January 9, 2013 | by Chris Johnson
White House mum on inaugural pastor’s anti-gay sermon
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney answers questions at the White House daily briefing

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney had no comment on Pastor Louie Giglio’s anti-gay sermon. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney declined to answer questions Wednesday about a new report that the Georgia-based pastor selected to give the benediction for President Obama’s inaugural once held vehemently anti-gay views.

Asked by the Washington Blade whether the White House has a problem with the views reportedly expressed in a sermon by Louie Giglio — which include support for widely discredited “ex-gay” therapy and urging Christians to prevent the “homosexual lifestyle” from being accepted in society — Carney said he hasn’t seen the ThinkProgress report and deferred comment to the Presidential Inaugural Committee.

“I haven’t seen that report,” Carney said. “I would refer you to the inaugural committee. I haven’t seen the report.”

Asked to clarify whether the administration was unaware of the sermon before the selection was made, Carney reiterated, “I’m saying that I haven’t seen the report.”

The inaugural committee didn’t immediately respond to the Blade’s request for comment on Giglio’s remarks.

The Blade’s questioning about Giglio came later in the briefing after ABC News’ Jonathan Karl — referencing new objections from Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) — asked Carney about 1998 anti-gay remarks that defense secretary nominee Chuck Hagel made that have stirred controversy in the LGBT community. Carney noted Hagel apologized for those remarks.

“I think Sen. Hagel was very clear about the fact that he thought those comments were not appropriate,” Carney said. “He regretted them, and they don’t represent the totality of his views. I would point to the statement he made.”

Carney added the Senate will have “the opportunity through the confirmation process as they do traditionally and repeatedly to ask him questions about his views on this” issue, and — touting Obama’s support for the LGBT community — said Hagel would execute Obama’s policy as directed. Outstanding LGBT issues that remain at the Pentagon include certain partner benefits, the lack of non-discrimination policies and prohibition of openly transgender service.

“The secretary of defense — Sen. Hagel, when he is confirmed as we hope he will be — carries out the president’s policies and, I think, the president’s policies on LGBT issues are both commendable, supported by the LGBT community and will continue to be the policies of this administration as long as President Obama is in office,” Carney said. “So, again, I think you’ve seen what Sen. Hagel said about this, and the president is very confident that Sen. Hagel will be confirmed and that he will be an excellent secretary of defense and will implement all of the president’s policies with regards to the Defense Department.

The Blade concluded its questioning by noting both Hagel’s 1998 anti-gay remarks and the anti-gay sermon from the 1990s from Pastor Giglio and asking whether the administration had a kind of statute of limitations for when someone can make such comments and still be deemed acceptable by the administration.

“I think I’ve addressed the question about Sen. Hagel,” Carney replied. “And I would simply point you to President Obama’s record on LGBT issues as representative of his beliefs, convictions and his policies, and where he believes this country is moving and where he hopes to lead it.

A partial transcript of the exchange between reporters and Carney on Hagel and Giglio follows:

ABC News: If I could just ask you about Chuck Hagel, who was criticized pretty strongly today by Ben Cardin, who’s not a exactly an arch-conservative here. Certainly, right in the mainstream of the Democratic Party, one of the things he raised was the comments that Hagel made against James Hormel, which had come under fire by gay groups. I’m wondering if you could help me understand, he made those comments 15 years ago, calling James Hormel aggressively and didn’t apologize for them until a month ago when it was clear that he was in the running to named secretary of defense. Why that kind of a delay and does he have to explain why 15 years of those comments —

Jay Carney: I think Sen. Hagel was very clear about the fact that he thought those comments were not appropriate. He regretted them, and they don’t represent the totality of his views. I would point the statement he made.

ABC News: But 15 years later —

Carney: Senators will have the opportunity through the confirmation process as they do traditionally and repeatedly to ask him questions about his views on this. The secretary of defense — Sen. Hagel, when he is confirmed as we hope he will be — carries out the President’s policies and, I think, the President’s policies on LGBT issues are both commendable, supported by the LGBT community and will continue to be the policies of this administration as long as President Obama is in office. So, again, I think you’ve seen what Sen. Hagel said about this, and the President is very confident that Sen. Hagel will be confirmed and that he will be an excellent secretary of defense and will implement all of the President’s policies with regards to the Defense Department.

