May 12, 2010
Posted by: Chris
Former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, who resigned in disgrace after spending tens of thousands on prostitutes, on whether Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan is gay or not:
“I did not go out with her, but other guys did. I don't think it is my place to say more.”
Spitzer and Kagan apparently ran in the same social circles during their collegiate days at Princeton.
Posted by: Chris
Perhaps one silver lining from the horrible tragedy that is Brian Betts' murder will be a review by the Washington Post of its antiquated policy of when to report a story subject's sexual orientation. We've seen the issue arise in the nomination of Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court (more on that later) but the Post ombudsman took it on in connection with reporting on the killing of the popular D.C. high school principal, who was closeted by the paper's coverage even though he was out to friends and family before his death.
The Post's policy is:
“A person's sexual orientation should not be mentioned unless relevant to the story... When identifying an individual as gay or homosexual, be cautious about invading the privacy of someone who may not wish his or her sexual orientation known.”
The policy in and of itself is fine, but the application of "relevant" has resulted in setting a bar that is much higher if a person is gay than it is for those who are straight. My guess is that no WaPo reporter even consults the policy before reporting that a murder victim, or beloved principal, or prominent businessman or politician is heterosexual. And yet the kid gloves come on before a reporter will broach those same story subjects if they are rumored to be gay.
I have long held that the same rules ought to apply to everyone, period. If the Post is doing a feature on a high school principal, then he/she will of course be asked if he's married, partnered, etc. The reporter ought to ask the question and print the response, whatever it is. "Outing" comes into play only if a reporter delves behind an answer, or a non-answer, into the private life of the person -- something I agree should be very rare and only necessitated by the person's sexual orientation being highly relevant and newsworthy.
In the case of a murder victim like Betts, his sexual orientation ought to be reported without hesitation if he was out to friends and family -- as was the case here. The fact that the victim was apparently lured into meeting his killers on a phone sex chat line makes the information even more relevant -- both to his story and as a public safety message for the gay community at-large.
December 28, 2009
Posted by: Chris
Perennial candidate Andy Martin is riding a free media wave by buying a few radio ads repeating gay rumors about his Senate primary foe, Congressman Mark Kirk (R-Ill.):
In the radio ad, which aired today on WGN-AM and WBBM-AM, Martin attributes a "solid rumor that Kirk is a homosexual" to conservative Republican businessman Jack Roeser. Martin's ad also claims that Raymond True, the chairman of the conservative Republican Assembly of Lake County organization, says Kirk has surrounded himself with homosexuals. The ad says Kirk should address the rumors.
True has since denied questioning Kirk's sexual orientation, though he admits to some McCarthyist gossip that "there were some people on his (Kirk's) staff that had a special orientation." Isn't that "special"?
The state GOP dismissed the advertisements as "bizarre," something the party isn't always so quick to do with the gay-baiting is aimed across party aisles. That characterization would seem apropos, given these nuggets dug up by the Chicago Tribune:
In federal court filings from the 1980s related to bankruptcy proceedings against him, Martin called one federal judge a "crooked, slimy Jew, who has a history of lying and thieving common to members of his race." He also expressed sympathy to the perpetrators of the Holocaust. …
Martin gained some attention during last year's presidential contest by contending President Barack Obama was a Muslim and contesting whether Obama was born in Hawaii.
Nice to see the "birther" claims take their rightful place alongside other ethnic smears.
As a practical matter, Martin's 15 minutes should have little impact on the race. Those who would vote against Kirk based on a gay smear aren't likely to back his Democratic foe, whoever that will be, in the general election. What's more, even conservatives are finding it easier to vote for the sinner while hating the sin.
FYI, Kirk's bio on his Congressional and campaign web sites make no mention of a wife or family. Then again, they omit any refernence to his law degree from Georgetown either (too inside-the-beltway?).
It turns out his divorce from Kimberly Vertolli came through this summer, and Kirk brought along not one but two beards -- ahem! dates -- to a White House luau. Kirk called the ladies, who work behind the snack bar in the GOP cloakroom, "kind of cute" -- which makes me kind of wretch. But that's just me.
December 21, 2009
Posted by: Chris
And so it seems like since the holidays last year that I posted here, and I'll say more in upcoming days and weeks about the twists and turns I've taken since my summer break from blogging. The good news (at least I hope you'll see it that way) is that I'm back, and I plan on posting on a much more regular basis -- if not the 5-7 posts a day I was averaging during my Brazilian period.
Christmas 2009 finds me back in Memphis, my hometown, where I spent the Yule season last year as well. Visa restrictions and an empty wallet forced me to leave behind my partner and all my friends in Rio De Janeiro and São Paulo this summer, and after a few months in Atlanta, I'm back home visiting family before I make the long drive back to Washington, where I plan to settle down for at least the immediate future -- unless the booming (by comparison) Brazilian economy coughs up a job offer first.
The six months my boyfriend and I have spent apart are by far -- almost double -- the longest physical separation in our relationship since we met in February 2005. My heart is filled with saudades, a Portuguese word without literal translation, although longing and missing someone or some place or thing come pretty close. The emotional toll, and the stress of not knowing when or how we will see each other again, much less live together again, has been almost debilitating at time. Of course, those feeling are only amplified by the arrival of this time of year.
Still, love conquers all, or so they say, especially with an assist from techological marvels -- finally I own an iPhone! So in the spirit of the season, and to wish you and those you love a very merry Christmas, here's a special gift: rare 13-year-old video footage of Jan Hooks and Nora Dunn in one of their final performances as the Sweeney Sisters on Saturday Night Live. It somehow got skipped in this year's SNL Christmas Special, and you won't find it anywhere else on the Net, or at least I couldn't.
Without further ado… here come the bells, there go the bells, so many bells!
You can also view it using QuickTime after the jump...
November 03, 2008
Posted by: Andoni
Today he is asking Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky to release his military records. Apparently Senator McConnell was discharged in the middle of the Vietnam War and Mike smells something funny.
I am not a proponent of outing unless the person outed is in a position of power and is a hypocrite (i.e. anti-gay). McConnell fits the criteria.
It will be interesting to see if McConnell survives re-election tomorrow.
August 21, 2008
Posted by: Chris
After watching the excerpt below from a CNN report on John McCain's life, all I can say is it's about damn time.
I have written many times that I do not believe in general that opposition to gay rights makes a person's private sex life fair game on the basis that the issue relates to sex and morality.
Civil marriage is a public institution, however, and a basic human right. When a politician opposes allowing same-sex couples access to that basic human right, his own marital history is fair game -- especially when that politician justifies our exclusion as a defense of "the sanctity" of the institution.
When Bob Barr, the former Republican congressman from Georgia, introduced the notorious federal Defense of Marriage Act, it was absolutely relevant for debate that he had been married three times. (Barr has since quit the GOP and is running as the Libertarian Party's nominee for president, and has renounced DOMA even though he remains personally opposed to gays marrying.)
The same holds true for John McCain, who opposes not just marriage but any form of legal recognition of gay relationships -- whether civil unions, domestic partnerships or even D.P. benefits from public entities. Now he's even backing away from his previous opposition to a federal constitutional amendment to prevent states from deciding the issue for themselves -- setting a very low bar for the full reversal of his position that is sure to come.
Pointing out McCain's hypocrisy on marriage doesn't require invading his privacy; it's all there in the public record or his own writings. Especially now that he is hyping his Vietnam POW history as proof of moral credentials to be president, the public should know how when he returned from captivity he began cheating on his first wife Carol McCain, the one who waited for his return over for those agonizing long years.
The CNN excerpt tells even more about how McCain has distorted the truth about that period. He has claimed he was long separated from Carol when he met and courted and became involved with Cindy Henley, the much younger, beautiful and wealthy woman who would become his second wife. In fact, his own divorce filings show he was still living with Carol for nine full months while carrying on his affair with Cindy.
McCain even applied in Arizona for a license to marry Cindy while he was still in fact married to Carol. This is the "sanctity" of marriage in Arizona that McCain so fears that gay couples will erode?
McCain fails utterly to explain his conduct or subsequent distortion of it when gently prodded by CNN's John King. "That was 30 years ago," McCain keeps saying. Yes, but so are those POW years he claims show us what stuff he is made of. He can't have it both ways. George Bush's problems with alcohol were just as dated, but he wasn't pointing to the same period of time as a primary credential to be president.
Unfortunately, CNN did not go on to connect the dots for viewers, but McCain's hypocrisy also lays bare the base political motivations underlying his view on marriage as a policy issue. When President Bush used and abused our basic human rights for his own political gain, the public could be fooled into believing his motives were more genuine. Not so John McCain.
(Hat tip: Jed Report)
August 09, 2008
Posted by: Chris
The story of John Edwards' adulterous affair finally broke through the mainstream media barrier yesterday, after being almost completely ignored by every outlet except by the National Enquirer, which broke the story almost a year ago, and conservative media like Fox News and the National Review.
To hear the complaints from the right, the MSM refused coverage because Edwards is a Democrat, a ludicrous assertion when you consider the saturation coverage Bill Clinton received not just as president but as a candidate for the office. In fact, the only media actually motivated by Edwards' politics were the likes of Fox and National Review, who no doubt would have ignored the story if a Republican presidential candidate was the focus.
More directly on point, the MSM has almost completely ignored the juicy details concerning the way GOP nominee John McCain dumped his first wife, who underwent a debilitating car accident during his four years of captivity, when the lovely (and mega-wealthy) Cindy Henley came into the picture.
Slate was one of the few outlets not from the right to touch the Edwards story before yesterday, speculating that the reason for the kid glove treatment wasn't Edwards' partisan affiliation but his sexual orientation. Comparing Edwards' late-night shenanigans outside the Beverly Hilton a few weeks ago to Larry Craig's notorious foot-tapping in the Minneapolis airport stall, the differing treatment could mean only one thing:
So why hasn't the press commented on the [Edwards at the Hilton] story yet? Is it because … news organizations want to investigate it for themselves before writing about it? Or are they observing a double standard that says homo-hypocrisy is indefensible but that hetero-hypocrisy deserves an automatic bye? That's my sense.
I'm inclined to disagree, especially with the idea that the Enquirer was doing the job the MSM should have by staking out the Beverly Hilton at 3 a.m. For one thing, the MSM refused to cover the Larry Craig story when it was at the same, speculative stage. Even though Mike Rogers and other outing activists had publicly accused Craig of being a closeted hypocrite, all but Craig's hometown paper refused to touch the story.
It was the right call on both Craig and Edwards because tracking down rumors of hypocrisy concerning public figures should not reduce reporters to late-night stakeouts of hotel lobbies or restroom stalls. Even hypocritical public figures are entitled to some zone of privacy to live their lives. The official can certainly be asked about the rumors, but once denied there's no story absent public evidence to back it up.
In Craig's case, it was his arrest and guilty plea; in Edwards' it was his own admission. Keep in mind that Edwards spilled his guts not because of tabloid coverage, as he claimed, but because the MSM was closing in on the story, including payments apparently made by to Rielle Hunter and Andrew Young, the putative father of her "love child," by the Edwards campaign finance chair.
So as satisfying as it might be to use the example of Edwards to bemoan the MSM's reluctance to do its job, it's actually an example (like Craig) of the system working pretty much the way it should.
March 08, 2008
Posted by: Chris
I was hopeful in a syndicated column a couple of weeks ago that the replacement of George Bush and Karl Rove at the GOP helm by John McCain might result in a general election with fewer electoral scapegoats, with immigrants neutralized as an issue and gays less likely to be used as a wedge issue. I'm still cautiously optimistic, though McCain has been less than forceful in distancing himself from the outrageous rhetoric of some of his prominent supporters.
Some news today tempered my optimism even more. It appears that Rove and his longtime No. 2, Bush-Cheney '04 campaign manager Ken Mehlman, have now begun advising the McCain campaign in an unofficial capacity.
Mehlman, who has been coy to the point of refusing to respond to rumors that he is gay, was along with Rove the leading architects of the cynical wedge strategy that used state ballot initiatives banning gay marriage to bring social conservatives out to vote in November 2004.
Those of you who were regular readers of the Washington Blade when I was editor know that Ken and I were law school classmates (at the same time Obama himself was studying there), and Ken and I went on to co-found with a larger group an organization of young Republicans called Square One.
Despite a lot of unfounded speculation to the contrary, I have no direct knowledge about whether Ken is gay, and we lost touch years ago, around the same time I came out as a young lawyer working in a D.C. law firm. But I did watch with dismay the strategy employed by the Bush camp, apparently at Rove and Mehlman's direction, that played to bigotry and sacrificed the civil rights of gay Americans as a cheap ploy for votes in Ohio and a few other key electoral states.
I've seen no evidence that either Rove or Mehlman has undergone a Lee Atwater conversion or even mellowed out much. So seeing them with John McCain's ear does not bode well for the general election that awaits. Especially considering that McCain already has on board Bush's 04 media strategist Mark McKinnon, and Steve Schmidt, Bush's "attack dog" in that election.
February 24, 2008
Posted by: Chris
With John McCain pretty much wrapping up to GOP nomination, speculation moves to whom he might select as his running mate. This from yesterday's New York Times:
Quite a few of the names being bandied about are those of politicians in their 40s and 50s, including Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, 47; Gov. Charlie Crist of Florida, 51, whose well-timed endorsement helped Mr. McCain win the crucial swing-state’s primary; Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina, 47; and Rob Portman, 52, a former Ohio congressman and director of the Office of Management and Budget.
Well you can strike one name off that list: Charlie Crist. The briefly-married, longtime bachelor governor of Florida has too many lingering questions about whether he's gay -- from a fellow politician's recollection of a personal admission from Crist years earlier, to (unproven) stories about a young male activist being seduced at a party.
Expect McCain to stay as far away as possible from that kind of sideshow.
January 22, 2008
Posted by: Kevin
This morning, there is a palpable sense of panic across all the world's financial markets. It can't be ignored by anyone. Certainly, if you're an investor, a homeowner or you own a business, it's likely you're already hurting. But from a purely political sense, is the economic crisis good or bad for gay issues in this election season? Does it factor in at all?
Strangely enough, at first glance seems that economic downturns have been good for gays in recent election campaigns, while booming economic times have been largely bad.
It's conventional wisdom that when people are worried about their jobs or their pocketbooks, they don't really want to hear about homosexuals, abortions or the ACLU. Blaming gays or abortionists for the loss of one's job just doesn't wash, but someone who comes across as the one who cares the most about your job loss will get room to be nice to other people, even the gays. In boom times, when the average voter is content and fairly disinterested in voting, both sides tend to throw cultural bombs to turn out their bases in a zero-sum game. That's when the pitchforks tend to come out for us.
The 1992 presidential campaign was seminal for gay rights as a national campaign issue, at least where gays were at once condemned and courted. The U.S. economy was lurching into a recession as the primaries began that year, which launched the populist campaign of Pat Buchanan through his crushing defeat of incumbent President George H.W. Bush in New Hampshire. Polling showed that Buchanan's harsh, angry economic message pitched to those most harmed by the economic downturn helped fuel his victory there, and built a national sense of resentment against Bush. However, when that message expanded into lurid far right cultural attacks on gays, 'feminists', immigrants and pro-choice voters, it ran out of steam with the general public. The momentum of Buchanan's insurgency culminated at the horrendously anti-gay 1992 Republican National Convention, which the GOP never recovered from.
As the economy worsened, Bill Clinton and Ross Perot seized the middle ground and captured the public's concern with economic visions for change. Clinton ultimately connected with the middle on their economic fears ("it's the economy, stupid"), which gave him room to make an unprecedented play for gays, making a list of promises unheard of by a leading presidential candidate in history. By all accounts, Clinton won that election on the basis of earning the trust of a nation worried about its wallet. The gays, in political terms, won along with him.
From March 2000 to October 2002, the dot-com crash shook the world economy. It didn't have the same impact on average Americans the way the '92 recession did (or the current mortgage meltdown has), but it hit dynamic tech sectors very hard and raised fears about the long-term solvency of Social Security as the baby boom generation began to age. There was a budget surplus and plenty of room for the nation to maneuver. In the end, both sides were faced with making the argument as to who was better at making those maneuvers against the looming end to good economic times.
It boiled down to "who do you trust?" and "who is the better leader?", factors that see-sawed all year between the two. And it devolved into a war over the favor of independent voters. This meant both Al Gore and George W. Bush had to blur and bland-out anything that independents would view as "sharp edges."
Gore boldly chose conservative (then-) Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman as his running mate. Bush, the "compassionate conservative", took hits nationally for going too far to the right in South Carolina in his struggle to eliminate insurgent Senator John McCain; weeks later, Bush met with gay Republicans and said he was "a better person" for it. Both parties had openly gay speakers at their conventions in prime time (Elizabeth Birch for the Democrats, Congressman Jim Kolbe (R-AZ) for the GOP). Meanwhile, an anti-gay third-party campaign by a diminished Pat Buchanan fell completely flat.
Critics will argue that neither the 1992 or 2000 elections resulted in a sea-change of positive federal legislation for gay Americans. In fact, the Clinton presidency brought openly gay appointments, the first White House gay liaison (who was straight), pride day proclamations and favorable speeches, but it also brought "don't ask, don't tell" and the Defense of Marriage Act. Bush's presidency brought the first (two) openly gay national AIDS directors at the White House, a historic global program to fight HIV/AIDS, the first federal anti-gay hate crimes prosecution case (which was later dropped for lack of evidence), as well as its own smaller list of gay appointees. But Bush's presidency also launched the Federal Marriage Amendment to the top of the agenda, creating a cataclysmic split with gay Republicans and setting off an ugly campaign of "outing" closeted gays that (so far has) ended the political careers of two Members of Congress and soon a U.S. Senator. Both presidents also lost majorities in Congress they enjoyed early in their terms.
So what might the current economic crisis do for gays? Follow the jump for more…
December 16, 2007
Posted by: Chris
The news that Jodie Foster publicly thanked her "beautiful Cydney" at a Los Angeles women's banquet has apparently pushed the magic button that allows the mainstream media to finally acknowledge that the two-time Oscar winner is gay.
