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    November 09, 2006

    Ken Mehlman's re-censored re-outing

    Posted by: Chris

    Mahercnn Bill Maher told Larry King on CNN last night that Republican Party chair Ken Mehlman is gay, but you wouldn't know it from the edited re-broadcast and transcript from the interview.

    You can see both the original interview and the edited version on Huffington Post here. This was the original exchange, mostly censored in the re-broadcast and transcript:

    Maher:  A lot of the chiefs of staff, the people who really run the underpinnings of the Republican Party, are gay. I don't want to mention names, but I will Friday night...
    King:  You will Friday night?
    Maher:  Well, there's a couple of big people who I think everyone in Washington knows who run the Republican...
    King:  You will name them?
    Maher:  Well, I wouldn't be the first. I'd get sued if I was the first. Ken Mehlman. OK, there's one I think people have talked about. I don't think he's denied it when he's been, people have suggested, he doesn't say...
    King:  I never heard that. I'm walking around in a fog. I never... Ken Mehlman? I never heard that. But the question is...
    Maher:  Maybe you don't go to the same bathhouse I do, Larry.

    This isn't the first time a major news network has censored references to Mehlman's sexual orientation. MSNBC did it back in January.

    MehlmankenAll this hyper-sensitivity around sexual orientation is really just slipshod journalism. On the one hand, Maher wasn't really "outing" Mehlman with actual evidence that he's gay; he was talking about the rumor. CNN runs entire programs filled with pure rumor about public figures, including about their sexual orientation. So why the special rule for political figures? Mehlman isn't married to a woman, and doesn't date women publicly, so how could saying he's gay be defamatory, even if it's not true? 

    Maher isn't correct, hwoever, when he claims Mehlman has never denied the rumor. In the last few months, after repeatedly refusing to answer the question, Mehlman has been denying he's gay with a quip that the rumor's done a number on his dating life. (This harkens back to Al Gore's 2000 campaign manager, Donna Brazile, another closet case, who told the Washington Post, "If I had a personal life, I'd have a sexual orientation.")

    I know Ken from law school and have been accused of spiking a story outing him when I was editor the Washington Blade. The charge is ridiculous, and I categorically denied in an editorial at the time. I do not have any personal information about whether Ken is gay. I was very deep in the closet during law school, and if Ken is gay, he was as well.

    As I've written before, the sexual orientation of public figures is fair game, even if their private sex life is not. Ken Mehlman is a big boy, and should be able to withstand the scrutiny, especially given how he and his mentor Karl Rove used gay marriage as a wedge issue in 2004 and (much less effectively) this year.

    Daily Kos blogger Mike Stark had it right back in January. It's the censorship, stupid!

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