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Clinton returns to D.C. lamenting mistakes of 2016 campaign

Dem nominee on role of misogyny, fake news in election loss

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Hillary Clinton lamented having stayed “too focused on a path” in the 2016 election. (Screenshot via CSPAN)

As Hillary Clinton has reemerged in the national spotlight to promote her new book, some critics have groaned and wondered why she won’t just go away. They were not among the crowd at the Warner Theatre on Monday night.

In fact, the veneration for the first female U.S. presidential nominee of a major political party was palpable among attendees, who paid upwards of $82 for a ticket to the event.

The topic of discussion was her new book “What Happened” — a self-examination of the 2016 presidential campaign and actions that led to her loss and the election of President Trump to the White House — and Clinton had many explanations for that outcome and the way forward.

Clinton laid out a balanced approach to explain her loss, attributing the outcome not just to her missteps, but also outside forces that tipped the election in Trump’s favor.

“I just decided I was going to write it, and it was painful,” Clinton said. “I say in the book that I’d write about something, and I’d have to go lie down because it was just so hard to think about the mistakes I made and missed opportunities, but then also to come to grips with these other big forces at work that I think had a determinative impact on the outcome.”

Clinton recalled after the election before she started writing the book in February being “so devastated,” trying to feel better by cleaning out closets and taking walks in the park. The process of the writing the book, Clinton said, was “cathartic,” but also important for her view of democracy.

“It really hit me there were these very important issues that needed to be discussed, debated even, that our democracy and country relied upon that kind of self-examination,” Clinton said.

A key factor Clinton identified in her loss was not realizing the game had changed since her runs with her husband President Bill Clinton in the 1990s and her earlier campaign in 2008 — even during the 1960s and 1970s — when clear policy proposals were crucial for presidential candidates.

“You realize that the press is not putting out the policy that you’re putting out everyday, they’re covering an empty podium,” Clinton said. “And I kept thinking, ‘Well, we’re still going to break through because we really care do about what kind of jobs and infrastructure and health care and other things you want to do for them and their families and their incomes, but there’s a disconnect.”

Although Clinton said she “stayed too focused on a path” and “was not as adept” at changing to the new environment, she cautioned a less detailed approach might not be the path in the future and speculated “people will want details” again in 2020.

Lissa Muscatine, co-owner of Politics & Prose and Clinton’s chief speechwriter in the State Department and the White House, moderated the forum and queried Clinton on factors attributed to her loss, from Russian interference to fake news and misogyny.

Clinton recalled feeling compelled to exercise constraint as a woman and not respond during the second presidential debate when Trump could be seen on camera lurching close behind her as she spoke.

“As you might think back — funny gestures, facial expressions, heavy sighs — these really do affect viewers,” Clinton said. “And I just ended up believing that in addition to the gender-linked aspect of this, there was a history of people in presidential debates who had deviated in a way to show frustration, anger, dismissiveness, whatever their feelings were, and paid a heavy price for it, and I thought whatever price they paid, I would pay double or triple.”

Clinton recalled with indignation the Russians hacking the emails of her campaign chair John Podesta, which she described as being “stolen,” and given to Wikileaks — a website Clinton called “nothing more than a tool of Putin and the Kremlin.” Clinton said Trump’s associates “certainly” knew about it, citing a tweet from Roger Stone that Podesta’s time in a barrel would soon come.

Although Clinton said the emails were “anodyne,” she said they were later weaponized as fake news — in one case to potentially violent consequences as a result of the Pizzagate scandal in which Clinton was accused of running a child trafficking ring out of the basement of D.C. pizzeria. (The restaurant doesn’t even have a basement).

“Even I have to say I don’t believe it was meant to be believed to influence somebody to pick up an AR-15 and drive from North Carolina to Washington to liberate the imaginary children from the imaginary basement of the pizza parlor,” Clinton said. “But in came this young man believing that he was on a mission because he saw it on Facebook, he saw it in other places online, he saw it in quote, news outlets. And so, he was there on a mission of rescue. People could have gotten killed; he [fired] his automatic weapon inside this pizza parlor.”

Citing her loss to Trump by 53 percent among white women, Clinton said a major factor was former FBI Director James Comey reopening the email investigation — only for him to close it again one day before the election .

“All of sudden, people are told being told something’s going on, they’re going to investigate her again, or whatever,” Clinton said. “We could see that a lot of women in particular turned away. They were discouraged. I don’t blame them. They didn’t know what to believe. I mean, it was outrageous.”

When Muscatine mentioned Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), whom Clinton heavily criticizes in her book for raising doubts about her connections to Wall Street, the audience at the Warner Theatre audibly booed and hissed.

But there were also moments of levity at the event. Muscatine at one point engaged Clinton in a game of having to choose one of a pair of words. Asked about “tea” or “coffee,” Clinton replied “coffee.” Asked about “beach” or “mountains,” Clinton replied “beach.” Asked about “Trump” or “Putin,” Clinton replied she’d have to “take that under advisement” because she “ran against both of them.”

Attendees at the event — who consisted mostly of middle-class women but also members of D.C.’s LGBT community — came to the Warner Theater adorned in Clinton campaign T-shirts leftover from the 2016 election. One vendor outside sold campaign buttons with slogans reading “Hillary 2016” and “Hil Yes!”

Blake Smith, 20, a gay student at George Washington University, worked for Clinton’s presidential campaign and came to the event wearing a T-shirt comprised of a collage of images of Clinton.

“I just think she gets a bad rap,” Smith said. “And I think that people treat her really unfairly, and I think that she’s really, genuinely a good person and she cares about this country.”

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Virginia

Va. businessman apologizes for burning of rainbow flag poster

‘Shocked and horrified’: Ashburn incident caught on video

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Organizers of an event where a Pride symbol was burned say the incident was a misunderstanding.

The owner of a Virginia technology company that hosted a private Veterans Day party on the grounds of an Ashburn, Va., brewery in which a company employee used a flame-throwing device to ignite a rainbow flag poster said the selection of the poster was a mistake and he and his company have no ill will toward the LGBTQ community.

The Washington Blade learned about the poster burning from a customer of the Old Ox Brewery in Ashburn, where the incident took place on its outdoor grounds. The customer made a video of the incident with his cell phone and sent a copy of the video to the Blade.

The video, which includes an audio recording, shows a man using a hand-held flame-throwing device to ignite the rainbow poster, which was hanging from a cable and appeared to be mounted on cardboard or a thin sheet of wood. Bystanders can be heard laughing and cheering as the poster is set on fire.

The poster consisted of a variation of the LGBTQ Pride rainbow flag that included the word “love” configured from an upper white stripe on the rainbow symbol.

The customer who took the video, who has asked not to be identified, thought the decision to set the poster on fire was a sign of disrespect if not hatred toward a longstanding symbol of LGBTQ equality and pride.

Chris Burns, Old Ox Brewery’s president, shared that view, telling the Blade he and his staff were “shocked and horrified” when they learned later that a rainbow flag poster had been burned on the brewery’s grounds. Burns said Old Ox supports the LGBTQ community and participated in LGBTQ Pride month earlier this year.

He said the company that held the private party paid a fee to hold the event on the brewery’s grounds, but the brewery did not know a rainbow poster would be burned.

“I’m mortified that our event was interpreted in this way,” said Nate Reynolds, the founder and partner of Hypershift Technologies LLC, the Falls Church, Va.-based technology company that organized the Nov. 11 party at Old Ox Brewery. “I can assure you that ZERO ill-will or offense was meant,” Reynolds told the Blade in a Nov. 24 email.

“We held a small private party for a few clients, which included a demonstration of Elon Musk’s Boring Company ‘Not a Flamethrower,’” he said in his message. He was referring to one of billionaire businessman Elon Musk’s companies that specializes in boring through the ground to create tunnels for cars, trains, and other purposes. 

“After so many being isolated during COVID, we wanted to have an event that was lighthearted and to some small effect, silly,” Reynolds said in his message to the Blade.

According to Reynolds, in thinking about what should be used for “fodder” for the flame-thrower, he went to a Five Below discount store and purchased items such as stuffed animals and posters, including a “Space Jam” movie poster as well as what he thought was a poster of the British rock group The Beatles.

“When I pulled the Beatles poster out of the tube it was instead the ‘Love’ poster,” he said, referring to the rainbow flag poster the Blade asked him about in an earlier email.

