My L.A. Weekly story last week, “The Outing: David Dreier and His Straight Hypocrisy,” generated a huge reaction — from everyone except the powerful 12-term San Gabriel Valley congressman.
The P.R. strategy adopted by Dreier is silence — he’s hoping that, by ignoring the story about the Internet campaign to out the congressman as a hypocritical closet homosexual who consistently votes against the rights and interests of gay people, it will simply go away. So far, the strategy seems to be working, at least where some of the major print and television outlets are concerned. For example, absent a comment from Dreier, the Los Angeles Times (where there were serious internal discussions about whether or not to cover the story) has been reluctant to weigh in for its many readers in Dreier’s district — even though Dreier’s Democratic opponent came out of the closet to denounce him. L.A. Times’ editor John Carroll did not return phone or e-mail requests for comment.
After the Weekly’s article, Cynthia Matthews — the Democratic nominee in Dreier’s Foothills congressional district — gave interviews to local radio stations and Internet media saying she was proud of her lesbian relationship. “I have been in an 11-year relationship with my partner,” Matthews told RawStory.com, “and refuse to run for office if I would be required to relegate my partner to the closet.”
Matthews particularly criticized Dreier for paying the man he lives with — his chief of staff, Brad Smith — a remarkably high salary. “David Dreier contributes to a culture that allows closeted gays and lesbians to pay those with whom they have personal relationships from the government payroll,” she added, citing New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey’s recent resignation for having done just that.
I received a barrage of phone calls from Los Angeles radio stations which beam into Dreier’s district inviting me to discuss my story on air. I accepted six of those requests — including one from KABC-AM shock jock Al Rantel. Since I’m not an Angeleno (and I rarely listen to radio chat in any case), and had no idea what Rantel was all about, I was a bit taken aback when — in his very first words to me when I joined him on-air by phone — Rantel denounced my story as “trash.” He then said that he, “as a gay man,” found the story offensive — but went on to defend Dreier’s many votes against adoption by same-sex couples, for the gay-bashing Defense of Marriage Act, and other anti-gay legislative acts in Dreier’s 24-year congressional career. After enduring Rantel’s intemperate vituperation for some 20 minutes, I finally told him that “you sound to me like a self-loathing homosexual in Congressman Dreier’s mode,” and hung up. It turned out that Rantel himself was guilty of hypocrisy — denouncing my article for discussing the Internet outing campaign while (I later learned) having himself discussed Dreier’s sexuality extensively on-air to titillate his listeners in the days before my story ran.
I had questioned, in my article, why the chain of daily papers in Dreier’s district had been silent on the contrast between Dreier’s anti-gay voting record and his closeted gay life. And I heard from the Pasadena Star-News (one of the larger dailies in this chain) requesting information. But, when I asked the reporter who called me if the Star-News would be running a story the next day, he warned me not to expect a story “any time soon” while telling me he couldn’t fill me in — even off the record — on the discussions about it at the Pasadena paper. Trying to talk to journalists from this pro-Republican Valley newspaper chain about Dreier is like trying to talk to a reporter from Pravda about Stalin in the dictators’ salad days — the fear of reprisals from management is palpable. Clearly, the “don’t ask, don’t tell” editorial policy about Dreier’s straight hypocrisy is still in effect in the Media News Group’s string of San Gabriel Valley dailies — none of which have published a single word about all this.
On the other hand, the e-mail traffic to my blog, DIRELAND, and to me directly, about this story has been vigorous. “Kris” wrote in to say: “Thanks for the story. I live in his District, and believe that many of his supporters had no clue, and either will care very much, or will have to closely examine their own prejudices. So, good work, good for you, and let’s see what the weak-spined area newspapers will do with it!” Many of my e-mails were in this same vein.
But not all of the responses were so kind — especially after a number of right-wing bloggers denounced my article. For example, “George” e-mailed me that “I don’t believe there is a lower form of journalism than outing. There is simply no justification for such an invasion of privacy. I just don’t care if he likes your agenda or not. Who is to say that a vote on XYZ is pro-gay or anti-gay? To characterize a bill in one or two words is infantile and anyone with a moment of experience in Washington knows that the dynamics are much more complicated than what you can put on a bumper sticker.” To which Scott Long posted this reply: “I can’t believe that some of the comments posted here actually seek to condemn outing of these Uncle Toms. Sounds like the individuals writing the comments are suffering from a cerebral-rectal-inversion syndrome.”
And, in the wake of my article, the national gay weekly The Advocate posted a column in defense of Mike Rogers’ Blogactive.com outing campaign — which first targeted Dreier — by Charles Kaiser, a former New York Times reporter and Princeton University journalism professor. Kaiser compared the outing of closeted politicians who oppose gay rights to the Times’ outing of a Jew who was a prominent American Nazi Party activist. “Hypocrisy — which in this case had morphed into extreme self-hatred — has traditionally been viewed by serious journalists as a good reason to do a story,” Kaiser wrote, suggesting “gay Republicans who actively work against gay causes are also guilty of a kind of hypocrisy that deserves public exposure.
“I don’t think there is any good argument for outing a closeted politician who supports gay rights,” Kaiser added, “but any secretly gay person who uses his bully pulpit to vilify his own people deserves the treatment Rogers is now meting out in the nation’s capital . . .”
The lesbian poet Judy Grahn once remarked that it isn’t talking about homosexuality that gets people upset — it’s talking about homophobia that drives people crazy. The reason, of course, is that doing so rubs the noses of people in their most deep-seated prejudices and fears. And, as my old friend Jules Feiffer — the cartoonist-playwright-scenarist — likes to point out, “Sex is still America’s dirty little secret.”
Doug Ireland can be reached through his blog, DIRELAND .