In a typical report, CNN's Kiki King discussed the development by saying, almost in passing, "of course she's been with Cydney Bernard for over 14 years now."
"Of course"? If Foster's long-term relationship was so obvious to the mainstream press, why did it take 14 years to report it, and only after Foster herself acknowledged it?
Here is the double standard on outing. When it comes to heterosexual celebrities, the entertainment media can't get enough, reporting every salacious detail they can get their hands on. And when closeted celebrities are caught in scandals, they'll jump in with gusto. But gay celebrities in happy, well-adjusted relationships -- whether Ellen or Rosie or Jodie (why are they all lesbians?) -- the public is told nothing about until the celebrity says OK. Even if the gay star shows up escorted in public by her partner at event after event.
The same type of double standard holds sway with closeted politicians as well, with those accused of shenanigans investigated without any regard to privacy. But it's hands off on those with long-term relationships until they come out. Mark Foley is an example of both standards.
The alternative I have advocated for years is "equality." Apply the same rules to gay and straight celebrities, and the same rules to gay and straight politicians. Ask about their personal lives, as they would otherwise, and report their answers, whether they lie, equivocate or refuse to answer. Then report the public facts that fit or contradict what they've said.
Digging deeper into their private lives is a judgment call, just as it is with straight politicians, that inevitably involves balancing the newsworthiness of the information versus how much personal privacy must be invaded to get it. It's unthinkable that a heterosexual Hollywood celebrity of Jodie Foster would have a 14-year-relationship that went completely unreported. It's way past time that it be unthinkable for gay celebrities, too.
December 07, 2007
Posted by: Chris
Coincidentally the very same week that an aide for a Democratic senator was busted for allegedly arranging a three-way with a 13-year-old male, a former aide to a Republican senator pleaded guilty to charges he met a 14-year-old on a gay hookup site and had sex with him, and on separate occasions a 12-year-old.
The liberal O.C. Weekly, which has doggedly reported Nielson's now longer alleged sexploits, has the details:
In open court, a somber Nielsen, who has extensive personal ties to Congressman Dana Rohrabacher and Orange County Republican Party boss Scott Baugh, gave Superior Court Judge David Thompson signed guilty pleas acknowledging two felonies: committing lewd acts on a 12-year-old Virginia boy and 14-year-old Orange County boy. In exchange, Nielsen, 37, received a three-year prison sentence.
Rohrabacher is a classic Orange County Republican, very conservative on social issues like Randy "Duke" Cunningham, who is now serving time for bribery and about whom gay rumors have surfaced. Rohrabacher's gay rights record is atrocious, including two votes for a federal marriage amendment and consistent scores in the teens or 0 on Human Rights Campaign report cards.
But Nielsen's nefarious dealings with the two teens occured after his employment with Rohrabacher, who is not alleged to know anything at all about it when they worked together. He did write a law school recommendation for Nielsen, though that was also before the molestation charges were first filed.
There are all sorts of parallels here to the arrest this week on child exploitation charges of Mike McHaney, a scheduler for Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and a former scheduler for Joe Solmonese at the Human Rights Campaign. I suggested that:
[Leftie] bloggers traffic in a double standard that says sexual misconduct is blogworthy only if it suggests hypocrisy; that is, only if it's committed by conservatives or those who work for them. Or, in the case of those bloggers who attempt to out conservatives and their staffers, no mis-conduct is required at all -- simply alleged gay sexual conduct, or even gay affiliation, such as showing up at gay parties or bars.
Of course I understand that hypocrisy is newsworthy and blogworthy, but if sexual misconduct says something about the credibility of conservatives, why doesn't it say anything about the credibility of liberals when it happens to one of their own? If McHaney worked for Trent Lott, for example, we'd be told that the scandal reflects on the legitimacy of Lott's position on gay rights and moral values.
So let's see how the leftie blogosphere has reacted to his story. For the most part, the gay blogs only started in on Nielsen after the plea agreement, but every indication that is only because the California case hadn't made it to their east coast radar. And with the obvious parallels to McHaney they could be expecgted to soft-pedal their glee over Nielsen. For example, Pam's House Blend reported on McHaney and Nielsen both this week, and thankfully resists the urge to visit the sexual sins of either staffer on his political boss.
But back in California…
The Liberal O.C. blog said this in November 2006, when Nielsen was on trial for the first time:
"Rohrabacher recommends a child molester": Nielsen worked for Rohrabacher, and met the first child (that we know of) that he raped while working in Rohrabacher’s D.C. office. That ties Rohrabacher to Nielsen. Rohrabacher also wrote a letter of recommendation in 1997 that helped Nielsen get into USC Law School. That also ties Rohrabacher to Nielsen. No matter how you cut it.
Similarly, the blog Republican of the Week chimed in just this week:
Republican activist and former aide to Orange County, Calif. congressman Dana Rohrabacher, Jeffrey Ray Nielsen, pleaded guilty to child molestation and in a plea deal will go to prison for three years. … Nielsen's defense included accusing "the liberal media" of being out to get him. When he was first arrested in 2003, he claimed he didn't know the boy was 14 years old. Rohrabacher claims he doesn't remember Nielsen but he wrote a recommendation for the child molester in his office to get into law school.
Raw Story, the liberal online newspaper with ties to gay outing activist-blogger Mike Rogers, also reported Nielsen's plea, and only in the last graph of the story informed its readers for the first time about Mike McHaney, the Maria Cantwell aide arrested last week. Rogers, who has outed low-level staffers on Capitol Hill and in the White House for being gay, despite a complete absence of sexual misconduct, has said nothing about McHaney on his blog.
And the aforementioned O.C. Weekly reported on the Nielsen story no fewer than eight times, even bringing to light the Virginia teen whose account eventually forced Nielsen to cop a plea. Kudos for that, although my point here is that there's no question in my mind that those sort of resources would never have been thrown after Nielsen if his ties were to liberal Democrats.
Of course the conduct here -- alleged as to McHaney and admitted to by Nielsen -- is perverted, immoral, exploitative and criminal. The evidence does not suggest either is strictly a pedophile, but instead it appears they are both gay men who betrayed the trust of teenagers in ways that are unconscionable to the vast majority of us.
Their political connections, liberal and conservative, aren't particularly relevant to their sexual misconduct. But the point is that's true for both of them, even though McHaney's boss has a good gay rights record and Nielsen's ex-boss has an atrocious gay rights record. The big "H" of hypocrisy does not trump all.
December 05, 2007
Posted by: Chris
An interesting debate is shaping up over how or whether gay media and bloggers will cover the arrest of gay Senate aide Mike McHaney (pictured here from his Friendster profile) for allegedly showing up for a three-way involving a 13-year-old male. I have argued that sex scandals like McHaney's illustrate the illogic and, at least, the over-emphasis on "hypocrisy" as the only factor in whether a sex scandal is newsworthy or blogworthy.
There can be little doubt that if McHaney were an aide to, say, Mississippi Sen. Trent Lott or some other anti-gay Republican, the blogosphere would be having a field day with the arrest. But as it turns out, McHaney works for gay-friendly Sen. Maria Cantwell, a Washington state Democrat.
The logic here is what fascinates me. It would be hypocritical for the aide to an anti-gay Republican to be busted as a sexual predator, but it's not hypocritical for the aide of a pro-gay Democrat. What does that say about pro-gay Democrats exactly? That we expect this sort of behavior from them and their staff? Or is that so long as you don't legislate morality, your own immorality and that of your staff doesn't "stick" on you?
Matt over at The Malcontent points out the one-sidedness:
Say what you want about Larry Craig, but no one is calling him a pederast.
And herein lies one of the chief problems with the leftists who decide whom they choose to out based on their political party: While they busy themselves with Republican closet cases and politicians who aren’t in favor with HRC, they tend to lose sight of equally bad or worse behavior in their own midst.
Now comes a response from Joe.My.God, who has been among the first and most extensive with coverage of gay sex scandals involving anyone right of center politically. Joe passed on the McHaney scandal entirely at first, then posted about it in response to my report that McHaney previously worked as Joe Solmonese's scheduler at HRC. Even still, Joe posted mainly to explain why he thinks the scandal still isn't blogworthy:
Sex crimes, gay and straight, occur every day. Does the gay blogosphere have a moral imperative to cover the crimes of relative nobodies, just because they work for politicians, especially when the perpetrators have no known anti-gay track record? I don't think so.
I've exhaustively covered the stories of major hypocrites like Ted Haggard and Larry Craig, and dangled unproven theories such as the recent Trent Lott hooker nonsense. But I've also left other unpleasant stories about Democrats and Republicans alone, for the reasons mentioned above.
By Malcontent's standards (and probably Chris Crain's), my hands are not clean. There may indeed be some "meat" to the McHaney story, that remains to be seen, and Crain is absolutely correct that we need to call out our own, even if it damages the movement. I just don't agree that we've been doing that bad of a job.
Joe's thoughtful post touches on the two central problems I have with how left-leaning gay bloggers handle the sex lives of those involved in politics (or, in Haggard's case, religion).
