Democrat Joe Biden has announced his intention to nominate Pete Puttigieg, South Bend Mayor and Biden’s former rival in the Democratic primary, as transportation secretary. Immediately after this announcement, media outlets touted the nomination as a history-making first for LGBTQ individuals- the first “openly gay man” to hold a cabinet post.
However, the first “openly gay” cabinet member was in fact Richard Grenell, who was appointed to serve as acting director of national intelligence by President Donald Trump in February. Interestingly, many of the outlets who celebrated Buttigieg’s “historic” accomplishment, had previously reported Grenell as the first.
On December 15, LGBTQ Nation tweeted about Pete Buttigieg, declaring that “the former presidential candidate will be the first out Cabinet member.”
LGBTQ Nation previously reported; “Grenell’s appointment as acting DNI made him the first out gay man to hold a Cabinet-level position.
After heavy criticism for contradicting its own reporting, LGBTQ Nation changed the post.
December 15, media outlet Queerty also tweeted, “Pete Buttigieg makes history as first out Cabinet member.” However on February 20, 2020, Queerty published an article alongside a Twitter caption that read, “Trump makes Richard Grenell first openly gay cabinet secretary in history.”
The same “mistake” was made by another popular LGBTQ-focused media outlet, Pink News.
November 9, Pink News tweeted “Joe Biden ‘almost certain’ to make Pete Buttigieg America’s first out gay cabinet official. Here’s where he could land.” However, prior to this announcement, on February 20, 2020, Pink News tweeted “Donald Trump just appointed his first gay cabinet member.
December 16, CNN reported “Buttigieg is about to become the youngest member of Biden’s cabinet and America’s first out LGBTQ cabinet member,” without a mention of Grenell in the article.
December 15, the New York Times reported “Mr. Buttigieg would bring a younger voice to the cabinet and add to its diversity as its first openly gay member.” In February, the same outlet reported that “Mr. Grenell, who has pushed to advance gay rights in his current post, is also thought to be the first openly gay cabinet member.”
Charles Payne reported on his show Making Money that Pete Buttigieg would be the first openly gay person to serve in a white house cabinet. He later retracted this statement and apologized to Richard Grenell via Twitter.
“.@RichardGrenell I owe you an apology. Yesterday on my show ‘Making Money’ I reported Pete Buttigieg would be the first openly gay person to serve in a WH cabinet. Richard Grenell has that distinction when he became acting DNI in the Trump cabinet and he did a hell of a job,” Payne wrote.
Some outlets noted that if Pete Buttigieg does become a cabinet member, as Biden said he would nominate him to be, he would become the first Senate-confirmed cabinet member.
Grenell was not confirmed by the Senate in his cabinet-level role as Acting Director of National Intelligence, but was confirmed by the Senate in 2017 by a vote of 56–42 when he was nominated as U.S. Ambassador to Germany.
His confirmation to U.S. Ambassador made Grenell the highest ranking openly gay official in any presidential administration, until 2020, when President Trump asked Grenell to join his Cabinet as Acting Director of National Intelligence.
The Washington Post did not even mention the bit about being Senate-confirmed, but all together attempted to eliminate Grenell’s legacy when the outlet reported, “Certainly, another “first” — an openly gay man holding a Cabinet post.”
Richard Grenell made LGBTQ history and fought to decriminalize homosexuality around the world. His contributions deserve to be recognized, however inconvenient the left may find his politics.
When Grenell left his post, he posted an Instagram acknowledging a historic gift from President Trump.
“Today I officially resigned from the State Department,” Grenell wrote. “And President Trump presented me with a going away gift — my Cabinet Chair. ‘Acting’ Cabinet Secretaries do not get chairs but President Trump wanted me to have mine because, as he said, ‘You are the First Openly Gay Cabinet Secretary and it’s a big deal.’”
(Contributing journalist, Allegra Nokaj) (Contributing writer, Brooke Bell)