AmericaBlog's John Aravosis Nails It
Bush's Closet Heterosexuals
Radar thinks the ambiguous sexual orientation of rabid Republicans is a valid story. Why doesn’t the rest of the media?
by John Aravosis
This week President Bush’s second Supreme Court nominee, Harriet Miers, joined the swelling ranks of high-powered Republicans with, um—how to put it?—ambiguous sexual orientations. The club of what we’ll call “closet heterosexuals” also includes such luminaries as the very single Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman, California congressman David Dreier, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Miers, 61, has never been married, has no kids, doesn’t appear to have any serious love interests, and has a special place in her heart for softball. Does that make her a lesbian? Of course not. But is it kosher to pose the question or just to report on the fact that others are asking it? According the mainstream media, no.
With Mehlman, Dreier, and Rice the mainstream press has simply refused to report on long-standing rumors about each of them. A reporter for a major newspaper told me that his paper had asked Mehlman about the rumors last year, but when Mehlman refused to affirm on the record that he was straight, the editors killed the article. Why? The fact that the incoming head of the Republican Party—which, after all, put the subject of sexual orientation front and center in the cultural wars—won’t publicly commit to liking women is about as legitimate a story as I can think of.
Similarly, at last summer’s GOP convention I watched Dreier refuse to answer a point-blank question from radio show host Michelangelo Signorile (who isn’t really a member of the mainstream media) about whether he was straight.
SIGNORILE: There have been a lot of rumors that you yourself are gay. People feel it’s hypocritical of you not to speak on the subject of same-sex marriage.
DREIER: I have spoken out very, very vigorously in opposition to amending the U.S. Constitution, which is really the key question and the key issue here.
SIGNORILE: Any comment on the rumors about your own sexual orientation?
DREIER: No. You know, there are an awful lot of people out there who try to do harm to a lot of individuals, and I believe it is absolutely wrong. And so I’m not going to get into anything like that.
SIGNORILE: So you are— Are you saying you’re heterosexual?
DREIER: No, I’m not going to talk about this issue.
Contrary to Dreier’s wishes, the issue resurfaced last week, when he mysteriously lost what seemed to be his shoo-in status as replacement house majority leader for the indicted Tom DeLay. The speculation all over the blogs was that Dreier’s unclear sexual orientation may have been the deciding factor in his not getting the job. In the Monday-morning quarterbacking articles about Dreier’s being passed over, however, no one in the major media mentioned the possible impact of the rumors.
And then there’s Rice. Rumors about her sexuality have long since become late-night TV monologue fodder. The 50-year-old bachelorette’s greatest ambition, after all, is to become commissioner of the National Football League. And while nobody has found a smoking gay gun for her, don’t tell that to Fox News. Recently, the network’s James Rosen seemingly tried to match-make Rice with one of Fox’s female anchors.
ROSEN: I close with a gift for you. You met this person once, I believe, but you really, I think, ought to know each other because this woman is… I think you’ll have an interest in knowing her. She is one of our Fox News anchors in New York. Her name is Lauren Green. She is brilliant, she’s beautiful, she’s African-American, she’s single, and she’s a concert pianist in her spare time.
RICE: My goodness.
ROSEN: And she asked me to give you her CD, and I promised her that I would.
RICE: That’s perfect.
ROSEN: And here’s her doing a number of different classical pieces.
RICE: Well, that’s special.
ROSEN: So there you have it.
RICE: Thank her very much and I look forward to seeing her sometime.
ROSEN: All right. She’s going to want to hear from you.
RICE: And maybe even playing dual piano sometime.
It’s understandable why reporters don’t want to traffic in rumors. Rumors are by their very nature unsubstantiated, and getting sued is no fun. But when the chattering swells to a deafening roar in the blogosphere, that sound is heard by policymakers in DC and is likely to affect their decisions. It’s one thing for journalists to ignore a rumor; it’s quite another to ignore the impact that rumor may have on real world events.
Even if the mainstream media had the goods on Mehlman, Dreier, Rice, or Miers to report, it probably wouldn’t, on the grounds that a politician’s private life is off limits. Clinton getting a blowjob, that was legit. But the possibility that a number of top Republicans may be currying favors with the family values wing of the party by day while practicing what the same people would consider abominations by night—nope, that ain’t news.
The fact is that if Miers is a lesbian and that became known, it would absolutely kill her appointment. The religious right wouldn’t allow it. Miers’s sexual orientation, like her opinion on abortion, matters most to the people she’s trying to win over and whose views she claims to support.
It would be the height of hypocrisy for a conservative to embrace her party’s most extreme views while simultaneously embracing a member of the same sex. The GOP rank and file takes its values seriously. Just imagine the outrage were Rush Limbaugh revealed to be a drug addict, William Bennett a compulsive gambler, Gary Bauer a philanderer, Strom Thurmond the father of a black child, or George Bush a coke fiend. They’d never work in this town again.