First, this exaggerated focus on the importance of hypocrisy as the only newsworthy or blogworthy angle to the sexual conduct of those in politics leads to all sorts of horrible intrusions into personal privacy. Gay bloggers on the left routinely traffic in rumor and unconfirmed innuendo involving the alleged intimate details of the sex lives of those they "report" on, whether or not misconduct or a crime is involved.
Second, these bloggers traffic in a double standard that says sexual misconduct is blogworthy only if it suggests hypocrisy; that is, only if it's committed by conservatives or those who work for them. Or, in the case of those bloggers who attempt to out conservatives and their staffers, no mis-conduct is required at all -- simply alleged gay sexual conduct, or even gay affiliation, such as showing up at gay parties or bars.
Of course I understand that hypocrisy is newsworthy and blogworthy, but if sexual misconduct says something about the credibility of conservatives, why doesn't it say anything about the credibility of liberals when it happens to one of their own?
If McHaney worked for Trent Lott, for example, we'd be told that the scandal reflects on the legitimacy of Lott's position on gay rights and moral values. Why doesn't the same hold true for McHaney's boss, gay-friendly Democrat Maria Cantwell? Is liberalism associated with a culture of permissiveness in which a Senate staffer could spend work time setting up a three-way with a 13-year-old? Or in which someone with a history of sexual impropriety could be shipped around among a top gay rights group, two Democratic presidential campaigns and a U.S. senator without anyone raising a red flag?
I don't necessarily think so, certainly about the permissiveness theory, but my point is it's one-sided and unbalanced -- and dare I say it? hypocritical -- to only make political judgments about the sex scandals of those you disagree with.
August 31, 2007
Posted by: Chris
As news broke today that Larry Craig is expected to resign tomorrow, I've thought better of my post a couple of days ago when I said in passing that I agreed with the calls for him to leave the Senate.
The National Gay & Lesbian Task Force has been among those to remind us that GOP calls for Craig to resign are in sharp contrast to the standing ovation received by Louisiana Sen. David Vitter after it emerged that his phone number was in the records of the so-called "D.C. Madam." Matt Foreman, the head of the Task Force highlighted the disparate treatment of the two senators this way:
Let’s see — one Republican senator is involved in soliciting sex from a man and the Republican leadership calls for a Senate investigation and yanks the rug from underneath him. Another Republican senator admits to soliciting the services of a female prostitute and there’s not only no investigation but the senator is greeted with a standing ovation by his Republican peers. What explains the starkly different responses? I’d say rank and homophobic hypocrisy.
It's a fair point and it's also noteworthy that Foreman does not call on either Vitter or Craig to resign. He's pointing out that the Republicans treated Craig's admission of guilt very differently than Vitters, based on homophobia, hypocrisy and, I would add, empathy. Member of the Republican congressional caucus, who allegedly delivered that standing ovation in response to an emotional apology by Vitter, can imagine themselves in his position much more easily than Craig's.
But those who would like to see both Craig and Vitter gone should remember the scandal that enveloped Barney Frank, the prominent Massachusetts Democrat, who was caught up in his own scandal involving a (male) prostitute back in 1990, just a few years after he publicly acknowledged for the first time that he is gay.
Like Vitter, Frank admitted hiring a prostitute, in his case Stephen Gobie, whom the congressman then befriended and allowed to share his Washington, D.C., townhouse. Even more damaging, however, were the House Ethics Committee findings that Barney used his office to influence the dismissal of 33 D.C. parking tickets and inappropriately encouraged Virginia officials to act favorably in Gobie's probation on a felony charge.
The committee decision, adopted by the House, was to reprimand Barney, who resisted calls including from the editorial page of the Boston Globe, to resign. He has gone on to serve with distinction, becoming an important and influential on a range of issues, including Bill Clinton's impeachment, gay rights and banking regulation.
In an interesting historical footnote, Larry Craig was an Idaho congressman and member of the House Ethics Committee member at the time of the Frank/Gobie scandal, and voted for the more serious punishment of censure. Apparently he believed about Barney, as he would later say famously about Clinton, that "he's a nasty, naughty, bad boy."
There are a few differences, of course, among these scandals. Craig was the only one to plead guilty to a crime, albeit a misdemeanor, and he's the only one not to admit the accusations, thus showing a lack of remorse. I'm not sure either of those difference rise to the level of requiring his resignation, and certainly Barney's use of his office is not unlike Craig's attempt to intimidate his arresting officers by flashing his Senate business card and saying, "What do you think of that?"
Of course the scandals involving Vitter and Craig highlight a hypocrisy with their "family values" posturing and opposition to equality for lesbian and gay Americans. But if hypocrisy were grounds for resignation, we'd need a lot more resignations and on both sides of the aisle. I would much rather have Vitter and Craig serve out their terms, as reminders of GOP hypocrisy, both now and next year, when both are up for re-election.
August 30, 2007
Posted by: Chris
As promised, Newsweek has posted my debate with Michelangelo Signorile about the ethics and effectiveness of outing, in the light of the Larry Craig scandal. They headlined it "Legitimate Journalism or Witch Hunt?" I'll let you guess who took what side…
Take a look and let me know what you think…
Posted by: Chris
Sorry to have been out of pocket, gang, but I've been participating in an email debate with Mike Signorile about whether the Larry Craig scandal is proof it's OK for the media to join in the effort to "out" anti-gay politicians. The debate is for Newsweek.com and should be posted soon; I'll be sure to offer a link.
Thanks to all for the great comments to my original post on Larry Craig, made in the wee hours after I learned of the story. A few clarifications so we can further focus the discussion:
By challenging the legal sufficiency of the case against Craig I wasn't suggesting that I buy his unintentionally hilarious explanation about having "a wide stance" on the toilet and searching on the floor for fluttering toilet paper. Of course I believe he was there to cruise for sex, either to take place there or somewhere else. I've since been educated by a friend and by this post by Rex Wockner about how two men can have sex underneath the divider of a public toilet stall. (I had assumed the two men would at least have to join each other in a stall or use a "gloryhole." It all sounds like an awful lot of work to me. Haven't these folks heard of the Internet?)
My point was that Craig's arrest isn't exactly something worth celebrating, even if you still find it novel and gratifying that some anti-gay politicians are self-loathing closet cases.
Also, my criticism of the media wasn't about coverage of his arrest — that's clearly news, especially since he pleaded guilty. My concern is that since Craig had previously been a target of Mike Rogers' outing efforts, that the outing activists will play "I told you so" to justify their tactics.
It comes down to this: It's disturbing enough that the police would arrest someone (famous and anti-gay or not) after stalking out a public toilet and reading sinister intent into toe-tapping and hand-waving. But it's really cause for concern if a few blogger-activists can seduce real journalists into trying to beat the real police to the punch, to the point of passing photos around public toilets (as the Idaho Statesman did) hoping to corroborate years-old accusations. We have quite enough sex police out there, thank you very much. We don't need a bunch of reporters and bloggers acting like keystone sex cops as well.
When Dan Popkey of the Statesman interviewed me months ago in his Larry Craig investigation, he came across as a smart and thoughtful journalist on a very unpleasant assignment. And kudos to him and his editors that they didn't publish a story about their investigation until after news of Craig's airport arrest and guilty plea surfaced.
But I told Popkey then and I believe even more strongly now, that the investigation itself set an incredibly dangerous precedent, that public figures have no expectation of privacy concerning their sex lives. It's noteworthy that when the Statesman finally published the results of Popkey's investigation, they didn't even confine themselves to confirming accusations of toilet cruising.
When only one such accusation panned out at least enough to be included, Popkey dug further and unearthed a 13-year old claim that Craig "made eyes" at someone in a sporting goods store (seriously!), and an ancient accusation that he made a pass at someone in 1967 during college. It just goes to show that witch hunts — and that's what this was — almost inevitably take on a life of their own. (Just ask Bill Clinton and Ken Starr.)
None of this is intended to defend Craig from accusations of hypocrisy or quiet calls for his resignation. He's clearly guilty of the former and ought to do the latter. But the downside of this story is much worse than its upside — in its coarsening of the culture, its effect on media coverage, in discouraging good people from entering politics, and on the image of gay men and the gay rights movement generally. That's what I'm hoping we'll see.
For a complete news summary about the Larry Craig scandal, go to gaynewswatch.com/larrycraig
August 28, 2007
Posted by: Chris
This time around it was years in coming. As you no doubt heard yesterday after Roll Coll broke the story, Idaho Sen. Larry Craig pled guilty to lewd conduct a month ago after he was arrested by an undercover officer in June in a public restroom at the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport.
The gay and leftie blogosphere is, of course, gleeful, as is practically every gay person I've talked to in the early hours after the scandal broke. I understand the indignation that rises up each time we see one of these "family values" types go down in flames. I just don't understand why we don't see the contradictions in how we cheer on the politics of personal destruction, however self-inflicted.
Even in the early hours of the Larry Craig scandal, a few angles to this story give me pause. First and foremost, was Senator Craig really guilty of lewd conduct? I'm no defender of public sex or public lewdness, but so far as I can see he engaged in neither. According to the arrest report, an undercover police officer whose unhappy task it was to sit for long periods in an airport toilet stall noticed that a man later identified as Craig was peeking through the crack over a period of two minutes while "fidgeting" his hands. (Craig said later he was waiting for an empty stall; one of many points the officer disputes.)
