WASHINGTON – Richard Grenell, the former acting director of national intelligence and who’s now the face of the Trump campaign’s LGBTQ outreach, rebuked a reporter Friday at the White House briefing for asking him about the global initiative he led to decriminalize homosexuality.
In response to a question from the New York Post’s Steven Nelson, Grenell, who was speaking at the White House to announce a Serbia-Kosovo agreement the Trump administration facilitated, insisted questions should be focused on the deal.
“I’m going to just talk about Kosovo and Serbia,” Grenell said. “I don’t know if you can find it on a map, but this is atrocious. I have to tell you guys. You might be too young to understand what this issue is about. Maybe the older journalists should step and say, ‘This is a big deal. This is a big issue.’”
“I’m astounded at what happens in Washington D.C., especially in this room,” Grenell said. “I got to tell you: Get substantive. Maybe it’s too complicated of an issue for you all.”
Touting the agreement before the questioning began — which President Trump, Kosovo Prime Minster Avdullah Hoti, Serbia President Aleksandar Vučić signed moments before in the Oval Office — Grenell said the Serbia-Kosovo deal he helped negotiate came about after a more than 20-year long stalemate in negotiations.
The Trump administration shook things up, Grenell said, by making economics, not politics, the priority in talks. Tariffs were the “political sticking point” of why the parties wouldn’t come together, which he said addressed in the deal.
Coming to Nelson’s defense were other reporters in the White House press corps. NBC News’ Peter Alexander pointed out “this is the first time we’ve had the opportunity to speak with these individuals.” Grenell replied, “OK, but today’s on Kosovo and Serbia.”
“Let’s take a little time and talk about this 21-year issue here,” Grenell said. “I mean, 21 years. We’re getting the same questions that are all politics. You guys don’t understand what’s happening outside of Washington, D.C. People aren’t listening to you anymore. It’s really a crisis in journalism. And I think it’s because people are too young to understand issues like Kosovo and Serbia.”
Jeff Mason, White House reporter for Reuters and former president of the White House Correspondents Association, also told Grenell his response was unacceptable.
“I don’t think any of us came here for a lecture about our questioning,” Mason said.
Grenell replied: “I didn’t come here to talk about anything other than Kosovo and Serbia.”
A look at the Serbia-Kosovo deal, as put out on Twitter by Klan Kosova CEO Adriatik Kelmendi, reveals the global initiative was, in fact, part of the agreement. One of the bullet points states “both parties will work with the 69 countries that criminalize homosexuality to push for decriminalization.”
The Washington Blade has placed a request in with the White House seeking on why support for the global initiative was included as part of the deal.
Despite Grenell’s insistence the briefing be focused on the Serbia-Kosovo deal, reporters said the content wasn’t known to them at time of the briefing. When Grenell asked indignantly whether reporters had read the agreement, Bloomberg News’s Justin Sink pointed out at the time it wasn’t yet made available to them. “It’s out,” Grenell insisted.
Under further questioning from reporters on what exactly was signed, Grenell said leaders from Kosovo and Serbia signed separately “a letter acknowledging they are going to work together and do this agreement.”
The documents the Serbia and Kosovo leaders signed, Grenell said, were “99.9 percent” the same, but Serbia also agreed to move its embassy by July of next year and Kosovo would have a “mutual recognition with Israel.” Trump signed a document, Grenell said, even though the United States wasn’t a party to the deal to serve as “a witness to say this is great agreement and the United States is happy for it.”
Mark Bromley, chair of the Council for Global Equality, said he’s “not surprised” Grenell would be irate over being asked about the global initiative because it’s consistent with him omitting being gay from speech and joining the American Center for Law & Justice, which has an anti-LGBTQ record.
“After claiming to lead a global effort to decriminalize homosexuality that amounted to nothing more than a few photo ops, Grenell went on to make a preposterous informercial claiming that Trump is ‘the most pro-gay president in American history,’” Bromley said. “But his brazen pinkwashing seems to be fading lately – he didn’t mention any of this in hs RNC convention speech and now he has joined a homophobic law firm. This proves what we always knew: Grenell doesn’t care about anything other than his own self-promotion and he is certainly willing to undermine the interests of the LGBTI community in the process.”