August 26th, 2010
12:15 PM ET
8 years ago

Mehlman news fuels divisive reaction


 Is former top Bush aid Ken Mehlman – who has told friends and family he is gay - a courageous conservative or shameful hypocrite? (PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images)

(CNN) - Is former top Bush aid Ken Mehlman – who has told friends and family he is gay - a courageous conservative or shameful hypocrite?

That's the debate raging through political circles and around the blogosphere a day after the former Republican National Committee chairman and 2004 Bush campaign manager told The Atlantic magazine he is gay.

In one corner are those who say Mehlman has arrived at the end of a difficult journey of self acceptance, and should be praised for coming out publicly and pledging to work with groups that advocate for same-sex marriage in the future.

In the other are those whose memory still remains fresh - of the Bush administration's stance on gay rights in general and particularly Bush's 2004 presidential campaign, of which Mehlman was a chief architect, that repeatedly used the issue of same-sex marriage to increase conservative turnout at the polls.

R. Clark Cooper, the executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans – a group that aims to work within the GOP to advance gay and lesbian rights – says Mehlman should be commended for putting himself on the line and pledging to work toward equal rights in the future.

"I am looking at it from a forward looking view, as in onward and upward," Cooper told CNN. "Let's take advantage of this moment. Let's get the Republican Party back to basics, back to its core values and away from its divisive social issues."

As for whether Mehlman deserves criticisms for steering the party down a course that embraced a Constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, Cooper says others should not speculate what Mehlman's thought process was.

"There's not an on and off switch [to being gay]. There's a huge conflict in one's mind…I don't know when or where on the calendar Ken started doing the reconciliation process," Cooper said. "But…when one starts having those conflicts and feelings, there is the immediate reaction to try to fix it."

Christopher Barron, of the gay conservative group GOPProud also praised Mehlman's decision to go public.

"Poll after poll shows the most powerful thing we can do to change hearts and minds about gay issues is to come out," he told CNN, "I applaud Ken for having the courage to take this important step. I think everyone should remember that each of us has our own personal journey as it relates to coming to terms with our own sexuality and coming out.

Meanwhile the Victory Fund, a gay and lesbian political group, issued a more tepid response, saying, "We hope the fact that Ken Mehlman has reached this level of honesty will now encourage other political leaders to reject divisive anti-gay campaign tactics which, as Mr. Mehlman now admits, are purely cynical attempts to manipulate the American public."

But some more liberal-leaning bloggers aren't willing to shower the former Bush aide with adulation, no matter how difficult his own self acceptance may have been.

"The three people most responsible for the anti-gay actions of the Bush reelection campaign are Mehlman, Karl Rove and Bush," wrote Mike Rogers, a liberal blogger who has long sought to out gay Republicans. "Ken Mehlman is horridly homophobic and no matter how orchestrated his coming out is, our community should hold him accountable for his past."

The Stonewall Democrats, a group of Democratic gay and lesbian activists, expressed a similar sentiment, saying in a statement, "Mehlman presided over the Republican Party at a time when the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans were used to ill ends – marriage amendments in dozens of states, vitriolic attacks on our families, our soldiers, our very lives – all for political expediency, votes at the ballot box, and power."

Blogger Joe Jervis added, "You don't have be GAY or OUT to know that discrimination and bigotry is wrong. Don't let Mehlman's "personal journey" babble snow you."

As for Mehlman himself, the former Bush guru told the Advocate Thursday, "One thing I regret a lot is the fact that I wasn't in the position I am today where I was comfortable with this part of my life, where I was able to be an advocate against that [strategy] and able to be someone who argued against it."

Filed under: Ken Mehlman
soundoff (143 Responses)
  1. Brent

    He is a republican in the truest sense, fighting against his nature.

    August 26, 2010 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  2. AndyBlue

    One more disgusting fire stoker, Homophobe, closet gay among the republicans.

    These people have hurt other gay Americans so much that we wont see equality until the next generation.

    It would have been nice to be able to serve my country legally or get married in my lifetime.

    Why cant these so called "Christian Conservatives" stay out of other peoples lives? Why do my tax dollars have to make up what churches dont pay because they get tax exampt status?

    Imagine in this day and age that churches can put the rights of others on a ballot for yes and no vote.

    Religious people really are evil.

    August 26, 2010 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  3. T'SAH from Virginia

    "The three people most responsible for the anti-gay actions of the Bush reelection campaign are Mehlman, Karl Rove and Bush,"

    They're all HYPOCRITES – I bet Karl Rove is GAY too – maybe BUSH too!! Closet Gays!!

    The RepubliCAN'Ts who care so much about this is only hiding what they truly are. A lot of them are probably PRO-CHOICE too because they were in a situation where they had to make that CHOICE!!!

    The RepubliCAN'Ts are BREAKING @ the SEAMS and need to be re-stitched with 21st Century Thread!!!

    August 26, 2010 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  4. JR

    Considering the way he sold his conscience and principles in 2004, I'd call him one massive hypocrite.

