October 11, 2010 at 2:21 pm EST | by Kevin Naff
Exposing Tea Party’s down-low homophobes

National Coming Out Day got off to an unfortunate start as Carl Paladino, the Tea Party-backed GOP nominee for governor of New York, made the morning talk show rounds to elaborate on anti-gay remarks he made over the weekend.

Paladino told a group of Orthodox Jewish leaders that he does not want children “to be brainwashed into thinking that homosexuality is an equally valid and successful option — it isn’t.”

This morning on the Today show, Paladino told Matt Lauer that he would hire openly gay officials for his administration if he wins. But he went on to say that kids shouldn’t be exposed to gay people. On Good Morning America, Paladino mentioned his gay nephew. “My nephew tells me he didn’t have that choice. And I believe it’s a very, very difficult life for a young person.”

It’s a life made more difficult by bigots like Paladino, who parrots old, discredited and offensive stereotypes about the supposed dangers of allowing gay men to spend time with kids. It’s the most disgusting slur directed against gay men and Paladino had a national platform on National Coming Out Day to disseminate it.

Luckily, Paladino is a fringe candidate trailing Andrew Cuomo by more than 20 points in a recent poll. But his views highlight a problem with the Tea Party that hasn’t received much attention: its homophobia. The Tea Party has focused on economic issues, not because its supporters are so concerned about the national debt, but because they know that independent voters are increasingly turned off by anti-gay attacks.

Don’t be fooled by the Tea Party’s lack of focus on social issues. It’s a Trojan horse approach — as soon as one of these crazies is elected on economic issues, the anti-LGBT attacks will commence. From Christine O’Donnell’s advocacy of reparative therapy to Paladino’s sickening slurs, the Tea Party’s candidates are mostly down-low homophobes, hiding their views because a pollster advised them against overt expressions of bigotry. Paladino’s meltdown exposes the first cracks in that veneer. There will be more to come.

Meanwhile, where are Michael Steele, Sarah Palin, Mitch McConnell and John Boehner? If the Republican Party wants to change its image and broaden its appeal, it must stop giving refuge to people like Paladino. Party leaders should condemn these comments and distance themselves from Paladino.

Kevin Naff is the editor and a co-owner of the Washington Blade, the nation’s oldest and most acclaimed LGBT news publication, founded in 1969.

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