Above: Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel with Donald Trump and Michigan Republican Party Cochair Terry Bowman in Battle Creek, Mich., in 2019; photo by Max Elram/Shutterstock
Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel is backtracking on announced efforts to reach out to LGBTQ+ voters after having drawn backlash from the religious right.
McDaniel announced the formation of the RNC Pride Coalition during the Log Cabin Republicans' annual Spirit of Lincoln dinner, held November 6 at Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. She said the coalition would involve the RNC, Log Cabin, and other groups in mobilizing voters for next year's midterms and onward.
"Conservatives in Log Cabin don't just share our vision for a free, secure and prosperous America -- they enrich it by adding unique perspectives to our party and recruiting even more diverse candidates and supporters to join our cause," she said at the dinner, according to Fox News.
But while the coalition is going forward and will have a dedicated RNC staffer, it will not do anything to "undermine our values," she told RNC members in an email this week. The email came after a conference call with members Monday, during which McDaniel refused to take questions, saying journalists may have tapped into the call.
"We are actively committed to fighting the radical left on culture issues and standing up for religious liberty, family values, and Republicans of faith," she said in the email, which was obtained by Just the News, a conservative website.
The LGBTQ+ outreach effort had been condemned by prominent religious right figures such as Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council. "As you move to be quote-unquote inclusive with those that have radical ideas on human sexuality, which are hostile to religious freedom, the Republican Party becomes just Democrat lite," he said last week on fellow right-winger Todd Starnes's radio show.
But McDaniel is out to reassure the Republican base that will not happen. "The RNC hiring this new staffer does not mean we are advocating for ANY policy or RNC platform change on these issues," she wrote in the email. "As you know, the Platform Committee will meet at the Republican National Convention in 2024 to decide our platform. That Committee is made up of members from each state and territory and elected at the local level. And it certainly doesn't mean we are trying to make any changes to the core values of our party." The platform in 2016, which was condemned by Log Cabin at the time, included opposition to marriage equality and transgender rights, plus support for conversion therapy -- and the party did not adopt a new platform in 2020.
McDaniel did not name the staffer in question, but it's been reported that Richard Grenell, who was ambassador to Germany and then acting director of national intelligence during the Trump administration, has joined the RNC to head outreach to LGBTQ+ voters.
She added that the Pride Coalition "is part of the comprehensive outreach program we have on the strategic initiatives team at the RNC, including for Evangelical, Catholic, Jewish, Hispanic, Veterans, Youth, Black, and Asian-Pacific Americans. The goal of these outreach efforts is to engage with voters from all backgrounds to bring new voters into our party."
McDaniel further noted that there was a Trump Pride coalition of LGBTQ+ voters in the 2020 presidential election and that the new coalition will simply continue that work.
McDaniel and Grenell both received awards at the Log Cabin event, as did former First Lady Melania Trump and Republican U.S. Rep. Chris Stewart of Utah. Stewart shared a table with Donald Trump; prior to the gala, it has been rumored but not confirmed that the former president would attend. Stewart told Salt Lake City's Deseret News that he had some "substantial conversations" with Donald Trump at the dinner but wasn't sure if Trump would run for president in 2024. "I honestly don't think he's decided," Stewart said. "I think he's waiting to see."
McDaniel has been in the news for several other reasons this week. One of them was finally conceding that Trump lost the 2020 election to Democrat Joe Biden. "Painfully, Joe Biden won the election, and it's very painful to watch. He's the president. We know that," she said at a Thursday breakfast hosted by TheChristian Science Monitor in Washington, D.C. On Wednesday, she had denied a report by ABC News journalist Jonathan Karl that Trump was leaving the party.
The Democratic National Committee issued a statement Thursday blasting McDaniel for backpedaling on LGBTQ+ outreach. "If it wasn't already brazenly clear that any attempt at inclusivity from the Republican Party is nothing but a political stunt, Ronna McDaniel's rush to walk back her empty support for the LGBTQ+ community really confirms it," said DNC Coalitions Director and spokesperson Lucas Acosta. "Her letter only further highlights the bigotry of the Republican platform, and any outreach can be chalked up to fake engagement. Not only does the LGBTQ+ community deserve better, but it deserves leaders who will relentlessly fight for their interests every day, not just when it's politically convenient. The Democratic Party will continue to show up for the LGBTQ+ community every day, and we remain committed to fighting for LGBTQ+ equality in every corner of our nation."