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Matt Schlapp says Tim Scott is gay. And he would probably know.
The saga of the senator and GOP presidential candidate's mysterious girlfriend is only getting more bizarre.
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Discussion about the sexual orientation of GOP presidential candidate Tim Scott has broken wide open. According to an Axios August 31 story, the "bachelor status" of the senator from South Carolina has caused GOP donors to "fret," as they’re looking for an alternative to Donald Trump and don’t think Florida Governor Ron DeSantis can pull it off now.
The story never mentions the word "gay," but as Boston Globe columnist Renee Graham put it, "‘bachelor status’ is code for ‘sexual identity’."
And let’s be clear: the GOP donors’ interest in this is far different from that of progressives or those of us who are queer. Scott very publicly presents himself as an evangelical Christian who opposes same-sex marriage. He wants to end federal funding for schools that engage in "indoctrination", that is, elementary and middle schools that allow trans students to use pronouns and bathrooms that fit their gender identity. He voted “nay” on the Employment Nondiscrimination Act, which would ban discrimination in the workplace for LGBTQ people. As an anti-LGBTQ crusader, Scott’s sexual orientation is certainly relevant in his run for the presidency.
Not surprisingly, Scott soon addressed the Axios story in what seemed like a staged and well-rehearsed (and not very convincing) exchange on Fox News this week, with host Brian Kilmeade reading from the Axios piece:
Kilmeade: "What’s your status?"
Scott. "I have a wonderful girlfriend. We have a wonderful relationship. God has blessed me with a wonderful Christian woman."
Kilmeade: "We met your mom. Will we meet your girlfriend?"
Scott: "You will, of course — at some point."
Kilmeade: "OK. Great."
Then came the in-depth Washington Post story today, which states upfront that it doesn't purport to be "a wink-wink story that uses 'single' in place of ‘gay.’” Reporter Ben Terris—who’d clearly been working on his story and an interview with Scott about the topic since well before the Axios piece and the Fox interview—says he’s "not interested in laundering innuendos." But he is "intrigued about how voter interest (or lack thereof) in Scott’s love life (or lack thereof) might illuminate the politics of marriage, family and masculinity in today’s GOP."
Fair enough. Terris’ story is fascinating and well-researched. He spoke with many people who knew Scott. But even Terris admits in his long piece that he can’t determine if there really is a girlfriend and, thus, by default, if Scott is gay or straight.
He ends his piece, after speaking with Scott about "the girlfriend," like this: "His relationship and campaign were both new. It’s hard to know, this early, if any of this is real."
However, Terris actually has someone prominent on the record saying Scott is gay—and it’s someone who would probably know—and Terris basically buried the lede, putting it deep down in the story [bold added for emphasis]:
Scott is not gay, [his campaign manager Jennifer] DeCasper told me, and nobody who knows him suggested otherwise. But the rumor mill is lazy, and the "joke" about the senator’s sexuality still gets repeated. Early last year, for example, Matt Schlapp, the head of the Conservative Political Action Conference, asked me whom I thought Trump might choose as his 2024 running mate. When I mentioned Scott, Schlapp replied, "You think he picks a gay vice president?" (Incidentally, Schlapp, who is married with five kids, was later accused of unwanted groping by a male staffer on Herschel Walker’s Senate campaign. He has denied the allegations.)
It’s interesting that Terris describes it as the "rumor mill" and a "joke," but then gives us an example of someone who, from his own words, doesn’t seem to be offering it as a rumor or a joke. Terris after all, didn’t write, "Schlapp cracked" or "Schlapp replied laughing." Nor did Schlapp say, "You think he picks a vice president rumored to be gay?" or "perceived to be gay" or "who people think is gay."
Matt Schlapp said straight up to Terris, as the reporting indicates, "You think he picks a gay vice president?" Terris appears to take the word of the campaign manager and others who know Scott (all of whom have an interest in covering up) over Schlapp, whom he determines must be engaging in the "rumor mill," though he gives no indication Schlapp is talking about it as a rumor or a joke. Terris adds that Schlapp, married to a woman and with five kids, has been accused of male-on-male sexual harassment, seemingly as a way to show the irony or hypocrisy of the situation, or perhaps to discredit Schlapp.
But actually, Schlapp, who’s now been accused by multiple men of making sexual advances—in great reporting in the Washington Post itself—would likely be an authority on Tim Scott’s sexual orientation. After all, for generations, closet cases within any particular milieu—whether it be Hollywood, New York media, or Washington politics—have always tended to know one another, or know of one another, often because they have sex with some of the same people.
Terris is a terrific reporter, and I don’t think he did this intentionally. I’m just pointing out, as someone who’s studied and reported on powerful closeted individuals for decades, that, from what we now know about Schlapp, there’s no reason to believe he doesn’t know for sure unless he stated specifically that it was rumor.
As for the girlfriend, Scott spoke with Terris about her (but refused to give him a name), how they were matched up by a mutual friend late last year, and some of the things they have in common, like Bible study, for which they use an app. The woman wasn’t introduced to Terris (even though he asked if he could chat with her, even off the record). Terris reports that the campaign manager corroborated the woman’s existence, telling him "she’s personally hung out with her at the zoo.” But is this a girlfriend or a friend who happens to be female?
And what about when Scott once talked about a former girlfriend, telling Dana Bash on CNN in 2017, after she asked about his being single, that he’d once been engaged?
"I didn’t know that," Bash replied, to which Scott replied, "Shhh, don’t tell anyone."
Terris reports that a childhood friend of Scott’s, Brian Moniz, knew nothing about him ever being engaged.
"No, I don’t think he’s ever been engaged," he said when I spoke to him in August.
As for any current girlfriend, Moniz said: "I am not aware of anyone at this time."
Let me emphasize again that I couldn’t give a damn if Scott was engaged or has a girlfriend, or if he is gay, straight, or bisexual—except for the fact that he is courting anti-LGBTQ Christian nationalists and trying to strip my rights and those of millions of others.
Terris quotes those close to Scott, describing him as a workaholic who just hasn’t had time for a relationship. But Terris astutely notes that it's then quite a lift for someone like that to be embarking on a presidential run and a relationship at the same time—unless they’re connected:
[What] might have made Scott decide to run toward a relationship at the same time as he’s running, harder than ever, toward his life’s purpose? A cynic would note that, when a person sets out to run for president, nearly everything they do in the lead-up to the election is done with a campaign in mind, and perhaps Scott thought finding a partner would help his candidacy.
So we may indeed see an actual woman with Scott at some point, perhaps if his candidacy takes off. But will that really mean much? All of this brings me back to the other bachelor senator, Lindsay Graham—yes, South Carolina has two—who also ran for president. Having also voted against LGBTQ people, Graham suddenly opened up about a mysterious woman he had been involved with, a flight attendant named Sylvia who worked for Lufthansa (and whom no reporter could track down).
That came in 2015 after lots of speculation about his sexual orientation, with a Republican primary opponent in his Senate race having called him "ambiguously gay." But we never again heard about that girlfriend or any other woman in the life of the senior South Carolina senator, who'd go on to slavishly devote himself to Donald Trump.