Richard Grenell, the gay man who’s Donald Trump’s ambassador to Germany, is saying that Pete Buttigieg’s criticism of Mike Pence’s anti-LGBTQ record is a “hate hoax” comparable to the hate crime allegedly staged by actor Jussie Smollett.
“Mayor Pete has been pushing this hate hoax along the lines of Jussie Smollett for a very long time now, several weeks,” Grenell said Thursday on Fox News Channel’s The Story With Martha MacCallum.
Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, has been vocal about the anti-LGBTQ stances of the vice president, who was previously governor of Indiana.
In an interview with CNN in February, Buttigieg, who is gay, called Pence a “fanatic” who “damaged our city and our state through choices that his social extremism led him to make.” Buttigieg was mayor when Pence, in 2015, signed Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law; it was widely seen as enabling discrimination against LGBTQ people and was eventually amended after outrage from activists and business leaders.
Then at a Victory Fund brunch this month, Buttigieg said his marriage to his husband, Chasten, has moved him closer to God, and that if Pence has a problem with Buttigieg being gay, “your quarrel, sir, is with my creator.”
Pence responded that when he was governor, he had a cordial relationship with Buttigieg, and both the vice president and his wife, Karen — who teaches at a Christian school with anti-LGBTQ policies — criticized Buttigieg’s remarks as political posturing. “He said some things that are critical of my Christian faith and of me personally,” Mike Pence said in a CNBC interview. “He knows better. He knows me.”
On the Fox News show, Grenell said, “The vice president or then governor has said nothing but positive things about Mayor Pete. I think this is a total hate hoax, and I think it’s outrageous.”
However, in likening Buttigieg’s remarks to the Smollett attack, Grenell ignores Pence’s deeply anti-LGBTQ record. Smollett, a gay Black man, was accused of filing a false police report regarding a hate-motivated attack he said he suffered in Chicago in January; charges against him have been dropped, but the city of Chicago is suing him because of overtime police incurred in the investigation. While the Smollett incident remains disputed, Pence’s record is indisputable.
Pence consistently opposed LGBTQ rights as Indiana governor and before that as a congressman from the state. He supported both state and federal constitutional amendments to ban same-sex marriage. He opposed LGBTQ-inclusive hate-crimes legislation and antidiscrimination protections, and objected to the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Also, he once said funds to fight HIV should be directed to programs that help people change their behavior, something that has been interpreted as an endorsement of conversion therapy, although Pence has said that is not the case. And many political observers say that as vice president, he has been the driving force behind the Trump administration’s anti-LGBTQ policies.
Grenell, however, says he has a good relationship with Mike and Karen Pence. “Mike and Karen are great people, they’re godly people, they’re followers of Christ,” he said on McCallum’s show. “They don’t have hate in their heart for anyone. They know my partner, they have accepted us. You asked me do we agree philosophically on every single issue? No.”