Washington Blade: The website ThinkProgress is reporting that the Pastor Louie Giglio, whom President Obama selected to deliver his inaugural benediction, held vehemently anti-gay views in the 1990s. In a recording attributed to him from that time, Giglio advocates for widely discredited “ex-gay” therapy, references a biblical passage often attributed to require gay people to be executed and impels Christians to “firmly respond to the aggressive agenda” and prevent the homosexual lifestyle from becoming adopted in society. Does the White House have a problem with Obama’s inaugural pastor holding those views?

Jay Carney: I haven’t seen that report. I would refer you to the inaugural committee. I haven’t seen the report.

Blade: So it’s fair to say that the administration was not aware of this sermon before the selection was made?

Carney: I’m saying that I haven’t seen the report.

Blade: The news is breaking days after the President nominated Chuck Hagel, whom, as you acknowledged, made those 1998 anti-gay comments against Jim Hormel. Is there some kind of statute of limitations on when someone can make anti-gay remarks and still deemed acceptable by the administration, and if so, what is it?

Carney: I think I’ve addressed the question about Sen. Hagel, and I would simply point you to President Obama’s record on LGBT issues as representative of his beliefs, convictions and his policies, and where he believes this country is moving and where he hopes to lead it.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

5 Comments
  • Policies, schmolisies! It's two-years' past time our Commander-in-Chief DID something to make LGBs in the military as equal as possible under the law—just as HRC asked him to in January 2011, and SLDN did in February 2011—and Panetta in August 2011. Whether Hagel has REALLY "evolved" is beside the point. If Obama didn't make Panetta do something about the Pentagon's insisting LGB service members has Second Class rights, why should anyone believe he'll make our Gays Best New Friend Hagel do it?

  • “… Is there some kind of statute of limitations on when someone can make anti-gay remarks and still deemed acceptable by the administration, and if so, what is it?”
    *******

    The Blade poses an apt analogy and a great question to the White House. However, it is just as important a question for LGBTQs to consider.

    It is easy to continue necessary battle cries against a shrinking/ dying lot of proactive homophobes, transphobes and bigots across our land– still well-sprinkled within our local institutions and governments, too. That’s especially so where that ongoing anti-LGBT prejudice continues to adversely impact LGBTQ lives, public safety, etc.

    But as anti-LGBT barriers– political, social, economic and religious– continue to fall in our favor, and at an increasingly fast pace, how do we deal with those people who once opposed LGBT civil rights, but have dropped their opposition?

    How about those former opponents who have moved publicly a bit in our direction? Do we reward those that have done a 180 degree reversal, now in full support of marriage equality or other major LGBT issues?

    If at all, how do we distinguish among past grievances? What weight do we give different bigoted ‘offenders’? Is it important to distinguish among their professions?

    Should we keep an imaginary scarlet ‘B’, ‘H’ or ‘T’ stamped to a variety of past-but-notorious anti-LGBT foreheads? And for how long?

    Indeed, maybe “some kind of statute of limitations” scale will be needed.

    Doesn’t it beg the question, how far back does scrutiny need be given– clergy members, for Pete’s sake– for our president’s inaugural day festivities?

    And is the burden we put upon others– and take upon ourselves in that process– worthwhile? Or even healthy?

    Didn’t Lincoln put it best? “With malice toward none…”

  • When Obama's black Harvard pal Henry Louis Gates Jr. felt disrespected by the police, Obama stopped the business of the entire country to intervene yet he has no qualms about disrespecting every gay person in the country with his embrace of yet another homophobic preacher at his Inauguration.

    • S.C. Gay, Black, Atheist Jew

      Umm, what?! He stopped the “business of the entire country”? if you expect to be taken seriously here, you’re going to need to something about the histrionics, sir. Here’s a newsflahs for you in case you’ve been hiding under some rock (which, apparently, you have): this president has done MORE THAN ALL OTHER PREVIOUS PRESIDENTS, COMBINED, to advance the rights and dignity of the LGBT community. That you won’t see this, and complain about how Obama is embracing homophobes, speaks volumes about both your relation to reality and your cognitive abilities. Oh, and I just have to say: I love the subtle racism with which you infused your remarks. “Black Harvard pal” indeed.

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