    August 26, 2010 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  5. Dwayne

    Just another right-wing hypocrite, these are the people that wil say and do anything to get elected, he's is just another shameless Republican HYPOCRITE.

    August 26, 2010 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  6. Srirama

    Hypocrite...The so called conservatives on moral issues are nothing but bunch of hypcrites

    August 26, 2010 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  7. dblzap


    The GOP is now the laughing stock of the country

    August 26, 2010 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  8. They ought to change from the elephant to the hippo...

    Typical of the "family values" party. I get to tell YOU how to live, but don't you DARE tell me... (Look under "Newt" and the "Quayle family in AZ" for the definition, if needed...)

    August 26, 2010 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  9. Fox viewer

    What a bunch of losers these libs are! They would be welcoming the courageous outing of fellow homo libs but a conservative out of power for over 1 1/2 years is shocking ? Get a life !

    August 26, 2010 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  10. Liz the First

    Glad he's being true to himself now. shame he had to go thru a period of betraying his community on behalf of the haters. i wish his courage had showed up 6 years ago. i hope he can help the cause of marriage equality now. people like 'gt' need to understand it isn't wrong to be gay or to have the same basic human rights as anyone else. bigotry is wrong. I hope he will now leave the party that considers him a second-class citizen and join those of us who believe the part about ALL men are created equal.

    August 26, 2010 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  11. Dan, TX

    It's time for the GOP to embrace gay men.

    August 26, 2010 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  12. Henry Miller, Libertarian

    The fascination of a lot of the human race with who has sex with whom mystifies me. Who cares, people? It's none of anyone else's business.

    August 26, 2010 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  13. Chris

    I don't think these two are mutually exclusive. I am glad he came out and wish him well on his continued journey. I also feel his past actions are hypocritical. The burden is now on him to atone for those actions by working just as (or even more) zealously in support of gay rights as he worked against them in the past.

    August 26, 2010 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  14. Michael from Ventura

    His sexual orientation doesn't matter to me. His actions and the actions of gwb in the 2004 campaign increased the distance between the GOP and the LGBT Community. Fear and bigotry worked once again. His coming out now with the hope of support from the Community is almost beyond belief. The "conversion" to reality is a tad late in my opinion.

    August 26, 2010 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  15. kravitz

    In gay history, many men of privilege seek to insulate themselves from the rest of gay society, thinking it will buy them freedom. Only to find the walls erected fail and implode. He will be accepted eventually, as was Roy Cohn (I knew his last partner) but he will continue to fight himself for what he has done. As should happen.

    August 26, 2010 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  16. Ferret out the BS

    He appears to be a person that uses what he needs to get what he wants. Isn't that rather pathological? Typical Republican, I suspect he will continue to go far in the party.

    August 26, 2010 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  17. rosaadriana

    Funny, I love it when these guys come out. Wait till Lindsay Grahm from SC come out of the closet. That will be hysterical.

    August 26, 2010 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  18. Steve, New York City

    Many conservatives will crucify this poor guy (because anyone who is NOT EXACTLY LIKE THEM, MUST be doing something wrong).

    August 26, 2010 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  19. Squiggs

    This guy is a hypocrit and a coward. There's no big deal to coming out in this day and time. To do what he did in the Bush administration while knowing he was gay is shameful and typical of a self loather.

    August 26, 2010 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  20. JFK

    Good luck to him and shame on those judgemental people in here. No one needs your judgement, hate, or opinion for that matter. Judge yourself first and fix what you need too. I give him marks for courage in the face of the political hate machine.

    August 26, 2010 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  21. mrBistre

    The obvious conclusion is this... the republican party doesn't actually care about whether or not a person is gay... it only wants to use the fear that people have of gays. They never will actually make a federal law regarding gay marriage, they will just bring it up every election cycle. They do the same thing with abortion rights, gun ownership, immigration... all the wedge issues.

    The sad thing is that their base never realizes that they are being played... over and over again, voting to move all the wealth in society to the top, just because they think that voting Dem means endorsing gay sex.

    August 26, 2010 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  22. strong

    Imagine a politician being a hypocrite? Whoda thunk it?

    They all lie, cheat and steal. We Americans are just used to it. Do we have a choice? Same old crap.

    Of course, Mehlman looks swishy and poofter. No surprise there.

    August 26, 2010 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  23. doug

    Being decent, fair, honest and being able to be courteous to those around you defines you more as a person than your sexuality, so the hate filled libs, while obviously in the correct party due to their lack of morals and values, are wrong that a gay person is in the wrong party if they are Republican.

    Some gays don't want to be used as foder in your divide and conquer game.

    Many gays, including Elton John, are against gay marriage. They just want the same rights as everyone else, and every Republican in America supports that!

    August 26, 2010 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  24. FoolKiller

    I could really care less what he does. It the ones that do it and then tell me I have to like it that I object to. Sounds like he never let it detract from doing his job either...

    August 26, 2010 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  25. What Do You Call Someone Who Attacks His Own Kind . . .???

    Shameful hypocrite or Scum or M-F or Lowlife S.O. B. or . . .

    August 26, 2010 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
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