Once Craig was seated in the stall next to the officer, the senator put his roller bag against the front door of the stall. "My experience has shown that individuals engaging in lewd conduct use their bags to block the view from the front of their stall," Sgt. Karsnia of the airport police wrote in his arrest report. I guess those who use the bathroom "for its intended use," as Karsnia puts it in the report, choose to store their luggage in some more convenient location within the stall…?
Craig then "tapped his foot," reported Karsnia, who "recognized this as a signal by those who wish to engage in lewd conduct." I'll leave it to you whether there might be one or two or 13 more innocent explanations for such behavior.
Finally, Craig's foot tapping crept over into Karsnia's stall and even made contact with Karsnia's foot. Craig then swiped his hand a few times under the stall divider, enough that Karsnia could see his fingers and even his gold wedding ring — a point Karsnia made sure to include in his report.
Based on this and this alone, Craig was arrested for lewd conduct. Now I'll admit to being much more naive than Sgt. Karsnia about the etiquette of toilet sex, but exactly how was this lewd? Strange? Yes. Annoying? Absolutely. Lewd? Explain that to me again.
Let's assume for the sake of argument that Craig was somehow crudely indicating his sexual interest in Karsnia. The Supreme Court ruled in the landmark Lawrence vs. Texas decision that sex between consenting adults is constitutionally protected. Many states have correctly concluded that, as a result, solicitation of sodomy or other forms of sex, even when the conversation takes place in public, is also constitutionally protected. If conduct is constitutionally protected, then we have a First Amendment right to discuss it.
That protection falls by the wayside, as well it should, if Craig was not just soliciting a private sex act in a public place but actually intended for the sex itself to take place in public. Nowhere does the arrest report explain to us how Sgt. Krasnia made that leap of logic based on Craig's foot-tapping and hand-swiping.
The arrest report does indicate that Craig was late for a flight, so it may well have been some odd form of quickie was what was on his mind. But it also reported that Craig identified himself as a regular commuter through the airport, so another explanation might be that he wanted to set up some later rendezvous.
Yes, I know that Craig pled guilty to the charge, and it's on that point where he most clearly hoisted himself on his own petard. He was so afraid of how things would look that he lacked the nerve to defend himself and his rights — just as over the course of his life he lacked the nerve to accept his sexual orientation (whether bisexual or homosexual) and defend the rights of those who share those orientations.
The saddest part of the Larry Craig scandal to me is that it will only encourage and energize those who troll the sex lives of politicians in search of juicy slime to spread — as if that somehow makes the case for our equality. As for me, I don't favor arguing I have a right to privacy in my choice of sexual partners by invading that right in others, even if they are our opponents, and even if they are hypocrites.
We should take no joy in the ruin of Larry Craig's marriage and reputation — even if it is well deserved and a long time in coming. The man has known for two years now he was under intense scrutiny for rumors that he's gay and has sex in public toilets. Not since Bill Clinton have we been treated to a public figure so compulsively unable to control the little head with the big one.
But you won't find me arguing that somehow Larry Craig's self-destruction is an argument for my own equality. I can think of about 533 more effective arguments we could make that don't require someone else's ruin or suggest we all share some general (im)moral equivalence. Gay Americans are entitled to equal treatment and protection against discrimination whether or not every member of Congress who voted against gay rights has an utterly umblemished sexual history.
If Larry Craig really does troll public toilets for sex, it doesn't prove his "family values" rhetoric is claptrap anymore than Bill Clinton's infidelity proved his support for gay rights was the product of his promiscuity. The case for gay rights is compelling enough on its own merits. Let's not jump in the mud and join in the muckraking.
August 20, 2007
Posted by: Chris
When Merv Griffin died this month, many mainstream media obituaries dared to report what largely went unsaid throughout his long career: the legendary entertainer and entrepreneur was a closeted homosexual.
That news probably came as a something of a shock to most Americans old enough to remember Griffin’s incarnations as a big band singer, or high-brow talk show host, or creator of “Jeopardy” and “Wheel of Fortune.” That’s because over the years, especially during the peak of his celebrity, media mention of Griffin’s personal life was limited to photos of him with gal pal Eva Gabor of “Green Acres” fame, with no hint she was really his “beard.”
The willingness of some media outlets to pry open Merv’s closet door, at least after his death, would seem to represent a new maturity in how our society deals with homosexuality as a natural fact of life, rather than the secret shame it was for so many in Griffin’s generation.
Until now, the mainstream media could be counted on to “straight-wash” the lives of gay public figures, whether they were fully closeted in life or not. When R&B crooner Luther Vandross died two summers ago, the public mourned a “lifelong bachelor,” and the media missed the chance to report the irony that a man who built his legend singing about love and lust dared not speak, or sing, about his own.
Ditto when feminist and intellectual Susan Sontag died from cancer in December 2004. Even though a proper search would have turned up some discussion by Sontag about her longtime relationship with photographer Annie Leibowitz, the media deferred to dig.
Filmmaker Ismail Merchant was partnered personally and professionally with James Ivory for more than four decades, and that unique collaboration would have been the central storyline of retrospectives on Merchant’s life if Ivory had been female. But mainstream press accounts of Merchant’s death two years ago stuck to the work relationship.
Unfortunately, the news about Griffin being gay wasn’t in the context of a loving, longtime partner now left behind, or even happiness in coming to terms with his sexual orientation, however late in life. Instead, the obituaries rehashed two tawdry lawsuits from 1991.
One was a multi-million dollar palimony claim brought by Brent Plott, a former secretary-driver-bodyguard-horse trainer who claimed Griffin dumped him after a long live-in relationship. The second was filed by “Dance Fever” host Denny Terrio, alleging sexual harassment by Griffin, who created the show.
Both lawsuits were dismissed, although why isn’t exactly clear. Since gay couples are rarely recognized legally, gay palimony suits rarely succeed, and the U.S. Supreme Court didn’t authorize same-sex sexual harassment suits of the type brought by Terrio until 1998, so it’s simplistic to interpret Griffin’s court wins as a complete vindication.
Whether or not the suits had merit, they did give the media a convenient way to raise rumors about Griffin’s homosexuality in retrospectives about his life. That’s playing fair, if not nice, since a hetero palimony or sexual harassment suit would no doubt receive attention in an obituary about a straight celebrity, too.
But in a larger sense, the coverage of Griffin’s life after his death represents a lingering double standard that plagues reports about gay public figures. No doubt out of sympathy, the mainstream press usually defers to celebrities and other public figures when it comes to reports about a closeted same-sex relationship.
So all too often, the public only learns about a public figure being gay when they’re caught up in scandal. Reports on Merchant and Sontag ignored their long-time lovers, but slap Merv Griffin with a palimony suit from his horse trainer and the press pack is finally ready to ask “the question.”
This double standard doesn’t just come to life in a public figure’s death, either. The media turned a blind eye for years to Mark Foley’s long-term relationship with a Florida physician, so the public learned the Florida congressman was gay from graphic IM chats he had with pages. Former Arizona Congressman Jim Kolbe skated by the same way, until allegations from pages surfaced against him, too.
Singer George Michael lost a longtime lover to AIDS and even dedicated a CD to him, but the media left the subject of his homosexuality alone until he was arrested for offering sex to an undercover cop in a public toilet.
You get the picture.
Of course the other willing participants in the cover-up are the closeted celebrities themselves. Griffin was demonized by activists like Michelangelo Signorile for not coming out earlier. Ever the morally outraged gossip columnist, Signorile blasted Griffin for not clueing in his pals Ron and Nancy Reagan about AIDS, even though Signorile has no evidence he didn’t. For that sin, Griffin is apparently culpable for the horrific deaths of thousands.
Washington Post TV columnist Tom Shales rallied to Griffin’s defense, explaining away his closet saying the truth would have destroyed his career. That excuse might have worked in the ‘70s and maybe even the ‘80s, but Griffin and the world changed too much in the last 20 years for that dog to hunt. Just look at Lily Tomlin, for example. And shame on Shales for not fessing up to how questions of homosexuality and the closet are personal ones for him, too.
It takes two to tango, or in this case, perpetuate the double standard. Until the press is prepared to ask questions about happy romantic lives, it’s singularly unfair how they pounce on the scandals. And it’s even more revolting how leeches like Mark Foley or former New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey wait until they’re wallowing in scandal to milk coming out for public sympathy.
Are you listening, Anderson Cooper? Jodie Foster? Ricky Martin? How many more celebrity scandals — or funerals — do we need to get this right?
April 05, 2007
Posted by: Chris
To the "glass closet" examples of Anderson Cooper and Jodie Foster, Rex Wockner adds the example of Lily Tomlin, who (finally) acknowledged she was gay in a late 2000 interview on cable access TV (of all places) and even then did so almost in passing. From an article Wockner wrote at the time about the interview:
Speaking to journalist Ann Northrop in late November, Tomlin said: "I'm not going to make a big national case of it which is what, really, everybody would like to do, or some people. But in most articles, most people refer to Jane [Wagner] as my partner or my life-partner or whatever. ... We've been around so long and been through so much and I always kind of took a lot of stuff for granted and I just never -- I also never wanted to be anybody's spokesperson or poster person. You know, I see what happens to too many people."
