage. During the Bush administration, he pushed unsuccessfully to have partner Matt Lashey listed as his spouse in the United Nations’ Blue Book.
In his opening testimony at the Senate confirmation hearing, Grenell publicly thanked Lashey, his partner of 15 years, "for his many sacrifices, but most of all, for his incredible love and support. Throughout every challenge and opportunity, Matt has supported and encouraged me every step of the way. I would not be able to serve the President and the American people without Matt’s commitment and help."