Outing Politicians: Does It Ultimately Help or Hurt Us
Owing to a solid record of outing closeted gay Republicans including defiled names like Larry Craig and Mark Foley, gay political blogger Mike Rogers has developed a reputation for consistency that’s becoming increasingly difficult for mainstream media to ignore.
But Rogers’ latest conquest, Illinois Republican Congressman Mark Kirk, the story is a bit different than the norm. Kirk, a leading candidate for Obama’s former Senate seat, is generally considered socially moderate, holding onto an 85 percent rating of his LGBT issues voting record from the Human Rights Campaign as recently as 2008 - although he was outed following his vote against Don’t Ask Don’t repeal in late May.
Most controversially, unlike Larry Craig, there were no recorded admissions from sources with knowledge of Kirk’s gay exploits. There was no undercover cop to receive an airport bathroom toe tap. In fact, there was no traceable record of any kind.
The evidence Rogers presents in his latest outing relies on two anonymous male sources. One claims to have had sex with the Congressman during his college days. The other is a vague insinuation of same-sex attractions Rogers himself witnessed when he met Kirk at a D.C. event in 2004.
The Kirk story has grabbed some traction with media, particularly amidst a flurry of "misremembered" statements the Senate candidate has made regarding his military record and award history. Following a recent VFW meeting, a WGN reporter asked Kirk about Rogers’ "allegation," which he awkwardly tiptoed around outright denying. The bizarre interaction caught the attention of respected bloggers at CQ Politics, the Huffington Post and the Village Voice.
Still, the partly cloudy circumstances of Kirk’s outing begs important questions not only of Rogers’ methods, but also of the very ethics surrounding an elected public official’s right to privacy. Has Rogers lowered the threshold of proof required before throwing a politician to the gay wolves? Does this entire culture of "outing" perpetuate the stereotype that being gay is a negative label one can be "accused of"?
Mike Rogers on Kirk, on record
When EDGE spoke with Rogers, the blogger whose outing work’s profile was further raised in last year’s documentary Outrage, his tone was staunch and defiant. Rogers reacted to the mention of the word "rumor" with surprise.
He firmly denied that he’d at all lowered his standard of information required to back up his assertions.
"I thought everyone in Illinois politics already knew Kirk was gay," Rogers told EDGE. "It’s not a rumor and it’s not new. I’ve met the man. He is gay. I didn’t think this would even be a story and wasn’t seeking out coverage."
Indeed, the gay rumors have been heightened against Kirk since he divorced former wife Kimberly Vertolli, who has insisted her ex is straight, last year. Right-wing extremist Andy Martin first brought the rumors to the mainstream late last year, but was dismissed due to Martin’s reputation for incendiary, bogus claims against his political adversaries.