Tomlin has subsequently talked about being gay in a number of interviews, almost all in the gay press. For whatever reason, the mainstream media has almost entirely ignored the story — perhaps because Tomlin has been mostly out of the spotlight for a number of years now, save a few movie roles here and there.
But I do have to roll my eyes a bit when Tomlin, like Rosie O'Donnell would later, claims never to have been "in" the closet, asking rhetorically how she could then come out. O'Donnell even had the nerve to act surprised at all the fuss (most of which she had scripted), pointing out that she had been accompanied by her girlfriend to many public events.
Yes, but the media was playing the tacit game of "wait for the celebrity" to open the closet door before including their partner in coverage. I remember one particularly notorious gossip item in a New York tabloid that mentioned Rosie had been accompanied by "an attractive blonde" to a Knicks game. Only a few nerds out there realize that "blonde" with an "e" refers to women, while "blond" with no "e" refers to a man. Talk about subtlety!
Mostly, Tomlin and O'Donnell's own history belies their claim to have never been "in" the closet. No celebrity who so studiously avoids talking about being gay or having a same-sex partner for that many years, knowing the rules of the "wait for the celebrity" game, can then with a straight face claim to always have been "open."
It's not as if Tomlin has any difficulty expressing herself...
April 04, 2007
Posted by: Chris
Gay gossip maven Michael Musto penned the current cover story of Out magazine, on how celebrities like Jodie Foster and Anderson Cooper have figured out a way to live gay lives fairly openly without the general public ever being the wiser.
The story is more interesting because of Out's ballsy cover illustration than in anything Musto wrote. After all the gay press, especially my alma mater the Washington Blade, has been writing about both Foster and Cooper, and their glass closets, for years.
But it's a bit of a hoot knowing that in bookstores across the U.S. and internationally, the magazine peering public will see too individuals holding masks of Foster and Cooper, over the headline "The Glass Closet."
I've stated and restated my view on "outing" for years: it's always fair for the media to ask "the question" of public figures and then let the person have their say. If they choose a non-answer, as Foster, Cooper, Clay Aiken, Ricky Martin, Sean Hayes and umpteen others have of late, then so be it. We all know that no bona fide heterosexual has ever refused to answer a question about their sexual orientation, so the non-answer is really an answer, after all.
There's almost never a justification for "going behind" the non-answer — or a claim of heterosexuality — in the case of entertainment celebrities. Only when public figures have actively worked against gay right does their sexual orientation become so newsworthy that it's worth delving some into their private lives. And even then, good editors are always balancing the newsworthiness on the one hand, and the degree of invasion into their personal life, on the other.
Musto does a good job of explaining how the "glass closet" phenomenon works, from the celebrity's rationale (some would say, rationalization) to the media's complicity. It's the latter that gets my goat far more than the former. The publishers of Out magazine — now Planet Out — certainly understand that rationalization, since the publication with the screaming-faggot name is delivered in a plain brown envelope that doesn't identify its contents.
I also like that Musto isn't afraid to point out the inevitable goofs when a glass-closeted celeb accidentally lets their little light shine from behind the bushel:
Keeping the glass up is a high-maintenance job, especially since many celebs are left to do it—or, more often, screw it up—alone. … That would explain the various slipups that happen when the luminaries take their own images by the balls. I was wildly amused some years ago when the terminally noncommittal Sean Hayes was asked by a newspaper interviewer what he likes in a partner and he blurted out that he’s “not into that gay ideal of musclemen.” This from the guy who refuses to label his sexuality. Whoopsy!
I have a similar story about Cooper, who angrily e-mailed me after the Blade reported, in matter of fact fashion, that Cooper had shown up for the GLAAD Media Awards in New York a few years back — before he was on CNN — and quipped from the stage that he hoped to find a boyfriend from the night's festivities. He can claim he's not out, but he said what he said and he didn't challenge the article's accuracy.
Clearly the celebrity treatment of homosexuality has trended along with society's acceptance of gay people. The days of Ellen (and even Rosie's) big coming out party already seem dated. The ho-hum reaction to T.R. Knight ("Grey's Anatomy"), Lance Bass (N Sync) and Neil Patrick Harris ("Doogie Howser, M.D.") isn't just due to their B-list status. As America cares less, so will celebrities.
And someday, both Jodie Foster and Anderson Cooper will ride that wave, and no doubt receive courage awards from gay rights groups when they finally do so.
March 06, 2007
Posted by: Chris
The blogosphere is all a-twitter with news that the handsome Latino Marine on all the news programs this week once worked in gay porn and advertised his services as an escort.
No, not that handsome Latino Marine, Edward Alva, who appeared at a press conference with Democratic Rep. Marty Meehan of Massachusetts calling for repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."
I'm talking about that handsome Latino Marine, Matt Sanchez who did the "O'Reilly" "Hannity" rounds to complain about how some socialist students at Columbia University were mean to him for being a minority in the military.
Blogger Joe.My.God gives the blow by blow:
If you are familiar with Cpl. Matt Sanchez, you probably know him as the handsome 36-year old Columbia University junior and USMC reservist who recently made the rounds of right-wing talk shows like "O'Reilly Factor" and "Hannity & Colmes," where he received praise for coming forward and complaining about his treatment at the hands of Columbia's "radical anti-military students" who called him names and mocked his military service. Sanchez was then feted at the CPAC conference where Ann Coulter made her "faggot" remark. Sanchez wrote an op-ed piece on the Columbia experience for the NY Post and began a blog and MySpace page chronicling his media exposure. …
Sanchez' face tinkled a few gay bells out there in fairyland, and [it turns out] Sanchez has had a lengthy career in gay porn, working under the names Rod Majors (NSFW) and Pierre LaBranche.
Sanchez hasn't denied anything, and since early posts by Joe and Tom Bacchus, blogger extraordinaire Andy Towle revealed that he actually went out on a few dates with Sanchez back in the late '80s. Since then, Sanchez has apparently given Joe a half-hour interview that left the liberal blogger impressed that the Columbia conservative is no "dumb bunny."
It will be interesting to see how the Sanchez story breaks. Liberals will scream "hypocrite!" which is their absolute favorite catch-all criticism. As applied to Sanchez, the charge seems particularly unfair. I'm not particularly sympathetic to his argument that Columbia should discipline his tormenters — if anything, there's your hypocrisy, since conservatives are supposed to be against campus speech regulations. But if you believe that gays should be able to serve in the military, and that there's nothing wrong with adult entertainment, then it's Sanchez service in uniform, not his servicing out of uniform, that should matter.
Or maybe some liberals will argue, as they did with Jeff Gannon before, that somehow it's hypocritical to be gay, conservative and have a sex life. I'm not sure they realize what they're really arguing: that something about selling sex for money (whether on film or in person) should make you a leftie.
The real travesty here is that coverage of Sanchez will dwarf coverage of Alva, who was the first U.S. service member injured in Iraq — he lost part of his leg — and his story of service with fear that he would be outed and discharged.
For video of Sanchez (on "O'Reilly," alas, not from his early work), follow the jump:
November 27, 2006
Posted by: Chris
Even thousands of miles from the U.S., standing in an airport in Salvador, Brazil, poor Anderson Cooper can't cruise guys in private. From today's Page Six gossip report in the New York Post:
Anderson Cooper was friendly at a Brazilian airport on Friday. "Hi, I'm Anderson," he said to the "attractive" man standing next to him at the flight connection monitors in the Salvador terminal, a spy told the Post's Braden Keil. The 25ish fellow was wearing a tight T-shirt, cut-off shorts and an earring. According to our witness, the unshaven, solo-traveling CNN star chatted for 20 minutes with the stranger before the fellow had to say goodbye and board his flight to Rio.
Anderson Cooper is among the highest profile openly closeted celebrities — by that I mean, he is unwilling to identify his sexual orientation. (Something, by the way, no straight man in history has been unwilling to do.) He is joined in those illustrious ranks by Sean Hayes (queeny "Jack" from "Will & Grace"), Ricky Martin, Clay Aiken and former New York Mayor Ed Koch. Talk about strange bedfellows.
But unlike those others, Anderson has at least strongly hinted that he's gay, albeit long before he was lead anchor at CNN. Back in the late '90s, Anderson showed up at a black-tie dinner for the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation in New York. Before making a presentation, he joked with the audience that he was at the event "hoping to find a date."
Looks like all these years later, despite rumors of another Latino boyfriend, he's still doing the same.
November 22, 2006
Posted by: Chris
President Bush is backing Florida Sen. Mel Martinez to be the new head of the Republican Party, replacing Ken Mehlman, who announced after this month's disastrous midterm elections that he's leaving the GOP to return to private life. The move to Martinez, who isn't expected to run the party day to day, is seen as a play for Latino voters, who turned away from the GOP this year after gains in previous elections.
Martinez is an ironic choice for the GOP, which regularly lashes out against affirmative action and tokenism, considering he will be the Latino leader of a party that has tried to make political hay out of punitive changes to this country's immigration laws. Martinez does, however, back the president's guest worker program, along with an unrealistic plan to fence the U.S.-Mexican border.