“All I focused on was the ‘Love’ wording and not the rainbow and did not draw the conclusion that the poster was an icon that represents the LGBTQ community,” Reynolds said. “It was my own ignorance of not connecting the symbolism of the poster. If I had realized it was a symbol of the LGBTQ community, I would not have used it,” he said.

“I feel terrible, and I want to emphasize that I am solely responsible for this mistake – not the Old Ox Brewery,” he wrote in his message. “Nobody at Old Ox had anything to do with this activity.”

Reynolds added, “Hate has no place in my heart, and I sincerely apologize for any offense that could have been drawn from what I now realize was poor judgement on my part. I simply didn’t correlate this poster with the LGBTQ pride symbol.”  

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Before Reynolds issued his statement of apology, Burns, the Old Ox Brewery co-owner, told the Blade in an email he was “saddened and upset” over the rainbow poster burning on the grounds of his brewery.

“We do not wish to benefit from this event,” he said in his email message. “Therefore, Old Ox is donating 100% of the revenue generated from the private event to GLSEN.”

GLSEN is a national LGBTQ advocacy group that focuses on education and support for LGBTQ youth. Burns said Old Ox Brewery also donated proceeds from a Pride month event it organized earlier this year to GLSEN.

LGBTQ activists and organizations contacted by the Blade said they were unfamiliar with the variation of the rainbow flag with the word “love” that was the subject of the poster burning incident. The poster is available for sale at Five Below stores in the D.C. metropolitan area for $5.

Small print writings on the poster show it is produced by Trends International LLC, which describes itself on its website as “the leading publisher and manufacturer of licensed posters, calendars, stickers and social stationery products.” The Blade couldn’t immediately determine who designed the poster.

 The video of the poster burning incident can be viewed here:

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Fairfax schools returns LGBTQ-themed books in high school libraries

Review found ‘no pedophilia’ in texts as critics claimed

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(Book cover insert courtesy of Amazon)

The Fairfax County Public Schools announced on Tuesday that following a detailed review by two committees appointed by school officials it has returned two LGBTQ themed books to its high school libraries that had been temporarily withdrawn after being challenged by critics who claimed they included sexually explicit content inappropriate for students.

The two books, “Lawn Boy,” a novel by author Jonathan Evison, and “Gender Queer: A Memoir,” which is described as an illustrated autobiography by non-binary author Maia Kobabe, each contain descriptions of sexual acts.

But supporters of the books have argued that they have won praise by literary critics and, while describing intimate relationships, they tell stories that do not fall into the category of pornography.  

Fairfax County Public Schools, the name used for the county’s public school system, on Tuesday said in a statement that a thorough review of the books by two committees consisting of educators, school officials, parents and some students found that neither book contained content that could be considered to depict pedophilia as claimed by some parents and others opposing the two books.

School officials announced they had temporarily withdrawn the two books from school libraries following a Sept. 23 meeting of the Fairfax County School Board where strong objections to the two books were raised by parents.

“Two books that were subject to formal challenge have been deemed appropriate for high school readers following a two-month review process and will be reinstated to Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) libraries,” Tuesday’s statement by the school system says.

“The decision reaffirms FCPS’s ongoing commitment to provide diverse reading materials that reflect our student population, allowing every child an opportunity to see themselves reflected in literary characters,” the statement continues. “Both reviews concluded that the books were valuable in their potential to reach marginalized youth who may struggle to find relatable literary characters that reflect their personal journey,” the statement says.

The statement says the final decision to reinstate the books was made by Noel Klimenko, the Fairfax County Public Schools’ assistant superintendent for its Instructional Services Department.

The two books have received favorable reviews in various literary publications. Both have received the American Library Association’s Alex Award, an annual award that recognizes the year’s 10 books written for adults that the association says have a special appeal to young adults ages 12 through 18.

“The robust committee process took place over several weeks and considered whether the books flouted regulations by being obscene or harmful to juveniles as defined by the Code of Virginia,” the school system statement says. “The members also considered the work in line with an excerpt from the FCPS Student Rights and Responsibilities Handbook pertaining to possessing obscene visual imagery as defined in the Code of Virginia,” the statement says.

“After careful consideration, neither books were deemed to have fallen foul of these regulations,” it concludes.

The decision by Fairfax school officials to reinstate the two books came about six weeks after more than 425 LGBTQ students and allies from over 30 Fairfax County public high schools sent a letter to the school board and the school system’s superintendent urging them to reinstate the two books.

