The Washington Post’s Steven Petrow should stick to polite and safe-for-suburban-sensibilities columns about which side of the aisle to sit at a gay wedding and leave the politics of outing to those who know something about it.
For years, readers have endured the Post’s irresponsible, inaccurate and sometimes downright homophobic coverage — from straight-washing our obituaries to ignoring our contributions to the military to carefully excising any mention of sexuality or significant others from news and feature stories.
And now we have Petrow, who writes the saccharine, token “Civilities” column for the Style section — where most LGBT coverage is ghettoized in the Post — slamming the LGBT press as “shameful” for making insinuations about Aaron Schock’s sexual orientation.
“Whatever comes of the speculation about Schock’s sexuality — if anything ever does — let’s not base it on his physique and sartorial choices,” he writes.
OK, let’s set aside the teal belts, six-pack abs, narcissistic social media posts and Downton Abby-inspired office décor. Schock is conspicuously single, travels extensively with a male aide and his own father felt oddly compelled to publicly deny his son is gay. Not to mention his atrocious anti-gay voting record, a fact at odds with his millennial status, a generation that generally favors LGBT rights and acceptance. And the fact that former gay colleague Barney Frank assumed Schock had been outed when he first learned of his resignation is telling indeed.
The LGBT media outlets speculating about Schock are doing so because we’ve seen this movie before and we know how it ends. Ask David Dreier, Mark Foley or Larry Craig, to name a few. Schock invites this speculation with the obnoxious, preening persona that he’s cultivated via Instagram, Twitter and Men’s Fitness photo shoots. He has spent more time developing a social media following than on crafting legislation in Congress.
If Schock wants privacy, which Petrow claims we owe him, then he should do his job, go home and shut the door. Voila, privacy. But you can’t have it both ways. Schock doesn’t get to appear shirtless in national magazines, boast of his extravagant trips on social media to thousands of followers and otherwise live a very public life as a member of Congress and then demand privacy when it comes to his sexual orientation. It’s an offensive double standard that we never extend to straight public figures, yet Schock deserves kid gloves and deference?
There are more problems with Petrow’s piece. He writes: “Of course, there are men who have sex with other men and don’t identify as gay (think about the accusations against former senator Larry Craig). Without credible ‘witnesses,’ we’re left with rumors that sound more like accusations — all of which feels like pink-baiting to me.”
Ah, yes, poor Larry Craig. The delusional homophobe who attacked LGBT people at every turn while in the U.S. Senate turned out to be a self-loathing closet case. He doesn’t “identify as gay” because he hates himself and is deeply unhealthy. And there weren’t “accusations” against Larry Craig; there was a police officer’s first-hand account of being propositioned in a bathroom and Craig’s sad, desperate excuse of having a “wide stance.”
Why is the Washington Post defending Larry Craig and Aaron Schock? This brand of polite, deferential-to-the-powerful commentary is the antithesis of what journalists ought to be doing. To hell with “civilities,” do your job and ask some tough questions of the powerful.
As a longtime member of the LGBT media, I reject Petrow’s inane criticism and dare him to use his access and platform to write something substantive about these issues. As a journalist, he should know better than to attack the messenger.
Closeted public officials and public figures should have no place to hide. From Anderson Cooper to Jodie Foster to Ken Mehlman, we’ve seen the damage the closet does and the good that comes from opening the door and living an honest life. Now that he’s out of Congress and free of the Republican Party’s homophobic influences, maybe Schock will finally come out. But the public ought to have no sympathy for this fraud, who misused taxpayer and campaign donor funds to pay for a lavish lifestyle he can’t afford. He resigned only to bring an end to the congressional inquiries, which surely would have found more misdeeds. He’s not a victim and is undeserving of the Post’s and Petrow’s misplaced sympathies.