Mike Rogers: The Man Who Outs Closeted Right-Wing Politicians
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Why do political figures keep their sexual identities secret?
Why do they fight so viciously against the very sexualities they practice?
And why do people decide to expose them?
I’ve pondered this question before. But it keeps coming up — and up, and up, and up, to an almost comical degree. So I thought I’d ask one of the world’s leading experts on closeted gay politicians: Mike Rogers.
Mike Rogers wears many hats, all of them fabulous. (See bio below.) But he’s best known as “the most feared man on Capitol Hill”: a dogged investigative reporter known for outing closeted gay politicians who work and vote against LGBT rights. He’s the star of “Outrage,” the recent documentary inspired by his investigations. His most recent expose is among his most controversial: South Carolina Lt. Governor Andre Bauer, the closeted anti-gay politician who’s in line to replace the now-infamous Governor Mark Sanford. We spoke recently about how and why he outs closeted anti-gay politicians, his standards of evidence, the psychology of homophobic gay people, the difference between news and gossip, and more.
Greta Christina: You’ve made it a big part of your life’s work to expose closeted gay politicians who work and vote against LGBT rights. Can you tell us why you decided to do that?
Mike Rogers: It’s not really a big part of my life’s work. I think people have that misconception, because it’s what I’m so well known for. But my life’s work, at least up until now, has been that of a fundraiser. My politics are shaped by my work at a number of places, but particularly the Harvey Milk School, where I saw young people who were affected by society in such negative ways. What I saw was unacceptable to me. Society was abusing these kids.
So from that point, I felt that everything I do in my career, I want to do to make the world better. But it was only in 2004, with the incredible frustration I felt over the use of marriage in the 2004 election — that’s when I decided, “You know what? This is bullshit. And I’m going to do something about it.”
Greta Christina: Why do you think outing has become such a big part of your public image? Is it just because it’s lurid? Why do you think that’s how people identify you?
Well, people love it. Everyone loves a good outing. It’s sensationalism. Why do people care more about who John Edwards had sex with than they care about ending poverty in America? Why do people care more about who Bill Clinton got a blowjob from than they care about true health care reform? Well, it’s not boring all of a sudden. The media’s like, “Woo hoo! We have something fun and different and exciting!”
Greta Christina: It’s sexy, and we’re primates, and we care about that.
Right. It’s not that people are fascinated by the sex lives of closeted politicians. It’s that people are fascinated by sex lives. This is nothing new, it’s been going on for a long time, but history has denied it. People have trouble viewing history in color. So much of our history is denied over sex.
Greta Christina: Let me ask about your most recent outing: South Carolina Lieutenant Governor Andre Bauer. Why did you feel this particular story was important?
First of all, Andre Bauer stood up and defended anti-marriage stuff. When I looked at who put Andre Bauer into office, and the running theme of his political career — this is a man who has been in bed with anti-gay forces since he got into politics.