Richard Grenell, controversial U.S. ambassador to Germany, reportedly stepping down

The 53-year-old former Fox News commentator appeared to confirm his departure on Twitter. As ambassador, Grenell often courted controversy. Find out more in today’s Berlin Report.

Photo (c) US Consulate Munich / Public domain


By Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson and Sylvia Cunningham

Update: On June 2 it was confirmed by the U.S. Embassy to Germany that Richard Grenell is stepping down and Deputy Chief of Mission Robin S. Quinville will be in charge until a new ambassador is confirmed. 

Just over two years after arriving in Berlin, Richard Grenell is reported to be stepping down as the American ambassador to Germany.

There was no immediate statement from the embassy or U.S. State Department about the widespread media reports, and the press office declined comment when asked by KCRW Berlin whether Grenell was leaving.

But the 53-year-old former Fox News commentator and spokesman of the U.S. mission to the United Nations under George W. Bush appeared to confirm his departure on Twitter, a platform on which he often clashes with German officials and local and foreign media.

The ambassador thanked pro-Israel activist and lawyer Arsen Ostrovsky, who tweeted he was sorry Grenell would not be returning. “The man has strength of conviction, doesn’t take crap from anyone & is just a real mensch!” Ostrovsky wrote.

“Thank you, senator,” Grenell wrote to Sen. Marsha Blackburn, (R-Tenn.) after she linked to a Fox News report about his leaving and lauded him as a “true patriot.”

He also retweeted a post by this station’s Studio Berlin co-host Noah Barkin, who wrote: “Germany breathes a collective sigh of relief,” to which Grenell replied: “You make a big mistake if you think the American pressure is off. You don’t know Americans.”

His pressure tactics worked, on occasion, including in getting Germany to repatriate a former Nazi labor camp guard, Jakiw Palij, in August 2018 and more recently, to ban Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed, Lebanon-based organization, from operating here.

Grenell’s contentious relationship with his German hosts began the day he arrived in Berlin in May 2018 when he posted this note on Twitter:

“As @realdonaldtrump said, US sanctions will target critical sectors of Iran’s economy. German companies doing business in Iran should wind down operations immediately.”

The tweet prompted a flurry of indignant responses from Germans, including former and current government officials.

“Ric, my advice, after a long ambassadorial career: explain your own country’s policies and lobby the host country — but never tell the host country what to do, if you want to stay out of trouble,” tweeted Wolfgang Ischinger, who was Germany’s ambassador to the U.S. from 2001 to 2006. “Germans are eager to listen, but they will resent instructions.”

Less than a month later, Grenell caused an uproar with an interview with him posted on the right-wing Breitbart news site on Europe’s conservative politicians who he said were making gains against the political establishment.

Grenell often clashed with German officials over their country’s defense and NATO spending, which the Trump administration has repeatedly demanded be raised and quickly. Earlier this month, he wrote an opinion piece in the German newspaper Die Welt that is posted on the U.S. Embassy’s website, which accused Social Democrats in the federal government of undermining NATO’s nuclear deterrent.

He is also a critic of the Nord Stream 2 project shipping Russian natural gas to northern Europe and of Berlin’s relationship with Beijing.

The German news agency dpa reported that Robin Quinville, deputy chief of mission at the embassy, is expected to replace Grenell for now.

Read our 2018 interview with Grenell as he started his role as U.S. ambassador to Germany. 

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