Hey, you, too, can rewrite your personal history by omission: just delete your Tweets and no one will notice. Except in this hyper-partisan, hyper political new media age (oh, and it’s an election year, in case you didn’t know): they do and they will. It turns out that Mitt Romney’s new spokesman according to the Huffington Post has apparently scrubbed his Tweets of politically offensive ones. On my Twitter page I’ve only deleted tweets as as rule if I made a bad typo and done it asap. These are apparently being scrubbed because they might provide ammunition and create problems:
Richard Grenell, a former Bush administration official who joined the Romney campaign Thursday as national security and foreign policy spokesman, appears to have deleted more than 800 of his past tweets following scrutiny over numerous swipes aimed at the media, prominent Democratic women and the Gingriches. Grenell also apparently took down his personal site, which featured writing on politics, foreign affairs and the media.
Supposedly if you remove these Tweets and past writings, no one can then use them against you. But even David Gregory on “Meet the Press” could, in reality, flash those old removed words on the screen during an interview. It won’t be a huge issue, but it’ll be a distraction to the campaign.
On Friday afternoon, Grenell still featured a link to his personal site (http://www.richardgrenell.com) on his Twitter profile, which then showed that he had tweeted 7,577 times, according to a screenshot taken Friday by The Huffington Post. By Sunday morning, Grenell’s Twitter feed only listed 6,759 tweets and his personal site is no longer available. (Some examples of past writing have been archived on the Internet and can be found here.)
In the Twitter-fueled 2012 election, it’s not surprising that reporters quickly began digging through Grenell’s Twitter feed, even before he got a chance to scrub out a number of impolitic and sexist comments.
ThinkProgress noted Grenell’s tendency to make cutting remarks about the appearances of prominent women in media and politics, including his tweet advising MSNBC host Rachel Maddow “to take a breath and put on a necklace,” and another suggesting she resembled a Justin Bieber.
In another tweet, Grenell wrote that “Hillary is starting to look liek Madeline [sic] Albright.” He discussed First Lady Michelle Obama working out and “sweating on the East Room carpet.” He also asked whether Callista Gingrich’s “hair snaps on,” and on another occasion, commented how Gingrich’s third wife “stands there like she is wife #1.” Politico flagged more examples and noted Grenell’s “old pastime” of “ridiculing the Gingriches.”
And the explanation:
When contacted about Romney’s hiring of Grenell and his removal of online writing, a campaign spokesperson referred The Huffington Post to a response Grenell gave to Politico. “My tweets were written to be tongue-in-cheek and humorous but I can now see how they can also be hurtful,” Grenell said. “I didn’t mean them that way and will remove them from twitter. I apologize for any hurt they caused.”
And he has a point here — but not the one he and others might want to make about where America and out political “discussion” is in the early 21st century.
The point is that in our national current political and new and old media culture it gets you hits, followers, ad revenues, listeners, and viewers the more outrageous — what used to be considered “tasteless” and “hurtful” or in some cases downright bigoted — you are. It can lead to fame, career advancement and riches.
And problems if your name is associated with it and you’re being a spokesperson since that can become the issue.
So the words may be gone.
But the memories and screenshots linger.
And the fact the Tweets and writings were removed, coupled with an apology that just happens to occur when he is Romney’s spokesman (if they caused “hurt” shouldn’t they have been taken down a long time ago?) means the issue — like a big, juicy garlic belch after eating an everything-on-it New York style pizza — will linger on.
Graphic via shutterstock.com
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.