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Sure Enough, It Really Is A Straight Man’s World

This commentary is the opinion of the author and may not necessarily reflect those of other authors at Box Turtle Bulletin.

Jim Burroway

September 4th, 2009

Earlier this week, LGBT activist Mike Rogers confirmed that South Carolina’s anti-gay Lt. Governor Andre Bauer is actually a closeted gay politician. I found that revelation interesting and even newsworthy, but didn’t run with it because, well, my time was limited and I just thought there were more important things to cover. I’m not against outing, but I’m also not one to jump up and down and clap whenever a politician is outed. There are some people who I’d just rather not have in our little club, if you know what I mean.

But there’s another fascinating story going on that isn’t just about the outing itself, but the reaction to it. Rogers points out that, despite his 100% track record of accuracy on his outings, the mainstream media continues to ignore the behind-the-scenes hanky-panky of politicians who work against LGBT causes (see Mark Foley and Larry Craig, for example), even though they have no problem probing the sex lives of straight politicians regardless of their political leanings. Based on that experience, Rogers predicted that the mainstream media and non-LGBT blogs would ignore this one as well. But that’s not quite what happened.

One local television station in South Carolina ran a one-sided story in which the reporter refused to call Rogers for comment or even mention his name. The story then got picked up by Politico.com, which blamed the outing not on Rogers, but on S.C. governor Mark Sanford, the Appalachian Trail-hiking governor whose sex life the mainstream media and blogosphere has been having a field day with, and who S.C. lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are pressing to resign:

The timing of this smear campaign is obviously not a coincidence. Last week, Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer called on Governor Mark Sanford to resign, and last weekend, the House Republican Caucus decided almost unanimously to move forward to ask Gov. Sanford resign from office, under threat of impeachment,” Knotts, who is a close ally of Bauer, wrote in the letter.

“This attack was orchestrated on behalf of Mark Sanford, either directly or indirectly, and financially subsidized by him or one of his many ‘front-groups,’” he wrote.

And from there, it goes to CNN:

An outspoken critic of Mark Sanford is accusing the embattled South Carolina governor of orchestrating a smear campaign against Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer.

and South Carolina’s The State:

In a letter to each member of the General Assembly, [State Sen. Jake] Knotts, of West Columbia, said Sanford is behind recent, unsubstantiated Internet reports that Bauer, 40, is gay. Knotts, a former police investigator, produced no proof to tie Sanford or his allies to the Internet reports. Instead, Knotts said the Internet campaign mirrors one used against him by Sanford allies in a bid to derail Knotts’ last re-election campaign.

…One Bauer political supporter said the Internet campaign has some earmarks of tactics that Republicans typically use when they want to divide the GOP: race and sexually.

That’s right, the outing had nothing to do with Mike Rogers, the guy who spent more than a year doing the investigative legwork, tracking down leads, and seeking out multiple sources with independent corroboration. He’s not getting the credit — or even the blame — for the outing. It’s a smear campaign by Sanford and his people.

This is downright bizarre. Instead of crediting Rogers who first broke the news — and who claims a 100% accurate track record on outings — they’re discrediting the story by calling it a smear campaign by an unpopular, embattled politician. But it wasn’t a smear campaign when reporters staked out Gov. Sanford at the Atlanta airport. Sure enough, it really is a straight man’s world.

Comments

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AdrianT
September 4th, 2009 | LINK

…but sometimes if you want credit for things like this, you just have to get on the phone with a few journalists, nurture relationships over time.

unfortunately, the media world is getting very lazy – fact checking seems to go out of the window, and if you don’t make yourself heard properly, you’ll be drowned out by the hysteria. After all, who cares about the truth? conspiracy stories sell more copies!

(I think some Irish student tampered with Wikipedia, making up a quote from a recently deceased musician – newspapers around the world simply reprinted what they saw on the website, no questions asked!)

Jim Burroway
September 4th, 2009 | LINK

Mike Rogers is very well connected with journalists, having appeared on local and national television many times, including on Fox News, MSNBC, CNN, etc. He is very well known in political circles in D.C., where they call him “the most feared man in Washington” for the accuracy of his outings. He is far from an unknown figure. He’s also not shy about picking up the phone.

Christopher Waldrop
September 4th, 2009 | LINK

Rogers may not be shy about picking up the phone, but I get AdrianT’s point that journalists who work at places like CNN may be, if not shy, then just too lazy to pick up the phone. I don’t know if it’s a matter of “conspiracy theories sell[ing] more copies” so much as it is journalists preferring to repeat what another outlet has stated without going to the actual source to see if there’s more information.

And admittedly I don’t think it’s just laziness. Maybe it’s discomfort. As we’ve seen with, say, Mark Sanford, media outlets aren’t shy about reporting the affairs of heterosexual politicians, even when they don’t have all the information. Maybe they’re afraid of a libel suit, but if Rogers has a 100% accuracy record that says a lot about the degree of research he’s doing and his ability to prove the claims he’s making. Heck, even if he were only right 50% of the time any claim he made would still be worth examining.

John D
September 4th, 2009 | LINK

This is akin to when newspapers cite the Advocate as “a national lesbian and gay newsmagazine,” (as in “a national lesbian and gay newsmagazine reported…”) while in the same article have no problems with citing Newsweek or something of that ilk by name (“a story published in Newsweek”).

GDad
September 4th, 2009 | LINK

Surreal.

John D. makes a good observation.

Timothy Kincaid
September 4th, 2009 | LINK

I don’t disagree with you, Jim, but I think there is another consideration.

Repeating a “scurrilous rumor” is beneath the dignity of some reporters. They fear being considered tabloid. However, if a state senator makes a wild statement, that’s news.

What I don’t get is why – after having an good excuse to discuss the rumor – they don’t discuss Rogers at all. That makes no sense to me.

If nothing else, there’s a story in Knott’s being so wacky and out of the loop that he thinks that Rogers is being paid by Sanford.

Swampfox
September 4th, 2009 | LINK

I am South Carolinian and I am gay. We all will have to see how this plays out. I don’t think Sanford is at all behind this story. However, Sanford did spent a lot of money to attempt to unseat Knotts in the primary.

Ben in Oakland
September 4th, 2009 | LINK

The answer is obvious to me, and doesn’t require a conspiracy at all.

If this is a “smear campaign”, and not the result of actual investigation, then it is not “true”, no matter how factual it may be. It is a way of discrediting the uncomfortable (and quite possible) truth about the LG’s interests.

This way, they don’t lose one of their own, even if he is one of them, they don’t confront their prejudices.

Thre winners are the LG, the Party, and the closet.

jim
September 6th, 2009 | LINK

Bauer is a cutie. Welcome to the community! Pls get rid of the ridiculous right wing bible beating. It’s just sooo tired.

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