Richard Grenell

An Outspoken US Envoy for Berlin

  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Richard Grenell will be the envoy to one of the US’ most important allies at time when transatlantic relations are shaky.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • Mr. Grenell is the longest serving US spokesman to the UN.
    • He was the first openly gay spokesman for a Republican presidential candidate, but was forced to step down.
    • The post of US ambassador to Germany has been vacant since January.
  • Audio

    Audio

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Berlin calling. Source: DPA

Richard Grenell, who if confirmed by the Senate will become the first openly gay appointee of the Trump Administration, is almost as fond of his Twitter feed as Trump himself. He shares a lot on social media, even for a media personality. Retweets range from blasts at former President Barack Obama to inspirational messages from fellow cancer survivors. He posts selfies with his partner of 14 years, Matt, and their dog. He loves Britney Spears so much he saw her concert twice in one week.

Now Mr. Grenell’s Twitter followers will be privy to a new and important chapter in the communications specialist’s career. The appointment has not been officially announced, but it was leaked to several news outlets and basically confirmed by Mr. Grenell himself – where else but on Twitter? – with a photo from the Oval Office captioned, “Thank you, Mr. President!”

Like his boss, Mr. Grenell may find himself at loggerheads with Chancellor Angela Merkel on a number of important issues such as trade and the Paris Climate accord, which was enthusiastically supported by Germany, but which Trump opted out of after taking office. “We have an unbreakable bond with Europe,” Mr. Grenell tweeted before his selection became public, “We just have a disagreement on what the Paris Accord does for US taxpayers.”

No doubt, the 50-year-old comes into the job qualified. He is the longest-serving US spokesman at the United Nations, having led the administration’s communications on difficult issues from Iran sanctions to North Korea’s nuclear weapons programs.

In 2012, he became the first openly gay spokesman for a Republican presidential candidate working for Mitt Romney, but was forced to step down after less than two weeks in the job. In a statement, he cited party forces who were uncomfortable with his sexual orientation, although he was also criticized for controversial tweets about women, including former First Lady Michelle Obama, which have since been deleted.

According to a Washington Post report about his resignation, Mr. Grenell had a unhappy relationship with the journalists he worked with as UN spokesman, being described by some reporters as overbearing and untrustworthy.

He is set to fill a post that has been vacant since January, the same day Mr. Trump was inaugurated and dismissed John B. Emerson, an American lawyer who was appointed by Barack Obama. For some, the appointment comes as a surprise, with recent talk that the communications strategist could be sent to Brussels as a UN ambassador or NATO representative.

Moving to Berlin, Mr. Grenell will have to forgo his regular appearances as a commentator for conservative juggernaut Fox News, but there is no word on what is to come for Capitol Media Partners, the strategic media and public affairs consultancy he founded.

It’s not clear whether Mr. Grenell will have to rein in his Twitter presence, but that is unlikely considering that his new boss is an ardent fan of social media too. Mr. Grenell does not have nearly as much clout as Mr. Trump, but has sent off 70,000, or about twice as many, tweets as the Commander-in-Chief. Perhaps that’s why he’s being brought on board – to stir up the pot across the pond.

 

Barbara Woolsey writes for Handelsblatt Global in Berlin. Steffen Daniel Meyer, a social media editor for Handelsblatt, and Til Knipper from Handelsblatt’s sister publication Tagesspiegel also contributed. To contact the author: b.woolsey@extern.vhb.de

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