The Pride Liberation Project, a coalition of LGBTQ and allied students in Fairfax County, organized the joint letter.

“Student representatives from over 30 schools, including nearly every high school in Fairfax County Public Schools, have signed this letter, and many of us are students of color, low-income, gender expansive and not out to our families and communities,” the letter states.

“We are writing to ask you to reject calls to remove Maia Kobabe’s ‘Gender Queer’ and Jonathan Evison’s ‘Lawn Boy’ from Fairfax County Public Schools libraries,” the letter says.

It points out that “hundreds of books in our schools already depict heterosexual relationships and physical intimacy,” and says singling out LGBTQ themed books with similar stories of intimacy for rejection is unfair.

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Transgender Zimbabwean woman in Md. wins asylum case

Mattie Tux Horton lives in Rockville

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Mattie Tux Horton, right, with her lawyer Ankush Dhupar in Los Angeles. (Photo courtesy of Mattie Tux Horton/Facebook)

A transgender woman from Zimbabwe who lives in Rockville won her asylum case in late October after living in the U.S. for the past five years. 

Mattie Tux Horton was represented by Ankush Dhupar from the Los Angeles law firm Paul Hastings LLP.

“I feel at ease,” said Horton. “Although a lot is going on in the [United States], it’s [significantly] different compared to where I’m coming from.”

Horton said that she now considers the U.S. to be her home. 

Although she has been living in Maryland for a while now, receiving asylum stripped away the anxiety associated with returning to Zimbabwe had the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency denied her request. 

With protection from the U.S. government, Horton gets to live in a safe environment and without the vile treatment she encountered in Zimbabwe because of her transness.

In her hometown of Bulawayo, Horton faced constant public humiliation and was once fired from her job as a graphic artist because of her dress presentation, according to an interview she did with Medium. 

She was attacked by a violent group of men in 2014, and was outed later that year following a holiday trip to South Africa, according to the interview. 

This incident garnered media attention and The Sunday News, a Zimbabwean newspaper, published an article in which it misgendered Horton throughout the entire piece. 

This prompted Horton to apply for a U.S. visa so she could attend an LGBTQ leadership conference in D.C. and remove herself from the cacophony in her town.

The Sunday News later ran a story about Horton’s departure in which they misgendered her again and referred to her as a “transgender man” and “alleged gay.”

Horton arrived in D.C. in December 2016 and began her asylum process there. 

While visiting a friend in Los Angeles, she connected with the city’s Human Rights First chapter that referred her to Dhupar, who represented her pro bono. 

Dhupar is a labor and employment law attorney at Paul Hastings LLC and he volunteered to work on Horton’s case as part of his firm’s partnership with Human Rights First to do pro bono LGBTQ advocacy work.

Horton’s asylum was his first ever immigration case.

While the legal underpinnings of immigration were new to him, Dhupar did not struggle to situate his modus operandi because of how compelling Horton’s case was.

“I always referred to the facts of the case because the law is geared towards helping situations like [Horton’s] where someone fears for their life in their home country,” said Dhupar. 

Dhupar also added that Horton’s case was a prime example of why the asylum process exists.

Horton submitted a psychological evaluation in February 2021 that would expedite her asylum case and grant her an interview notice sooner than usual. 

At that point she had lived in the U.S. for more than four years, but she still had to wait a couple more months before she was called for an interview. This caused Horton to feel trepid about whether her case was strong enough. 

“I went through depression and had psychological breakdowns,” said Horton. “I have friends who were called in for an interview months after moving here and didn’t have to wait five years [like I did].”

This hurdle, however, gave Horton and Dhupar adequate time to build an indisputable case. The two built a personal relationship that kept them vigilant despite the abounding uncertainty. 

“She was a perfect advocate for herself and took the initiative to make sure the case did not fall on the backburner,” said Dhupar. 

Now that she has won her case, Horton is taking time to relish on her recent success. 

“I’m going to take a breather,” she said.

She also plans to secure full-time employment in 2022 and build a makeup brand. Horton currently works part time as a steering committee member — a role she says is fulfilling — at the Black LGBTQIA+ Migrant Project- Transgender Law Center.

There, she links Black trans and gender nonconforming individuals to education, employment, legal and healthcare resources.

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