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Exposing Hypocrisy: Do Politicians Deserve Privacy?

MehlmankenTo out or not to out, and why not? Raw Story asks tough questions about Chris Crain as staffers charge that the chief editor for five of the largest gay newspapers in the country including The Washington Blade killed a story outing RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman. Additionally, Crain admitted to Raw Story that he turned down an opportunity to hear evidence of anti-gay Congressman Ed Schrock's public messages on a gay sex personals phone site because he didn't believe in invading someone's privacy.

Staffers, who spoke anonymously to Raw Story, said that Crain had confirmation that Mehlman was gay yet refused to go with the story. At issue is editorial consistency and policy. Crain wrote an editorial last July (regarding outing) that stated, "It is the antithesis of journalism to hide such hypocrisy when the facts can be clearly ascertained," yet according to Raw Story "maintains that such reporting should not intrude upon individual privacy."

Also in the mix is Crain's past involvement with Mehlman: "Crain–who was Mehlman’s supervising editor for a Harvard public policy journal in law school and partnered with him in an organization in the early 1990’s–says he has not 'credibly' confirmed Mehlman’s sexuality. He denied that their previous involvement had any bearing on his editorial decisions." Whether or not this link has anything to do with the accusations now being made by staffers is unclear, yet it's clearly being questioned by those reading the story at sites like AmericaBlog.

The debate on outing public figures has been addressed most prominently recently not in gay media but in an article in GQ profiling Mike Rogers, the blogger who eventually took the Schrock tapes public. It's a hot button topic not ready to disappear anytime soon. Andy Humm, a reporter for Gay City News, told Raw Story, "We’d all like to have an unmolested private life, but these politicians, they’re in favor of sodomy laws," he said. "They’re for a president who was in favor of locking you up for things you did privately. It’s not outing, it’s just reporting. A good reporter is always looking for hypocrisy."

So, what evidence is required to ascertain that a politician is gay? A phone tape? A second-hand sighting at a gay bar? The ownership of m4m escort domain names? Are there any rules, and what are they? And do the individual privacy rights of a few hypocrites trump the dispensation of information that might directly affect the rights of millions of gays and lesbians to live as more than second class citizens?

Staff: Editor of Washington gay paper thwarted story outing RNC chair Mehlman; Editor asserts he was offered Schrock tapes [raw story]

GQ on Outing Gay Republicans [tr]
The Blade's Chris Crain Catches Some Heat [the dooryard]
Largest Gay Paper Accused of Hypocrisy [americablog]

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  1. First, he denies killing the story.

    Second, he's a part owner in the company and that's a big deal. Because I would guess the issue here isn't whether Mehlman is or he isn't. The issue is likely the seriousness of libel and defamation of character lawsuits, which would surely be forthcoming.

    In a legal sense, it would be difficult to 'prove' someone is gay, even if you've had a sexual encounter with them. One could argue experimentation and there's no real legal definition of gay. Certainly Mehlman going to gay bars or rumor or innuendo wouldn't cut it in a court of law.

    Posted by: Ryan | Mar 22, 2005 4:32:44 PM

  2. Well I feel both ways about revealing the "gayness" of someone and/or not. Both to me are interesting, they show who a person is often if they want to be "out there" or if they don't. I personally don't have a difficulty with anyone being brought out, as it were. Freedom of Speech... and besides I'm not worried about what others will think and stuff like that.

    Posted by: visibleh20 | Mar 22, 2005 4:44:49 PM

  3. Crain is a curiosity. He works for William Waybourn who, despite a somewhat spotty financial record (after buying the DC and NY Blades some of the sellers claimed he was very late in making a major scheduled payment but we assume it was settled amicably) and letting another purchase, "Genre magazine, become moribund (a mirror image of the mediocre editorial choices of "OUT," "Instinct," and others but, in contrast, their ad revenue appears almost nonexistent) (care to comment Andy?), he has pretty good activist's credentials having helped found the Victory Fund and working at HRC, I believe, and GLAAD. But Crain has done enough, or not enough, to start getting the epithet "conservative" hurled at him. He crucified Kerry in print for his contradictory stances on gay marriage. While Kerry's positions were indictable, was demanding consistency more or less defensible than Crain's effectively helping conservative gays justify their votes for unambiguous Bush? While I can't remember how they covered publicly closeted right wing hitman Terry Dolan and Washington Redskin Jerry Smith before they died of AIDS, I kinda doubt if previous editor/major owner Don Michaels would be outing anyone. Regardless, IMHO, Crain is being a hypocrite here. A part of the problem not the solution. As far as legal jeopardy, I doubt that anyone would sue, truth as I recall being the ultimate defense in the absence of proof of malice which is just a matter of how one writes what. At the same time, it would be interesting to see whether judges/juries today would agree that calling someone gay is defamation. Ironically, I was just reading about Liberace's lawsuit against the London "Daily Mirror." He furiously denied on the stand that he was gay and WON, boys and girls! After his death many years later from AIDS complications, the Mirror requested their money back. Don't know the result but I suppose his estate might have claimed that he was actually Haitian. Cue laugh track.

    Posted by: Jim | Mar 22, 2005 5:36:47 PM

  4. There's a complete difference to me between outing somone's hypocrisy and outing his sexual orientation. For example, if Chris Crain were to write an editorial decrying public semi-nudity in the gay community, I would feel it my obligation to say that I've seen him many a time at "Shirtless Men Drink Free" night at the Green Lantern. Since he hasn't written a piece like that, though, I can keep such things under wraps.

    Posted by: chrisafer | Mar 22, 2005 10:51:19 PM

  5. Andy, shouldn't you disclose that you were once the editor of a magazine that Crain has run?

    Posted by: Jason | Mar 23, 2005 9:48:29 AM

  6. Jason, just to be clear. I was editor of Genre magazine BEFORE it was owned by Window Media. I have never worked with or for Chris Crain.

    Posted by: andy | Mar 23, 2005 9:56:21 AM

  7. I didn't imply you were there at the same time. Just that you were the editor and he has run it.

    But I think each of you having a relationship with the magazine is something to be pointed out.

    Posted by: Jason | Mar 23, 2005 10:10:30 AM

  8. It's completely irrelevant to this post considering I have had no professional contact with Chris Crain and Chris Crain as far as I know has had no involvement in running Genre. I also do not care to discuss Genre in this forum so any further posts on this topic will be deleted.

    Posted by: andy | Mar 23, 2005 10:20:03 AM

  9. can i add more to the off-topic and irrelevant thread going on here? just kidding. As someone who doesn't pay much attention to WHO is writing and editing at magazines and newspapers, I can tell you that, generally speaking the BLADE sucks; way too much emphasis on entertainment and parties - just look at the cover storied for the past few weeks/months. N Y's GAY CITY NEWS is far superior. However, I do read both, as its never a good idea to get your news and information from one source.

    Posted by: bj | Mar 23, 2005 11:35:56 AM

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    Posted by: dolly | Mar 26, 2005 7:25:53 PM

  11. I think it is a strange issue of how to prove someone is gay; unless you have really hard evidence such as a sex tape, how can you prove that they really are? How can you prove that it isnt libel? The Liberace case aforementioned is an interesting example. What do you guys think?

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