The Washington Post is out with a profile of Charlie Crist, the former Florida governor, former Republican and former bachelor. The story chronicles Crist’s quest to return as Florida’s governor by turning himself into a Democrat. What it fails to mention is that Crist’s ongoing effort to reinvent himself includes his sexual orientation.
In fact, the Post gives Crist cover by letting him talk about his marital status unchallenged: “’I have a great life; I don’t have to do this,’ Crist says, mentioning his boat, his beautiful wife and his decent salary.” Presumably in that order.
Stories about Crist’s orientation have dogged him for years. Outrage!, the excellent documentary about closeted politicians, prominently featured Crist by interviewing an alleged ex-boyfriend. Andrew Sullivan talked to the owner of a gay bar Crist was alleged to frequent who told Sullivan point blank that Crist was gay.
A minor party candidate outed Crist when he first ran for governor in 2006. Even mainstream media types have alluded to the rumors. MSNBC’s Chuck Todd joked about Crist’s fortuitously timed engagement, hinting that it was politically motivated.
It takes some doing to fail to mention the rumors, especially given Crist’s policy changes. “Over the past 20-some years, Crist has described himself as pro-life, pro-choice, opposed to same-sex marriage and for it,” the story notes. In fact, Crist, the Democrat’s version of that human weather vane, Mitt Romney, has never met a political stand that he couldn’t discard when convenient.
The omission highlights once again the squeamishness of the mainstream media to talk about the political closet. That discomfort was most recently on display in the case of Rep. Aaron Schock. The media continue to think of sexual orientation as something that happens in private and as something that is vaguely defamatory. With public figures, that’s a difficult argument to accept.
In the Post’s case, it’s okay to quote an opponent as saying that Crist “has all the intellectual horsepower of yogurt.” It’s not okay to quote a friend saying that Crist is gay. Ask yourself: which is the worse description? Apparently, for the press, it’s not the one you would choose.