Bush-Cheney Campaign Manager, Ex-Chairman of Republican Party Comes out as Gay
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Ken Mehlman, the erstwhile chairman of the Republican National Committee and campaign manager for George W. Bush's 2004 reelection effort, has come out of the closet as gay in a column published in The Atlantic.
Mehlman came out in a column by Mark Ambinder on the website of The Atlantic, after the blogger who outed former Idaho Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID) and onetime Virginia congressman Ed Schrock revealed that Ambinder was to publish the story. Blogger Michael Rogers was the subject of the documentary "Outrage," a film about outing gays in government who have used their positions of power to advocate against gay issues, which aired earlier this year on HBO.
Mehlman, 44, spearheaded the Bush re-election campaign. The campaign used aggressively anti-gay tactics, including the mailing of a flyer in some states which suggested liberals would allow gay marriage and ban the Bible. Some believe Bush’s support for anti-gay marriage measures carried him to victory, particularly in Ohio, which had a gay marriage measure on the ballot.
According to the Atlantic's Ambinder, "Mehlman arrived at this conclusion about his identity fairly recently, he said in an interview. He agreed to answer a reporter's questions, he said, because, now in private life, he wants to become an advocate for gay marriage and anticipated that questions would be asked about his participation in a late-September fundraiser for the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER), the group that supported the legal challenge to California's ballot initiative against gay marriage, Proposition 8."
"It's taken me 43 years to get comfortable with this part of my life," Mehlman told Ambinder. "Everybody has their own path to travel, their own journey, and for me, over the past few months, I've told my family, friends, former colleagues, and current colleagues, and they've been wonderful and supportive. The process has been something that's made me a happier and better person. It's something I wish I had done years ago."
Mehlman's coming out marks a significant reversal for the man who was at the heart of the Bush-Cheney re-election strategy. The onetime chairman of the RNC has previously refused to discuss his sexuality in both public and private settings.
The onetime RNC chairman's sexuality received treatment in the 2009 documentary "Outrage," which was aired in theaters and was later broadcast on HBO. Michael Rogers, who outed Mehlman on his blog, blogACTIVE, as well as this author, discussed the media's complicity in keeping the conflict between Mehlman's private and public life under wraps.
Prior to the 2004 presidential election, two New York newspapers received calls urging them not to publish information suggesting Mehlman was gay. Raw Story revealed this in November 2004. Raw Story was party to an investigation of claims Mehlman was gay in the run-up to the 2004 election but no one was willing to go on the record.
When asked about his sexuality in 2004 by blogACTIVE's Michael Rogers, Mehlman hung up the phone.
Two sources told blogACTIVE in 2004 that they had been pressured by the Republican Party to remain silent. The site added that two New York City newspapers "were called by press folks at the Bush campaign attempting to kill the Mehlman story."
The Washington Blade asked Mehlman about openly gay staff in an interview in May 2004.
"I'm not going to comment or provide information on the private activities of campaign staff," he said, when asked if there were out gays among the president's campaign advisers. "The president is leading based on principle. His principles are reflective of his values and his values are compassionate and conservative."