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    October 10, 2006

    A Huff and a puff…

    Posted by: Chris

    For almost two days, the blog-news compilation site Huffington Post included a prominent tease at the top of the home page that TV networks were working on a story about inappropriate conduct with pages by gay Republican Congressman Jim Kolbe.  Now that mention has disappeared in a puff of smoke, without any emerging story to deliver the goods.

    Waiting to confirm facts before reporting them is what separates journalists from rumor-mongerers.  It's too easy for people to conclude that where there's smoke, there's fire.  Spreading rumors that Jim Kolbe — or anyone else — might have engaged in predatory behavior is not only irresponsible, it plays on the worst kind of anti-gay stereotypes.

    You would think that Arianna Huffington herself would no better than to rumor-monger about the private lives of others. After all, she endured quite a bit of very personal press after Michael Huffington came out as bisexual during the course of the couple's 1997 divorce. Several years earlier, Michael had been narrowly defeated by Dianne Feinstein for a U.S. Senate seat from California.

    As for Kolbe, he is something of an enigma. The Arizona Republican was in the closet for much of his political career, coming out in 1996 only after he feared he was about to outed by the Advocate for voting in favor of the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act. (Mark Foley was targeted by outing activists in the same timeframe, but stayed in the closet.) Since coming out, Kolbe's voting record has been considerably more pro-gay, though he has never renounced his vote for DOMA.

    I took Kolbe to task earlier this year in a Washington Blade editorial for not using his influence on immigration issues — press reports indicated he was a key White House ally in a sea of xenophobic House Republicans — to introduce into the national debate the Uniting American Families Act. Kolbe is a co-sponsor of UAFA, which allows gay Americans to sponsor their same-sex partners for immigration purposes in the same way straight Americans can.

    Kolbe had attended a Log Cabin Republican black-tie dinner in Washington weeks earlier with his boyfriend, who is a Panamanian national in the U.S. on a temporary visa. Even though the issue hit so close to home, Kolbe insisted there was no point in raising UAFA because it didn't have the votes to pass and the immigration debate was difficult enough without it.

    Looking back, I also could have pointed out that Kolbe's boyfriend (partner?) is much, much younger than the Arizona congressman, who at 64 has already announced this is his last term in Congress. Of course, having a 20-something boyfriend by no means proves the "developing story" teased by Huffington's site, but at least it's a fact — and one the media would have reported days ago if Kolbe were straight.



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