No 'Liberals,' Only Movement 'Milestones' in Gay Debate; Rock Star Questioner Mocked

The "gay debate" for the Democratic presidential candidates airs tonight on the Logo channel in selected markets. David Crary of the Associated Press marks it as a "milestone" for the "gay-rights movement," but never in the entire article was there any mention of liberalism. Near the end, after quoting Rep. Barney Frank and other gay-left activists without labeling, Crary noted "Some conservative activists denounced the forum."Meanwhile, several gay activists have denounced the debate organizers at Logo and the Human Rights Campaign for letting lesbian rock star Melissa Etheridge ask questions of the candidates. Said one: "this would be equivalent to the black debate being moderated by Aretha Franklin and the head of the NAACP, rather than by objective reporters."Crary’s article (at least the long version I read at washingtonpost.com) seems long on welcoming progress to America on embracing the moral acceptance of homosexuality and short on suggesting that this debate in any way suggests a lurch toward the libertine left at the expense of moderate or independent voters. (If all the Republicans decided to debate on "The 700 Club" with Pat Robertson and Pat Boone, isn’t it likely the AP would suggest they were flagrantly pandering to the social extreme at the expense of the voters in the middle?) Crary began:

The gay-rights movement reaches a milestone Thursday when its agenda is the subject of a televised Democratic presidential forum. Yet many activists -- craving bolder support for same-sex couples -- view the unprecedented event with mixed emotions.Though pleased that all the candidates of a major party are courting their votes and endorsing the bulk of their political wish-list, they are frustrated that none of the front-runners is calling for legalization of gay marriage.

Notice how Crary finds gay-left activists want "bolder support" instead of "more radical" support. Crary accurately captured how the Democratic front-runners reluctance to embrace "gay marriage" is merely a calculated and cautious pose, but not really where their hearts are:

"No viable mainstream contender for president is going to support gay marriage in this election cycle," said Ethan Geto, an adviser to Hillary Rodham Clinton on gay-rights issues. "I hope that's going to change in the next couple of elections."

At least the Chicago Tribune could locate the "L word" once in their preview report, even if the reporter implies that somehow there are gay activists, and then there are straight social liberals:

Their own party includes an important constituency of gay donors and political activists as well as large numbers of social liberals who look to candidates' views on gay rights as a bellwether for commitment to broader progressive values such as tolerance.

The Washington Blade, the capital's gay newspaper, carried a bunch of the criticism of Etheridge as a questioner:

Sara Whitman, a lesbian syndicated columnist, said the program lacks "heavyweight political seriousness.""Don’t get me wrong, I love Melissa," Whitman wrote in a column published last month. "But asking Melissa Etheridge to moderate a serious political discussion is like asking me to sing ‘Yes, I Am’ in concert."Longtime gay activist and Sirius radio talk show host Michelangelo Signorile echoed Whitman’s concerns."Not that I don’t love Melissa Etheridge, but this would be equivalent to the black debate being moderated by Aretha Franklin and the head of the NAACP, rather than by objective reporters," Signorile wrote on his blog.Gay author and commentator Andrew Sullivan also opined against Etheridge’s inclusion, dismissing her as a "rich rock star" whose panel seat could go to someone more qualified to grill the candidates.Fisher defended Logo’s move to include the singer among the forum’s panelists."Melissa Etheridge is a cultural icon for LGBT Americans and is a passionate advocate, as well as somebody who can speak to many of the issues we face culturally and personally," he said. "And we certainly hope as well that she can help attract a larger audience."Solmonese said the panel’s three members represent different audience interests."Some critics aside, I think the decision to have me put forward questions from HRC seems like a logical one," he said. "And the decision to have Melissa Etheridge, someone who is out and speaking to a completely different group of LGBT Americans and talk to them about a completely different life experience than I might, is really a welcome choice by Logo."

This "debate" is really more a "joint appearance," to use Dan Rather's dismissive terminology for debates. The candidates will be interviewed separately, not in a group. If the show is boring, don't blame moderator Margaret Carlson, the former Time reporter. In a recent column for Bloomberg News, she didn't project optimism:

It's too bad the debates are such kabuki theater, rewarding memorization, footnotes, neatness, and getting along well with others. It sharply reduces the chances of anything memorable happening.
Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis