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. Ed, Santa Fe, NM

    All male REPUKES are probably gay or closet cases.....

    August 26, 2010 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  2. Jilli


    The only one that couldn't easily spot that Mehlman was gay back in 2000 was himself? It's a pity that he still saw fit to propel the most homophobic administration in recent history.

    He won't last long in the republican party – no gays allowed.

    August 26, 2010 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  3. Michael Armstrong Sr.

    America has to many peter puffer's in charge of government .

    August 26, 2010 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  4. doug

    If you libs want to see a real hypocrite then grab a mirror.

    Libs say they are tolerant and pacifists, yeah, go spend time in an ultra blue area, they are anything but those words.

    They drive with an intent to kill, their narcisissm is the biggest threat to our safety and yet they say they are pacifists. So pacifist that they all cheered and supported a movie about killing President Bush! All areas of this nation with the highest crime, murder, rape, and theft are all solidly blue, I guess those actions make one tolerant huh? Explains why each and every democrat in America wants to deny our military their vote, but supports illegal votes by convicted fellons.

    August 26, 2010 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  5. Cindy

    He's the Prodigal Son. There are others. Welcome him warmly... don't discourage others from turning the corner.

    August 26, 2010 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  6. Patrick

    First, no kidding the guy is gay. But to the point, when he promoted people who want to deny people like himself civil rights, he's at the very least self loathing. Gay fiscal conservatives have a hard time because the GOP so closely wed themselves to the evangelicals just to get their votes.

    August 26, 2010 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  7. Chessnutz of Liverpool NY

    I do not understand the problem? In order to keep his job he kept his sexuality a secret.
    let me think this a bit....Hmmmmmmmmmmmm....
    Yup that is what many working gay/lesbian people have to do in order to keep their careers and livelihood isn't it?
    Now maybe he has a renewed courage or is more secure in his career.
    I applaud this man and all who are forced to live in the closet because our society refuses to accept them as humans just like everybody else.
    When I see same sex couples all I can see is love, and unconditional love is what life is all about at least that is what I was taught when my brother gave his life for our sins.

    I'm not a very smart man but I know what love is....
    I believe that it is NOT too late to believe.
    I am one with you we make two and then three, thus the beginning

    August 26, 2010 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  8. Mutt

    Goes to prove most conseritives are homosexuals.

    August 26, 2010 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  9. Bryans

    I love how all these liberals are the msot judgemental of all. Life is complicated and as humans we all are broken. Religious & class warfare is where they live. Liberals are so out of step with reality it is frighening.

    August 26, 2010 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  10. Greg from VA

    Forgiven? I think not, this man has a lot of work ahead of him as far as making up for the damages he personally has caused. He knew he was gay back then. He had been outed by Mike Rogers but yet it was never reported on. Shame on him, Shame on republicans, and Shame on Bush whom I'm pretty sure know this person was gay and used it against him. This man just bought a 3 million dollars condo in Chelsa New York in the gay area, money he made off his hatred and condemnations of gays and getting Bush re-elected and helping to pass the Amendments in the states against GAY marriage. No it will be a long Long time if he is ever forgiven. GopPround and Log Cabin Republicans...Shame on you for just giving in to this person.

    August 26, 2010 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  11. Pat F

    Why can't you be gay, but not think that the 5,000 year ole institution of marriage has to be re-defined for gays? Why does this make him a hypocrit? To me, it makes him a principled conservative.

    Conservatives don't care who you sleep with. They care about limited government, fiscal responsibilty, freedom, defense, and entrepeneurialism. And revamping marriage away from 5,000 years of human history is not limited government.

    Liberals; ad hominem attacks on this guy just demonstrate that liberals are only interested in themselves and their own selfish interests, so they assume everyone else is the same way!! The crooks always have the biggest locks!!

    August 26, 2010 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  12. Roscoe

    Why is this news? It was widely known that he was gay when he worked for the Bush people.

    August 26, 2010 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  13. Matthew

    My favorite part is when he says… “It's taken me 43 years to get comfortable with this part of my life," RIGHT..It took 43 years of your life and the destruction of freedom for thousands and thousands of gay, bi & lesbian Americans for you get over your cowardice. I’m not proud of you for coming out, I’m discussed.

    This is like shooting someone than reviewing the harm you have done and saying “Wow I guess I should do something to stop that bleeding”.. He has a lot of work to do to repair the damage he has done.

    August 26, 2010 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  14. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    I'm sure Cheney knew and told him to shut up. You'll never hear from Liz Cheney or her father when the conversation is about gays and lesbians, they always disappear from the media and reaapear when the subject changes.

    August 26, 2010 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  15. charlie from the North

    Well on the one hand good for him. He realized who he is and is ready to move on with his life. It does seem a little un-fair that he worked so hard against gay marriage until he figured out it would effect him. Ironically the two biggest obstacles to his stated goal are Supreme Court Justices that he helped put in place.

    Live and learn I guess,

    August 26, 2010 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  16. Troy

    He's a big hypocrite definitely, but no bigger than the rest of the Bush administration. He has ruined his clout in the Republican party not only that, I doubt any gay man will want to come near him as a partner for the damage he helped inflict on us during the Bush years

    August 26, 2010 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  17. water bearer

    Nothing new, really. Most Republicans, especially Neo-con Republicans, have proven themselves over and over to be shameless hypocrites.

    August 26, 2010 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  18. roro

    Shameful hypocrite gets my vote.

    August 26, 2010 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  19. Sniffit

    "He should be ashamed, not because he's gay, but because he deliberately and strategically targeted fellow gays and lesbians for mistreatment to promote his own selfish political goals."

    It was wrong whether he was gay or straight. It just makes a heckuva lot less sense if he's gay. Well, unless you start getting into the psychology of self-loathing when you're a member of an ostracized group of people, etc. etc. Ever listen to one of those whackjobs who claims some anti-gay fundamentalist christian daycamps taught them how to ungay themselves so they could get into heaven and re-learn how to enjoy hairipie? Yeah. So basically, this guy is just another self-victimizing practitioner of self-loathing circular this case, we might say fruit loops.

    August 26, 2010 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  20. La Piovra

    See that old Psych 101 defense mechanism: Reaction Formation.

    August 26, 2010 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  21. JTinCowtown

    Its always especially offensive when someone becomes nobel AFTER they've become irrelevant. (See: Reagan supporting AIDS research AFTER he was out of office and suffering dementia) Ken M has known who and what he was since he worked in the Tx. cong. delegates office. He just enjoyed tinkering with the controls too much to bother with nettlesome truths....then they dissed him after his work to elect Bush by refusing him the Chief of Staff position (guess why) at the "W" White House, shunted him over to GOP hq and so began his trek toward (A) irrelevance and (B) personal enlightenment. He does indeed have a glib brilliance, but that just makes him a silver-tongued invertebrate.

    August 26, 2010 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  22. jay

    He's just another shameless hypocrite Republican, one of many.

    August 26, 2010 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  23. Adonomo

    This would have been a none issue with the exception that he had put his party above the interest of a lot of gay people. This also reminds me of the fox news network anchor men and women who continue to receive salaries from someone who is a share holder of their corporation but a muslim.

    If they were so patriotic and true Americans like they claim to be, they would have resigned their positions. Their followers also continue to heed and listen to their bigoted rhetorics without questioning their so-called leaders' hypocrasies.

    August 26, 2010 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  24. GI Joe

    Probably close friends with Rove and Limbaugh – they are of the same ilk.

    August 26, 2010 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  25. jim atmadison

    Everybody in GOP leadership positions has known Mehlman is gay for years. A lot of them hang out at the same gay bars.

    The fact that he engineered numerous anti-gay efforts for the GOP puts him in the position of being an extreme hypocrite.

    And not even an apology, from what I've heard so far.

    Now what? Is he going to stand up against his party when they're on the wrong side of these issues? Will he just be quiet? Why should anybody care?

    August 26, 2010 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
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