Rob Smith is a black gay Iraq war veteran, journalist, and author who has been vocal in recent months about his decision to walk away from the Democratic party and become a Republican.
Smith, who is married to a graphic designer named Misha Safronov, is a vocal proponent of the “Blexit” movement, which encourages a “black exit” from the Democratic party.
Smith tweeted in December that in his opinion, “absence of fathers is the #1 problem in the Black community.” Here’s what you need to know:
1. Smith Is an Army Veteran Who Said That ‘Coming Out Conservative’ Was Harder for Him Tham Coming Out as Gay
According to Newsweek, Smith served in the military and is an Iraq war veteran. He actively protested the legalization of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” during the Clinton era and when Obama repealed the act, he was invited to the ceremony as a guest.
Smith, a gay black man, said that coming out as a conservative was more difficult for him than coming out as gay. He said to Newsweek, “I know that five, 10, 20, 25 years from now, me being out as an openly gay conservative, an openly gay and black conservative will open doors for this to not be as shocking and surprising to people. It will open doors to people being unafraid to be open about their political beliefs in their own lives regardless of their skin color or their sexual orientation.”
Smith came out as conservative in May. To DailyMail, he said at the time, “For me, as a gay man and a black man, I have to… Somebody has to start the conversation, specifically with LGBTQ people, to say being a Democrat is not a sign of morality and being a Republican is not a sign of evil. We can work on both sides to advance this idea of LGBTQ equality, we just have to figure out what that is.”
In 2017, Smith published a memoir, titled Confessions of a Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Soldier: How a Black, Gay Man Survived the Infantry, Coming Out, and the War in Iraq. Though the book is not currently available for purchase, it’s still listed on Amazon. The description for the memoir reads,
“Rob is a young black man coming to terms with his sexuality amid the backdrop of the hyper-masculine, homophobic U.S. Army. After surviving the notoriously brutal Infantry basic training and then finding himself as a young gay man while remaining closeted to all but a few of his colleagues at his first duty station, he finds himself in dangerous territory after the United States declares war on Iraq and his unit is one of the first called in after the initial invasion.”
2. Smith Is a Leader in the ‘Blexit’ (Black Exit) Movement, Along With Other Black Conservatives
Smith is an active member of the ‘Blexit’ movement, which encouraged black people to “exit” the Democratic party. Smith announced his #WalkAway moment on May 27, and has been vocal about it ever since.
To Fox News, Smith said that he was never allowed to talk about things like fatherlessness in the black community when he was a Democrat.
3. Smith Used to Be a Democrat, & Shifted to the Republican Party Following the Pulse Nightclub Shooting
Smith’s “walk away” moment from the Democratic party, according to his interview with Newsweek, was when the Pulse nightclub shooting occurred in June 2016. At that moment, he told Newsweek, he wanted a strong message denouncing terrorism from his leaders, and it was the Republican message that resonated.
He said, “I know my place at this moment in history is to take my experience as somebody who is in all of these communities and really talk about it.”
4. Smith Has a Rising Social Media Following, With 14,000 Followers on Instagram, & a YouTube Channel
On his Instagram and Twitter accounts, his bio opens with: “America’s Favorite Black Gay Republican!”
Smith now frequently appears as a guest on Fox News. In July, he appeared to further explain his decision to leave the Democratic party, saying that the party requires black people to accept a “victim” status. “It says, ‘you need us to succeed, you need us to achieve, you need this ever-expanding welfare state to be able to make something of yourself,'” Smith said. “And for me, I got sick of that message of victimhood, that they continue to push to black Americans over and over again for the last three decades of my life.”
5. Smith Is Married to a Visual Artist & Graphic Designer Named Misha Safronov
Smith is married to graphic designer and visual artist, Misha Safronov. They have been married since 2017. They even have a joint Instagram handle, “RobandMisha,” that has a collective 18,000 followers.
According to their wedding video, Safronov is a Russian immigrant, though they now appear to be based in Brooklyn. According to his LinkedIn, Safronov is currently working as a graphic designer at Pense Media Corporation in New York City. Prior to that, he worked as a graphic designer at The Pride Network, Resource Furniture, and the Brooklyn Barge.
Safronov’s Instagram account is largely devoted to his artwork, but he did post a picture of himself and Smith for Valentine’s Day last year. He wrote, “To my favorite person in the whole world, to my handsome husband @RobSmithOnline-Happy Valentine’s Day!!! I love you to the moon and back! Forever!”