Trump's biggest gay collaborator is still lying for him
Richard Grenell is more worried about losing Twitter followers than about the storming of the Capitol. As Trump's former acting DNI, what did he know about the terrorists?
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Richard Grenell, Donald Trump’s former ambassador to Germany and former acting Director of National Intelligence, is, not surprisingly, still slavishly devoted to the authoritarian he has served for four years.
The caustic misogynist and notorious Twitter troll has continued to lie about the results of the 2020 election. And in the aftermath of the siege of the Capitol by Trump supporters engaged in a domestic terror attack, his major concern has mostly been about Twitter banning Trump and other hatemongers and conspiracy theorists on the right.
Grenell, a right-wing gay man who’s defended Trump as he stripped LGBTQ rights in an unprecedented and historic way over the past four years, was in Las Vegas within days of the November 3rd election claiming there were “thousands of illegitimate ballots” in Nevada without providing any evidence. At first he and Trump lackey Matt Schlapp, president of the American Conservative Union, holding the impromptu presser together in a parking lot, wouldn’t even identify themselves to reporters.
“You’re here to take in information,” Grenell snapped when asked who he was and what role he played in the Trump campaign.
When NBC reporter Jacob Soboroff recognized Grenell and questioned him on camera by name, asking, “Where is your evidence?” Grenell ran to his van like a rat suddenly exposed in broad daylight.
As more evidence mounts that Trump, Rudy Giuliani, Donald Trump Jr., and others were trying to use the rallying insurrectionists to slow down the Congressional certification of Joe Biden’s Electoral College vote — thus raising questions about how much they may have known or anticipated, even vaguely, beforehand about the assault — Grenell is certainly someone to shine a spotlight on.
As former acting Director of National Intelligence he’s had access to information, presumably including information on both foreign and domestic terror plots. And with so much of the insurrectionists’ intentions to engage in violence out in the open on their own websites days before January 6th, it’s worth asking if Grenell knew anything about what would be happening, and it’s certainly appropriate and vital for reporters to pursue answers.
Curiously, since the storming of the Capitol, Grenell’s seemed more focused on continuing to challenge the election and, over the weekend, on losing Twitter followers after the social network banned Trump and is banning thousands of other accounts that promote hate and violence.
Grenell did tweet a strong condemnation of the attacks and called for those responsible to be arrested — calling the event “unacceptable” and “unAmerican.” But he’s been doing what’s now become standard fare for right-wing pundits: equating the insurrection at the Capitol with the relatively few outbursts of violence in cities that accompanied the overwhelmingly peaceful protests in response to the police killing of George Floyd last summer, and falsely claiming Democrats didn’t condemn that violence.
Democratic political leaders, from then-presidential candidate Joe Biden on down, promptly condemned the violence each time. And let’s be clear: The violence that erupted against businesses and police stations in cities that were sites of police violence doesn’t compare with a terrorist plot to storm the Capitol and kill members of Congress and execute the vice president of the United States, incited by the president, who later tweeted a video in which he said that he “loved” these “American patriots” and that they were “special.”
Last Wednesday night, following the attack that day, Grenell went on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show and still continued pushing lies about the election, as Trudy Ring at The Advocate reported:
“Transparency in the election is going to be helpful,” Grenell said. “If you want the public to understand what’s at stake and whether or not the vote was real, you have to be able to come clean and give us the information.” He repeated allegations about votes being cast in the name of dead people and said those who protested peacefully were driven by questions about the election’s legitimacy. Trump himself has claimed the election was stolen from him, he encouraged his supporters to march on the capitol Wednesday.
And over the weekend Grenell was on a rampage attacking Twitter for removing accounts of right-wing extremists following the banning of Trump from Twitter. He was frantically complaining about losing followers himself, retweeting others who were whining about losing followers and showing screen shots of Republican officials who’d lost followers. And he was lashing out at media companies, Democrats, progressives and anyone who criticized him.
Right-wingers were calling Twitter’s actions a “purge” and the former racist, anti-Semitic, homophobic Iowa congressman Steve King had the gall to call it the “cyber-God’s Kristallnacht.”
What was actually going on was that Twitter, finally, was tamping down and banning thousands of Qanon-spreading accounts and other violent users, while Parler, the new social media platform that has become home to right-wing conspiracists and extremists, was being banned from Apple, Amazon and Google because it refused to moderate the hate, as Twitter and Facebook have been doing. All of this, of course, should have been done ages ago.
When I responded to Grenell’s overheated claims of “censorship,” noting that Twitter “is a private company that may decide who it associates with and who it doesn’t, who it allows to spread information and ideas, and who it doesn’t allow to spread misinformation,” Grenell shot back with a nonsensical comparison to anti-gay Christian bakers who won’t serve gay people.
This was idiotic, and Grenell knows it, because Donald Trump, the right-wing extremists and those behind Qanon-spreading accounts are not members of a protected class subject to discrimination — though Grenell’s tweet got his ignorant, repugnant followers trolling me for a few hours.
Any person can be turned away from a bakery or any business for acting unruly — and yes, surely for ranting hate and instigating an insurrection — or for not wearing shoes, yelling at other customers or doing any other offensive things. But you can’t turn away someone simply because they are Black — or White — or Jewish, or Muslim or Christian. Nor, in states that protect LGBTQ people against discrimination in public accommodations, can you decide you’re not serving a couple because they are gay, whether for their wedding or any reason.
But beyond that, even in Grenell’s bigoted world where groups shouldn’t be protected from discrimination, if he truly believes that a baker should be able to turn away gay couples because it is a private company — and he does believe that, and has argued it on behalf of Trump and the Christian right — why doesn’t he then believe that Twitter, a private company, has the right to turn away people (who aren’t even paying them for their service) for any reason it so chooses?
Grenell’s ranting went on throughout the weekend, and the entire spectacle showed his main priority is defending Trump and the far-right extremists who spread hate and disinformation. His comments condemning the violence come off as perfunctory, while his main goal is to protect those who promote that violence.