OP-ED: Is It OK To Out Aaron Schock or Other Anti-Gay Politicians?

(Chicago) – OP-ED: Gather round, everyone! It’s time to play out the anti gay politician again!

Republican congressman Aaron Schock — who represents Illinois’ 18th congressional district — is known for one thing: being pretty and probably-almost-certainly gay. Schock is anti-gay on the record and he’s frequently affirmed his straightness, but he may be feeling a gust of air thanks to a sledgehammer wielded by journalist Itay Hod.

On January 3, Hod — who is gay — posted a long note on Facebook wondering why no journalist has ever outed Schock, who he claims has been caught by a journalist in the shower with his male roommate as well as in gay bars by TMZ. “Doesn’t the media have an OBLIGATION to expose hypocrisy?” he asks…

Okay fine, this isn’t news so much as a reporter complaining to Facebook that various gay rumors + anti gay voting record do not a story make.

But still. Scandal!

This is a fun recurrence because a little more than a year ago I was asked to out another Illinois anti gay politician (nope, not saying who). It was especially fun because I was playing with my then six-month old son at the time.

My son had just figured out how to sit up by himself and he was using the occasion to check out the edibility of the grass in the backyard.  My wife had been concerned about the propriety of watching a potentially screaming infant while talking to theoretically important (or at least paying) clients, but the fact of the matter is a baby is a great prop. A call that is really important you can just cut off and call back from a quiet room. And if it isn’t that important, a baby is a great way to guilt the other party into hanging up. So I smiled and made faces at the little nonvoter while I went through yet another Closeted Gay Rumor.

I get this at least once every election cycle (twice in 2012). It’s so routine I can recite it in my sleep.
The candidate is the most liberal tolerant abiding person ON EARTH and would never impugn someone’s sexual orientation, but the opponent is [a Republican/a gay basher/some vague manner of hypocrite/just a general asshole] and there have been…rumors. He was caught by his girlfriend going down on another man. He was seen in a gay bar two counties over. He lives with his mother. This is going to blow the lid off of this race and can you, opposition researcher, get it in the press without it being attached to us?
So I pried grass clumps out of my son’s hand and explained that the client could, I guess, pitch the story to the Windy City Times, a gay interest paper in Chicago. By the end of the conversation the Nonvoter was getting bored, and when he gets bored he gets angry, so I started speaking in my enthusiastic distract the baby voice. “YEAH that’s the editor’s email! SURE, send the memo I wrote over to them!” The manager probably thought I was crazy. Suits me.

So I hung up, and I sat the little nonvoter on my lap on the back stairs. He looked at me quizzically.
“It is never, ever okay to be mean to people because of who they like. Not even if they’re Republicans. Remember that, little guy. Sometimes Daddy works for very bad people. Don’t be like them!”

I like to think he took my advice to heart, because he took a giant poop right then.

Anyway.

I don’t like outing people. Yes yes nobody likes a hypocrite, but I happen to dislike homophobes more. A man must have a code.

And the fact is that in a campaign context hypocrisy isn’t the attack. Sure we say it’s about hypocrisy. But voters really don’t care about hypocrisy Just ask everyone who voted for Scott DesJarlais, the Republican congressmen who fiercely opposes abortion, except when he impregnates women who are not his wife. Also when he impregnates his wife. This sort of resolve that no one should get abortions unless they’re carrying Scott DesJarlais’ fetus is what led to his reelection by double-digits in 2012.

Hypocrisy makes for fun stories, but it doesn’t move voters. And that’s the thing. We say it’s the hypocrisy not the gayness. But it’s really the opposite. There’s a certain segment of the population living in the dark ages, and we’d like to work them up. And hypocrisy makes for a great fig leaf.

Ah, but what if it’s not a campaign?

If the outer is a disgruntled reporter, or activist? Maybe it’s different then. Hypocrisy is bad, homophobia is bad, those who practice both should be punished. Yes, this will rile up homophobic voters, but it will also show how ridiculous and pathetic this prejudice is.

I see the argument. It’s reasonable enough.

Just not when I’m the one saying it.

Twitter @WillCaskey

Will Caskey, a contributor to The Illinois Observer, is an opposition researcher and partner at Stanford Caskey. A Louisiana native, Will lives in Chicago where he continues to express annoyance with the term “Chicago-style politics.”

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