Republican Leaders Escalate Smears on Gay Congressional Candidates
Increasingly desperate, GOP's Congressional campaign group using anti-gay tropes and homophobia
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Jon Hoadley, a three-term gay Democratic state representative in Michigan who is running for Congress, told me he’s experiencing “some of the most homophobic attacks in the country” from his opponent, 34-year incumbent Republican Fred Upton, and from the National Republican Campaign Committee.
He’s not the only one. As HuffPost reported last month, the NRCC, targeting Gina Ortiz Jones, a Democrat running for a swing House seat in Texas, instructed outside groups “to include reminders of Jones’s sexual orientation in digital and television advertising and mailers, highlighting an image of Jones with her partner.” (The NRCC has since removed the language, while Jones went on to raise $100,000 after the anti-gay smear campaign).
The NRCC is the political arm of the GOP Caucus in the House. It has the stamp of approval from the leadership, including House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, House Republican Whip Steve Scalise and Congresswoman Liz Cheney, who, as House Republican Conference Chair, is in the third-highest position in the GOP — and, incidentally, has a lesbian sister, Mary Cheney, whom she obviously doesn’t give damn if she defames.
These tactics might seem like a throwback in a time when there are openly LGBTQ people in every facet of life, from Olympic sports and Hollywood, to big business and politics, including two U.S. senators and eight House members. But the NRCC engaged in similar homophobic attacks in 2018 when it faced a massive challenge amid the blue wave, and is even more desperate in 2020, as Donald Trump is dragging them down on the ticket. At the same time, Trump’s hateful brand of politics emboldens these national Republican leaders to engage in the same kind of open bigotry to demonize groups of people.
In the case of Jon Hoadley, national Democrats are making a strong play for Michigan’s 6th Congressional district in Kalamazoo. The Cook Political Report changed its rating from “likely" Republican to “leans" Republican, and Hoadley, endorsed by Joe Biden yesterday, has been been added to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s “Red to Blue” program.
“The Republicans that are running right now are scared that Fred Upton has a terrible record to run on, and they have no qualms about lying about my record, name-calling and taking things out of context,” Hoadley he told me in an interview on my SiriusXM program this week.
Hoadley has been doing advocacy work in the LGBTQ community for many years. That the NRCC could attack a long-time gay advocate as a “pedo sex poet” — the term they’ve been disseminating — is outrageous and an example of the kind of horrendous anti-gay tropes we’d thought were laid to rest in politics.
As The LGBTQ Victory Fund describes, these have been coordinated attacks, twisting and taking out of context blog posts Hoadley wrote as an undergraduate 15 years ago, even planting a smear piece in the right-wing New York Post. In one blog post, for example, Hoadley was making a statement against the oversexualization of children. In the satirical piece, about whether all “gay men desire to be flower girls,” a friend jokes that he doesn’t have a desire to see a “four-year-old wearing a thong.”
That’s it. That’s what they use to justify smearing Hoadley as a pedophile. In another post, Hoadley was trying to shine a light on the terrible problem of meth addiction. He’d gone to a meeting focused how substance abuse was rising in the LGBTQ community and how to help reduce it.
“And so there’s a post I put up about that literally ends with, ‘Don’t do meth,’ because we all know someone, and people in our lives, who are struggling with substance abuse,” Hoadley told me. The New York Post hit piece, however, nefariously claims in the headline that Hoadley “blogged about drugs” and states in the story that he “discussed drug use,” as if he’d promoted drugs rather than the truth: that he focused on the problem of substance abuse and and how to fight it.
Not to be overlooked, something similar happened to progressive openly gay Democratic candidate Alex Morse, the mayor of Holyoke, Massachusetts, targeted in a coordinated homophobic campaign during his unsuccessful primary challenge over the summer. It underscored that we have a long way to go if people even think these attacks still work.
In the case of the GOP, it’s pushed by national Republican leaders, openly and aggressively, backed by Liz Cheney and Kevin McCarthy, in a time when the top of the ticket is a carnival barker who traffics in hate and bile. It must be challenged and exposed every time.