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    July 11, 2007

    HRC's 'historic' presidential forum

    Posted by: Chris

    Hillaryjoe The Human Rights Campaign and the Logo TV network announced yesterday that they will host a presidential candidate forum in August. Initially only Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were confirmed to appear, but John Edwards signed on by the afternoon.

    The HRC-Logo press release, dutifully repeated sans scrutiny by dozens of blogs and gay, straight and even anti-gay media outlets, called the forum "historic."  How, exactly, do HRC and Logo claim it is "historic"?

    This event … marks the first time in history the major presidential candidates will address a live GLBT television audience…

    That statement is about as true as HRC's claim to have 700,000 members. In fact, the very same organization (under different leadership) hosted a forum of Democratic presidential candidates on July 15, 2003. Let's compare them, shall we?

    2003 event:

        * 7 of 9 Democratic candidates
        * live gay audience of 500
        * gavel-to-gavel nationwide coverage on CSPAN
        * moderated by ABC News senior correspondent Sam Donaldson, who pressed the candidates on gay marriages vs. civil unions and gays in the military, noting that their positions largely matched otherwise
        * HRC executive director Elizabeth Birch called the event an historic first

    2007 event:

        * only 3 of 8 Democratic candidates confirmed
        * live "studio audience"
        * live coverage on Logo and LogoOnline.com
        * moderated by recording artist Melissa Etheridge and HRC director Joe Solmonese
        * HRC calls the event an historic first

    So in 2003, HRC hosted almost all the candidates to a forum in front of a large and boisterous audience and subjected them to one of journalism's most well-known aggressive questioners and broadcast the whole thing on a universally available basic cable channel to an audience of both gay and straight Americans.

    This time around, only 3 of 8 candidates will answer questions from non-journalists before a Logo TV audience largely limited, in the cable systems that carry the network, to gay people. Anyone who's heard the Solmonese radio show on XM knows he makes even Larry King look like, well, Sam Donaldson by comparison. But contempt for real media (gay and straight, old and new) is par for the course for HRC under Solmonese, and so is allowing HRC to be co-opted by "gay-friendly" Democrats to avoid upsetting them.

    This bastardization of "historic" by HRC and Logo reminds me of the time President Bush talked on CNN about the passage of his "No Child Left Behind Act." He called the legislation "historical," which was pretty "ironical," considering the law focused on educating our youth (about things like the difference between "historic" and "historical").

    In Bush's case, we've come to expect him to be unintentionally hysterical. In the case of HRC, unfortunately their "historic" event will be likely prove to be "historical."



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    1. KipEsquire on Jul 11, 2007 7:10:09 AM:

      This does not diminsh your thesis, which I endorse, but Dodd has also indicated he will participate.


    1. Andoni on Jul 11, 2007 8:52:49 AM:

      Well done.

      It seems that we are in a culture where it doesn't matter what the truth (reality) really is, what matters is what the people in charge say the truth (reality) is. This modus operandi is directly from the Bush White House play book since they took office... and as I recall even during the campaign leading up to their victory.

    1. John D. on Jul 11, 2007 12:20:04 PM:

      Are the Log Cabin Rs going to host a debate with the R candidates? And if so, would any of them actually attend---or acknowledge the existence of the Log Cabin Republicans? Just curious. History shows that Republican Presidential or Congressional candidates love to discuss gay issues every even-numbered year in order to pander to their rural and southern base of bigots...but how would that redneck base react if all of their cherished candidates appeared at a Log Cabin-sponsored debate? We all know it will never happen.

    1. Bill on Jul 11, 2007 12:56:32 PM:

      The HRC is an embarrassment to the LGBT community, but no one remembered to tell these queens & lesbyterians here in Dallas who provide them with their largest annual fundraiser. Imagine how (importantly) different things might be if the +$1 million dollars siphoned out of our city by Mary Salmonese and her Clinton Closet Cabinet had instead been invested in electing the first gay mayor of a major city in the run-off last month.

    1. Chris on Jul 11, 2007 1:16:34 PM:

      A friend just brought this blog posting to my attention. I think you make some excellent points.

      I would have liked to seen HRC and Logo announce the event while also blasting those who have declined or yet to respond to the invitation by saying they seem to have time to devote to the main debates, so why not one focused on gay issues? There is no excuse for Joe Bidon or Chriss Dodd to get a pass due to 'scheduling conflicts.’ We all know if MSNBC or CNN called on a Friday and said they were hosting a debate on Saturday, they would drop whatever was on their ‘schedule’ to appear. So they should be called out and shamed into appearing.

      In principal, I agree with what you have to say regarding the "event" being televised on Logo only. I think it is necessary for Logo (which is after all committed to airing programming that is gay related) to air the debate, but they should have worked with HRC to find an additional outlet to air it as well. As much as I watch CSPAN, I can't help but feel that while Logo is mainly directed to/watched by the gay community, the same could be said for the political junkies who watch CSPAN and thus the viewership will still be underwhelming -- for issues that are important and should be addressed in front of a larger audience.

      As for the moderators -- I simply don’t know what to say really. If you want to get a high profile person like Melissa to serve on the panel, that's fine. I’m sure she can bring something to the debate that would helpful even if it’s just a few more viewers who were drawn to the fact that she is appearing on the debate. But for the love of all things holy give the debate some credibility and anchor it with a real news interviewer!

      Sadly this is typical of HRC -- just when it seems they take two steps forward...they are really three steps behind.

    1. Citizen Crain on Jul 11, 2007 1:17:51 PM:

      John D., if your point is that Republicans are better than Democrats on gay issues, then my answer would be, "Duh." No one is questioning that. I never have. It's painfully obvious.

      My point is that HRC is not supposed to be the Democratic-equivalent of Log Cabin. We have the Stonewall Democrats for that. HRC is supposed to put gay rights first and partisan interests second.

      That means not agreeing a cozy, self-promotional, ghettoized "forum" that is highly unlikely to keep up the pressure on the Democrats, who are after all seeking our support, to offer support in return our full equality.

    1. Sean on Jul 11, 2007 7:04:16 PM:

      Chris, I'm appreciative that you keep gay people accountable to better themselves and the community. But with your thorough research is it actually affecting the policies at the HRC? Do they pay attention? And do any readers of this blog actually write to the HRC to improve their act?

      I'm sickened that the HRC has sold out. We can't have gay organizations basically letting politicans get away with the least they can do to advance civil rights for gay people. Politicans have to be held accountable.

    1. Citizen Crain on Jul 11, 2007 8:07:11 PM:

      Sean, it's funny I was just talking to another gay journalist about this today. My answer is of course it has an impact -- especially over time.

      In the case of HRC's debate, they announced on their blog midday today that they are going to hire a "top notch" journalist moderator to join Melissa and Joe with the candidates. So there's some results right there.

      Plus if they are this bad knowing that we're out here watchdogging, imagine what they'd try to pull if they didn't think anyone was paying attention.

      Hopefully the gay press (especially) won't succumb to the trend of simply regurgitating press releases just to be "fast" with "news." I was shocked how many places the HRC-Logo press release showed up pretty much without any scrutiny whatsoever.

      For shame...

    1. Brian Miller on Jul 11, 2007 8:24:29 PM:

      Once again, HRC acts as the analogue to Log Cabin, not as a "nonpartisan" group.

      Where are the other Democrats? Where are the Republicans? Where are the Libertarians and Greens? Where are the independents who are appearing on a majority of state ballots?

      What, precisely, are we supposed to "learn" from this closed, heavily moderated affair?

    1. Rob Power on Jul 11, 2007 9:19:09 PM:

      Anyone interested in an online "shadow" debate for all the candidates excluded from HRC's "forum"?

      Let's face it -- the reason the turnout is so low isn't that candidates are turning down HRC, but rather that HRC is turning down candidates.

      Does anyone here honestly think that, if Joe could get away with just having a Clinton-Obama we-support-separate-but-equal-fest on primetime TV, he wouldn't do exactly that? (It still kills me to see a black presidential candidate defending separate but equal.)

      My guess is that Edwards hadn't even been invited, and his campaign threatened to expose the HRC-HRC conflict of interest if not allowed in the "forum." I'm sure we'll read something to that effect in a campaign staffer's tell-all book in a couple of years.

    1. John D. on Jul 12, 2007 11:57:41 AM:

      From HRC site.
      "We learned today that Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) will be attending the forum. Still waiting to hear from Governor Richardson....

      We did make an effort to have a Republican debate as well. The Foundation's first ground rule was that we needed to get confirmations from at least two of the top three candidates on either side before we'd proceed with any forum. On the GOP side, Mitt Romney said no -- and we never heard back from Rudy Giuliani or John McCain. That's right: no response. Furthermore, none of the Republican presidential candidates returned HRC's questionnaire. Without any responses from any of the top three Republicans, there would obviously be no GOP debate.

      Once we received affirmative responses from Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama, we proceeded with working with LOGO to plan the Democratic forum. Then, John Edwards also said yes."

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