U.S. Ambassador to Germany: Who Is Richard Grenell?

Thursday, September 21, 2017
Richard Grenell

Richard Allen “Ric” Grenell, who served as spokesman for the U.S. Mission to the United Nations during the George W. Bush administration, was nominated September 1, 2017, to be the U.S. ambassador to Germany.


Grenell was born September 18, 1966. His parents were evangelicals who traveled between Michigan and California, and Grenell was active in his church from a young age. Grenell also realized early on that he was gay, and hid it from his parents and others even while he attended Evangel College in Springfield, Missouri, which was affiliated with the conservative Assemblies of God church. Grenell earned a B.A. there in 1988.


After college, Grenell became an administrator for the American Arbitration Association, but it wasn’t long before he was involved in politics. In 1992, Grenell worked for the Bush-Quayle re-election effort. After George H.W. Bush lost the election, Grenell moved on to be an assistant for the National Republican Congressional Committee and then served as press secretary for Rep. Mark Sanford (R-South Carolina) and Rep. Dave Camp (R-Michigan).


Grenell left Washington in 1995 to serve as press secretary for the New York State Lottery under Republican Governor George Pataki. He also began studies at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, where he earned an MPA in 1998. That year, Grenell moved west to be press secretary for San Diego Mayor Susan Golding and subsequently worked for John McCain’s unsuccessful bid for the 2000 Republican nomination for president.


Grenell was named in 2001 to be the spokesman for the U.S. Mission to the United Nations. Grenell was eventually the longest-serving person to hold that job, working until 2008 under U.N. ambassadors John Negroponte, John Danforth, John Bolton and Zalmay Khalilzad.


Grenell then went into industry, first as vice president of corporate communications for DaVita Healthcare Partners, a dialysis provider that in 2015 was forced by the federal government to pay more than $800 million to settle a fraud case that went back to 2007. In 2009, Grenell struck out on his own, forming Capitol Media Partners, a strategic communications company that counted clients from Iran, Kazakhstan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia, China, Australia, and Timor-Leste among its customers.


In 2012, Grenell served briefly as Mitt Romney’s foreign affairs spokesman, but was chased off the campaign by anti-gay attacks from the right. Since then, Grenell has been a contributor to Fox News and other conservative outlets, where he often sniped at the Barack Obama administration.


Grenell was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma in 2013. His partner, Matt Lashey, developed a smartphone app to help patients undergoing chemotherapy deal with the side effects of the treatment. Grenell’s disease went into remission.


Grenell was talked up as a possible candidate to be ambassador to the UN or to NATO, but he was passed over for those positions. The Berlin post is usually filled by an experienced diplomat, rather than a press secretary; Grenell speaks basic Spanish, but no German.


Grenell proudly displays a link on his website to a blog post he wrote in 2016 celebrating Donald Trump’s support for LGBTQ rights, even after Trump’s July 26, 2017, tweet announcing that transgender people would be prohibited from serving in the military.


Grenell and Lashey live in Palm Springs, California.

-Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

Certificate of Demonstrated Competence

How One App Is Helping to Tighten the Link Between Cancer Patients and Their Doctors (by Waverly Colville, CNBC)

Grenell Under Consideration to Be Ambassador to Germany (by Josh Dawsey, Politico)

The Gay, Conservative Christian Who Might Be Trump’s NATO Ambassador (by Jonathan Merritt, The Atlantic)

Dialysis Company DaVita Leads List of Companies Caught for Committing Fraud against U.S. Government (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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