April 26, 2008
DNC's 'talk to the hand' outreach
Posted by: Chris
Just when you think the staff of the Democratic National Committee can't bungle its gay community relationships any more royally, they manage to find a way.
Take Leah Daughtry, chief of staff to party leader Howard Dean, who has garnered a reputation for inciting rivalry between African American and gay constituencies within the party. She tried to help unseat the first-ever duly elected lesbian to the Alabama state legislature, in favor of a black candidate. Later, she (and closet case Donna Brazile) pitched a fit when gay Democrats proposed that gays be included in the same quota system for selecting state convention delegates as other minority groups.
Her conduct was so outrageous that the normally staid Stonewall Democrats reached boiling point:
“Imagine what [DNC Chair Howard] Dean could do if people like Leah were confronted for their bigotry and fired,” wrote the Stonewall Democrats official [later revealed to be director John Marble]. Referring to Daughtry, the official says, “I think Samuel L. Jackson said it best when he said ‘I’m sick of these mother fuckin’ snakes on this mother fuckin’ plane.’ It may be time to drive the snakes from the DNC.”
Daughtry has arrogantly refused all interview requests with the gay press and yet took the extreme step of sending lawyers to the Washington Blade offices in an outrageous attempt to intimidate the paper's coverage. Even the usually quiet organization the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association reacted to the incident by speaking out in favor of the watchdog role of the gay press.
In an attempt at damage control, Daughtry agreed to speak at the Baltimore convention of the National Black Justice Coalition, an LGBT group. But rather than take advantage of the opportunity to respond to the many criticisms aimed at her and the DNC in recent months, she instead chose to pitch a shopworn general interest party speech virtually devoid of gay-specific content.
That's right, with her reputation in tatters among many gay Democrats, Daughtry tried to convince a group of gay African Americans they should support the Democratic Party. You'd have to travel to Lynchburg, Va., and visit Jerry Falwell's church to find a better example of preaching to the choir. (Daughtry is, in fact, a Pentecostal minister, though hypersensitive to coverage of the fact that she and her flock sometimes "speak in tongues.")
Whatever tongue she was using in Baltimore, it wasn't too convincing. Having helped sandbag the proposal to add gays to the quota system used to select delegates to the Democratic National Convention, Daughtry spoke of the need "to make sure … that people from various communities, and particularly the GLBT community, would have a seat at the table." Particularly? They why exclude gays in particular from the quotas used for other minorities?
(I'm no fan of the entire idea of delegate quotas based on gender or other minority status; it reeks of special interest balkanization. But to hear Daughtry talk from both sides of her mouth on the issue is another matter.)
To make matters worse, the good Reverend Daughtry used a forked tongue with a Blade reporter at the Baltimore event, promising before her speech to answer questions afterward but then subsequently using her gay muscle -- DNC gay liaison Brian Bond -- to refuse an interview later:
Bond told the reporter that Daughtry would not answer questions because the DNC’s communications department had not received a formal interview request.
This is the arrogance toward gays that infects the core of the Democratic National Committee. In my decade in the gay press, I'm aware of no other organization -- political, business or social -- whose leaders would refuse to answer a few questions because no formal request had been made in advance. Daughtry is also classic passive-aggressive: refusing for months to talk and yet moaning about unfair coverage -- even to the point of abusing reporters and editors with her hired hench-lawyers.
Brian Bond comes from a gay rights background, having headed up the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, and knows better than the games the DNC plays. The real problem is higher up, with Daughtry and Dean himself, who treat gays as if we are a captive special interest with nowhere else to go -- or even complain.
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