Some gay activists and bloggers cheered the departure of Mehlman, a Karl Rove protege, because they believe he is a closeted gay man who nonetheless implemented Rove's strategy of using gay marriage as a wedge issue in President Bush's 2004 re-election campaign. Don't expect more compassionate conservatism from Martinez, however. He's well versed in the use of mercernary closet cases.
In fact Martinez, who received a perfect "0" on the current Human Rights Campaign congressional scorecard and strongly backs a federal marriage amendment — had two closeted gay men on staff for his infamously anti-gay Senate campaign two years ago: Kirk Fordham (pictured), Martinez's finance director, made headlines this fall as the former staff chief for Mark Foley who tried to bribe ABC into not reporting the page scandal; and John Dowless, the former head of the Florida Christian Coalition who once suggested Gay Days at Disney put children at the theme park at risk of sexual predators. Dowless has a particularly long and checkered career in gay-baiting.
I've known Fordham for years and met Dowless in 2004 at an Orlando, Fla., gay bar — a conversation in which I identified myself as the editor of the Washington Blade, the nation's largest gay newspaper. Dowless nonetheless talked at length with me and a friend about his career in politics and his struggle with his sexual orientation. I chose to "out" him in a story published in July 2004 in the Express Gay News, a gay paper in Fort Lauderdale I oversaw at the time.
As noted, the 2004 Martinez campaign, with Fordham and Dowless on board, was infamously anti-gay, including ads erroneously identifying his GOP primary opponent as "the new darling of homosexual extremists" because he backed hate crimes legislation. Republican Gov. Jeb Bush even publically called on Martinez to back off after his campaign aired a radio ad adio that compared life in a country with same-sex marriage to life under Fidel Castro, "a totalitarian dictator who had no respect for the traditional values of family and faith." Martinez is originally from Cuba.
I remember Fordham trying to convince me back in '04 that Martinez was "a good guy" and only using the gay issue because he had to. I'm sure Mehlman said the same thing about Rove and Bush. In fact, Martinez's worst gay-baiting tactics in '04 were credited to none other than Rove himself. The selection of Martinez to replace Mehlman should be a reminder that outing — of Dowless in '04 or Mehlman in '06 — isn't much of a gay rights strategy.
It's also a reminder that the GOP is showing no signs of rediscovering the sunny optimism of Ronald Reagan, the "kinder, gentler" conservatism of George H.W. Bush, or even the compassionate conservativism W. promised in 2000. Martinez, like Rove and Mehlman, represents the dark, harsh, heartless conservatism the country rejected in 2006.
November 09, 2006
Posted by: Chris
Surely he didn't put it exactly this way:
CNN's John King just reported that Ken Mehlman will be leaving as chair of the Republican National Committee (i.e., head of the Republican party) by the end of the year. Apparently Kenny's just tuckered out. According to King, "He's been on the gerbil wheel, as one of his close friends put it, for well in excess of six years now and he's tired."
I just heard King report it again on Lou Dobbs' show, but sans the gerbil reference. Perhaps Mehlman is simply exhausted from six years of cynical wedging gay Americans, but the timing will definitely raise eyebrows. So will Bill Maher go forward with his plans for outing Mehlman on Friday?
Posted by: Chris
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.
All 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!
November 02, 2006
Posted by: Chris
File this videoclip away under "What in the hell was he thinking?" Right alongside Gary Hart daring the press to prove he had been unfaithful to his wife, or Bill Clinton claiming he never had sex with "that woman." Or better yet, file it away under "His Karma Ate His Dogma":
This is Rev. Ted Haggard, who resigned today from the National Association of Evangelicals, and took a leave of absence from his 14,000-member church amid allegations that he paid a male escort for sex over a three-year period.
It's on YouTube courtesy of the folks behind "Jesus Camp," a now-must-see documentary about the training of "Christian youth to assume leadership roles" in the evangelical movement. Read more below for why even such brazen hypocrisy isn't cause for glee.
(Hat tip: Pam's House Blend)
Posted by: Chris
Now from Colorado comes news that Rev. Teg Haggard (pictured, left) has resigned as president of the National Association of Evangelicals, and taken a leave of absence from his 14,000-member church amid allegations that he paid a male escort for sex over a three-year period. The resignation came even though Haggard is denying the accusations, or that he has even met the escort.
The escort, who said his last encounter with Haggard was in August, told the Denver Post he has known for two years now that the man who identified himself as "Art" was actually Haggard, after seeing him on television. He said he decided to come forward only after Haggard became vocal in support of a constitutional amendment on the ballot next Tuesday that would ban Colorado from marrying gay couples. Haggard also opposes a ballot referendum, backed by gay rights groups, that would extend some limited domestic partnership recognition to same-sex couples. More from the Post:
The former prostitute, Mike Jones, 49, of Denver, went public with the accusations on Tuesday, saying he felt compelled to do so because he believes Haggard, a strong opponent of same-sex unions, has been hypocritical. Haggard is married with five children.
"I made myself cry and I made myself sick," Jones said about his decision to come forward. "I felt I owed this to the community. What he is saying is we are not worthy, but he is." Jones says he was contacted three years ago by Haggard for sex — he thinks through a gay newspaper advertisement or an online ad he posted on Rentboy.com.
Jones showed the Post reporter an envelope he said was sent by Haggard to pay for a past sexual encounter, and he played a voicemail as well. But even though the reporter heard the voicemail, the article indicates cryptically: "Jones refused to reveal what the topic of the voicemail was about because there could be legal problems and he wants to consult with an attorney."
Some on the gay left are basking predictably in the calamitous fall of another right-wing hypocrite, but we should take no joy in how this man's family will pay the price for his hypocrisy. Whatever Jones' intent, the Haggard story isn't likely to improve the odds of the marriage amendment failing or the D.P. referendum passing. If anything, it's more likely to galvanize conservatives, much as "the politics of personal destruction" rallied those on the left (and the middle) when Bill Clinton was the target.
If, in fact, Reverend Haggard is a gay man who married a woman, had a family, and yet paid men for sex on the side, then the saddest part of the story is that he probably did view homosexuality as a threat to "the family" and to marriage. For him, it was. And all those gay couples leading happy lives and seeking equal treatment from their government? They are a living-breathing condemnation of the path he felt forced to take. They chose to have their cake (accepting their homosexuality), and now they want to eat it, too (with societal acceptance).
Only Haggard knows whether his anti-gay crusade was motivated by his personal demons — because if he's gay, that's surely how he viewed his homosexuality. But beyond all the tawdry headlines, let's hope fair-minded Coloradans here the real message behind our movement: We seek for ourselves the same things out of life as heterosexuals, and more than that, we want to prevent personal tragedies like Ted Haggard's — the almost inevitable consequence of a gay person trying, through sheer will and/or religious faith, to enter into a heterosexual marriage. The world we envisage doesn't involve such horrible choices, with their absolutely inevitable "collateral damage" — the innocent victims, like Ted Haggard's wife and five children.
October 28, 2006
Posted by: Chris
Most of America was indignant and, even more so, turned off when Ken Starr issued his moralistic, sex-drenched report on Bill Clinton's philanderings with Monica Lewinsky. It represented for many the Puritan-yet-prurient streak that runs through the right-wing of the Republican Party, obsessed that someone somewhere might actually be having fun.
The last few years have reminded us, however, that the sex police on the Left can be even more intrusive and personally destructive, from the boundary-free outing campaigns of gay activist Michael Rogers to the self-appointed hypocrisy cops like John Aravosis at AmericaBlog, who for months on end gleefully begged readers to view every naked photograph and fetish description from Jeff Gannon's old escort ad.
Add to that Hall of Infamy the judgment-free "journalism" of Bob Norman at the Broward-Palm Beach New Times, who has made a name for himself delving into the sex lives of Florida Republicans. In his latest salvo, Norman devotes 2,000 words to blow the lid off of anonymously-sourced party gossip that Republican gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist had sex with a young gay Republican activist. Any editor worth his salt would have recognized Norman's article for what it is, a reporter's notebook full of unconfirmed (in fact, denied) allegations dumped into a story.
Unlike even Rogers, Norman has no direct facts to support his basic assertion. Crist (pictured) denies it, as does the young GOP activist, Jason Wetherington (also pictured). The "evidence" consists of unnamed sources who claim that 21-year-old Wetherington bragged of having sex with Crist at two private parties.
So this is what passes for journalism these days? Norman can invade the sexual privacy of not only Crist, who is at least a public figure, but a 21-year-old staffer, only because two sources unwilling to have their names used claim the youngster made a sexual boast at a couple of parties?
And it doesn't stop there. Norman went on to print claims by the unnamed sources that Crist supposedly has a long-term romantic relationship with a man with a criminal record for embezzlement. Again, Crist and the man, Bruce Carlton Jordan, both deny it, as does Jordan's family. But the party gossip is enough for Norman (and his editors) to go to press.
Some inquiry behind perpetual bachelor Crist's claim to heterosexuality is justified, as I've written before, because he favors a constitutional amendment banning gays from marrying and Florida's uniquely cruel ban on gay adults adopting children. But bedside reporting from the Left is every bit as disgusting and destructive as bedside prosecution from the Right.
And as I've noted before, it discourages honest reporting about the sexual orientation of public figures, by associated fair questions about who a politician is with unfair questions about what he does in his bedroom.
October 21, 2006
Posted by: Chris
Earlier today I posed the question whether gay politicians are essentially disqualified from office in conservative, "red" states due to the bias of their constituents, and if so, does that justify running for office from inside the closet?
In 1985, Max Linn took a three-month program called Leadership St. Petersburg that focuses on grooming future leaders in business and politics. One of his classmates in the program was Charlie Crist, who is now Florida’s attorney general and the Republican nominee for governor.
Linn, who is running against Crist on the Reform Party ticket, said there were only about 20 people in that 1985 class. “So you got to know everybody,” Linn said.
According to Linn, during the course of conversations with Crist he learned that the future attorney general is gay. The two talked about “what would happen if [Crist’s sexual orientation] comes out” during a political campaign, Linn said.
Linn kept quiet about Crist’s alleged gay secret for more than 20 years until he launched his third-party bid for governor. But on Oct. 11, National Coming Out Day, Linn “outed” Crist on WFTL, a South Florida radio show.
“Charlie, come out, come out from wherever you are,” Linn said on the radio show.
Crist has been dogged for years by rumors that he is gay, despite repeated denials and a 1979 marriage that lasted seven months. His record on gay issues, Phil LaPadula of the Express reports, has been a mixed bag of shifting positions, which makes him no worse than most politicians from either party and a decided moderate in the Florida GOP.
On the plus side, Crist has said that civil unions for gay couples are "fine" with him, a surprising position as strong as that taken by the leaders of the national Democratic Party, including former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean. On the minus side, he opposes gay marriage (as does Dean) and signed a (failed) petition to put a gay marriage amendment on the November ballot, a position no worse than John Kerry, the Democratic nominee for president two short years ago.
Crist has danced around whether he favors repealing Florida's uniquely cruel ban on single gay adults adopting children, and whether he favors basic non-discrimination legislation. But he has come out in favor of hate crime laws and school bullying protections that specifically target anti-gay harassment.
That gay rights record is in the same ballpark as another closeted Florida Republican: disgraced Congressman Mark Foley. In fact, the two have known each other for decades. The thumbnail photo here was snapped by Ocala Pride, an ironically named non-gay publication in Ocala, Fla.
Follow the jump for what Crist and Foley have in common:
Posted by: Chris
No, it's not a sign welcoming home Idaho Sen. Larry Craig (R) the subject of a D.C.-based "outing campaign." It's the message board sign outside the landscape supply and horse-boarding business owned by Joe Valentine in Post Falls, Idaho. The side of the message board visible for southbound travelers was even more hospitable: "Don't fruit with Idaho. Kill Yo-Yo Boy."
According to a story in the Spokane Spokesman-Review, the same paper that reported Craig's denial of gay rumors, Valentine didn't post the sign to target the Republican senator:
According to Valentine, “Yo-Yo Boy” is his nickname for convicted killer and child molester Joseph Duncan, who killed three members of a Coeur d’Alene family and allegedly abducted two children from the family home so he could rape and molest them.
“People are kind of numb. I think they need to wake up a little bit,” said Valentine, who drives classic cars emblazoned with the Confederate flag. One has a horn that plays “Dixie.”
With enlightened constituents like Valentine, ready to smear all gay people based on the depraved acts of one homicidal (not homosexual) pedophile, it's easy to imagine why an aspiring gay politician might want to remain in the closet.
I'm among the first to criticize elected officials for hiding their homosexuality because it's politically inconvenient, but raw bigotry like Valentine's does pose an interesting question: Should gay candidates be essentially disqualified from office, or at least higher, statewide office, based on the intolerance of their constituents?
Outing activists would probably argue that so long as they don't stake an anti-gay policy positions — and Larry Craig has among the worst gay rights records in the U.S. Senate — then it's OK to serve from inside the closet. But is hypocrisy the only justification for inquiring into a public official's sexual orientation (not sex life)? What about deceiving constituents in general about who they are? Is that lie justified by the likely career damage based on bigotry that would be caused from being honest?
October 20, 2006
Posted by: Chris
Alex Koppelman's newly posted piece in Salon offers a fascinating glimpse at the way the mainstream media dance around questions of sexual orientation, even when they involve newsworthy questions for public figures who are elected officials. He fairly (and generously) quotes me, along with Kevin Naff, my successor at the Blade, for the proposition that the time has come to end the double-standard in how sexual orientation gets reported in the mainstream media.
Mark Leibovich, a reporter with the New York Times, offered Koppelman the classic "MSM" approach. The Times policy manual states a pretty clear rule to follow: "Cite a person's sexual orientation only when it is pertinent and its pertinence is clear to the reader." And yet Leibovich, following an unwritten convention adhered to most mainstream journalists, adds an additional hurdle the press would never countenance in almost any other context involving a public official: It has to be OK with the story subject, too.
"We don't out people," [Leibovich] says. "It has to be relevant to the story. But if there's someone who's openly gay, and it's relevant, then we'll report that."
Asked what he defines as "openly gay," Leibovich answered, "Someone who has introduced themselves as such and basically who considers themselves openly gay. We generally leave the standard up to the person involved."
Similarly reluctant was Peter Wallsten, the Los Angeles Times reporter who was first in the mainstream press to report this month that Kirk Fordham's, Mark Foley's former chief of staff, is gay — two years after Fordham (pictured) had been outed by activists in the Washington Blade:
“I don’t think it was sufficient that it was in the Blade,” Wallsten states. He says he was certain that Fordham would not be troubled by how the paper described him, but won't specify how he knew that. “I had indications that it was not a problem.” He included the information because, he says, it was "important and noteworthy" in the context of the story.
But Wallsten wouldn't have reported the "important and noteworthy" fact that Fordham is gay unless Fordham wouldn't have been troubled by it? Wouldn't elected officials love it if they could select other "important and noteworthy" facts about their lives that are squarely relevant and newsworthy and single-handedly declare them off-limits even to reporters who already know them?
Follow the jump to find out how mainstream journalists justify the cover-up:
October 19, 2006
Posted by: Chris
Activist-blogger Michael Rogers bragged yesterday that his attempt to "out" Republican Sen. Larry Craig of Idaho topped Technorati's list of "top searches." But as much play as Rogers (pictured) is getting on the blogosphere, the mainstream media so far ain't biting. Even Craig's hometown paper, the Idaho Spokesman-Review, had an internal debate over whether even to cover the "outing" and ended up burying the story, in which Craig denies the claim as "ridiculous."
Part of the problem lies with Rogers if he "refuses to name his sources," as the Spokesman-Review reported. Even if Rogers made a deal to protect the anonymity of those sources, he should encourage them to talk to the Spokesman-Review on the same condition. If the evidence is so overwhelming, as Rogers claims, then let it speak for itself — or, in this case, them speak for themselves.
October 18, 2006
Posted by: Chris
Mike Rogers has done it again. The blogger-activist who made headlines two years ago outing gay (mostly Republican) members of Congress and staffers, today claimed that Idaho Sen. Larry Craig (also Republican) is a closeted gay man. Rogers claims to have spoken with four men — one in Washington, D.C., and three back in Idaho — who in turn claim to have had sex with Craig. None of the four men is identified, and Rogers indicates they don't know each other and yet still identified "physical characteristics" from Craig that lent their stories credibility.
Craig's hometown newspaper reports the senator has called Rogers' claim "ridiculous."
Rogers claims the "outing" of Craig, who is married with two children, is justified because he has a horrible track record on gay rights. That much is for certain: He has received a zero on every scorecard from the Human Rights Campaign, the D.C.-based gay rights group, during his current, six-year term. To earn a zero on all those scorecards, Craig opposed not only gay rights legislation, but a number of fairly non-controversial HIV/AIDS measures. He has also refused to adopt a policy not to discriminate in his own office on the basis of sexual orientation, something even many Republicans with poor gay rights records have been willing to do.
Follow the jump to find out why this 'outing' was a bad idea…
October 16, 2006
Posted by: Chris
For years, the mainstream media deliberately avoided reporting on Mark Foley's personal life. Now that the Florida congressman has resigned in disgrace over a sex scandal, it's no holds barred.
In its cover story last week, Newsweek quotes an anonymous "friend" to report that Foley's double life included a series of affairs with men who, like Foley, already had boyfriends. That way, they both had something to lose; "mutually assured destruction," he supposedly joked.
Yet in the same issue, Newsweek took heat from readers angry that the previous week's cover story on photographer Annie Leibovitz "straight-washed" her long-term relationship with now-deceased author Susan Sontag. The lengthy profile referred to Sontag only as "the person [Leibovitz] was closest to." (The tiny credit on this photo of Leibovitz, from the Newsweek cover story, indicates it was taken by Sontag.)
Why is the media so willing to dig into the personal lives of gay public figures when the subject is seedy, and so reluctant to even ask "the question" of public figures whose lives aren't tainted by scandal?
Follow the jump for the questions Barry Manilow and Luther Vandross won't answer: