in hiding

How Did Ken Mehlman Get the D.C. Press Corps To Hide His Secret?

If everybody inside the beltway knew Ken Mehlman was a gay, how come it went unreported for so long? Because the “open secret” was without proof. After all, it’s not like any reporters saw the guy being pounded by a power top.

The Atlantic‘s Marc Ambinder, who penned the softball piece that Mehlman participated in for his official media coming out, and is gay himself (and just got married in D.C.!), says he would’ve outed the anti-gay former RNC chairman if he had something hard to go on: “I would have reported it because he was in power at a time when the Republican Party was whipping up anti-gay sentiment to get votes,” he tells Howard Kurtz. “I’m very squeamish about outing anyone. That squeamishness certainly would have gone into the equation. But there would have been a clear and compelling reason. Even though outing would have encroached on his personal dignity, which would have made me uncomfortable, it would have been the right thing to do to hold someone in power accountable.”

Of course, outing somebody requires that the person actually be gay — something that Mehlman, who continues to donate to anti-gay candidates, says he only recently came to terms with. As in, started identifying as such. But was he sleeping with dudes while he managed George W. Bush’s 2004 hate campaign? Was he sleeping with women? Does any of that matter? The common wisdom is Mehlman has known about his sexuality as long as the rest of us, but is dodging his responsibility to LGBT Americans by saying it’s only a new revelation. As if that matters in grading his moral character.

Though it’s not like you should’ve expected, say, Fox News to break the news. That network has run zero stories on Mehlman since he came out.

But what was stopping any reporter from saying Mehlman is gay? Bill Maher said as much on Larry King Live (though West Coast viewers never saw that part of the interview), which followed Mike Rogers’ own outing of the politico-cum-Chelsea gay. But that’s as far as the story went, because in polite society it is uncouth to rumormonger about somebody not being straight. Also in polite society, it is uncouth to try to install constitutional amendments that prohibit equality, but that seems to be the lesser crime here.

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  • Cam

    This is a bunch of B.S. The Press speculates ALL THE TIME “Are Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt Dating?” “Is Mylie Cyrus Seeing a New Guy?” “Did Leanne Rymes Cheat on her Husband?”

    Funny how the press only doesn’t speculate when it comes to them being gay. Bill Mahr OUTED Mehlman in 2006 on Larry King Live, so please don’t tell me that any of these press folks didn’t know about that. They could have easily asked the question and then printed his denail or his “No Comment”.

    They were just being whores and did not want to possibly lose their access.


    “says he would’ve outed the anti-gay former RNC chairman if he had something hard to go on” That made me laugh!

  • Baxter

    @Cam: You seem to be confusing the real press and the tabloid press.

  • dave

    Will Mehlman’s reputation, such as it was, ever be rehabilitated? As for the White House press criminals; they all sat there and watched silently knowing what they knew, as this once powerful and dangerous man did the damamge that he did. How can they be trusted ever again?

  • Cam


    You’re joking right?

    Well here is something from the Washington Post about the worst celeb cheating scandals. There is no separation between the real and the tabloid press. The National Enquier was up for the Pulitzer because of it’s coverage of the John Edwards Scandal and the Washington Post is running articles on celbs cheating, or sections on Lohan and Mel Gibson

    Celeb Cheaters (Washington Post)

    (Lohan, Gibson, etc… Washington Post)


    @dave: This stuff has been going on since the dawn of newspapers. To keep your access you keep your mouth shut.

    Nowadays its tougher with the internets but still goes on…….Back when FDR was in office the vast majority of the country had no idea he could no longer walk due to polio. All his photos and moving images were staged. Every single President and his people have had incidents that the vast majority of the press knew about never reported. The aides to the President are for the most part on board with his agenda and are simply following the party line.

    What makes Melhman so damm reprensive and dispicable is that he knew his actions were damaging his own community. He was a trusted advisor with immmediate access to GW Bush. He was in a position where he could have lessened the degree of hatred and damage towards the Gays community Instead he activily agitated the base, encouraged and participated in an agenda that cut a swath of destruction in his own community………..

  • David Ehrenstein

    The y hid it because they hate Out and Proud gays and love the closet.

    it’s really that simple.

    Did you see John King on CNN last night? “OH Ken Mehlman’s been a close friend of mine for years” HE’S A MO’ TOO !!!!!!!

  • Ms. Jimmi

    The beltway Crowd protects their own. The mainstream never reports on thing like that unless they get word that there will be a press conference and the subject is willingly coming out.


    Damm I know this is weird, but isn’t there a bit of a lustfull look on GW’s face as he gazes at Melhman…….(sorry to those of you who read this while eating :p)

  • Jaroslaw

    #8 my first response to you was “protect what”? Being Gay is not an illness, although it can be difficult. Although apparently it is a major handicap obviously in conservative/quasi-religious circles. The first picture I saw of him made me think he was in his 70s and my boss said ‘well, men from that era had to hide… etc.” Imagine my shock when I found out he is only 43.

    So, this guy is giant dirtbag and so are the people who hid him. I even have a problem with Ambinder – why is he so afraid to out someone? I mean it is good to have standards and be careful but SQUEAMISH? We’re sometimes our own worst enemies.

  • Joe

    Ambider Ambinder said
    “I’m very squeamish about outing anyone. That squeamishness certainly would have gone into the equation. But there would have been a clear and compelling reason. Even though outing would have encroached on his personal dignity..” Mary puhleze!! Reporters like Ambinder (and he’s gay too, so even more so) should be more squeamish over the fact that bridge trolls like Mehlman continue to work against his own kind while profiting financially from it all. The clear and compelling reason, sweetheart, is that gays are being denied their rights and as far as personal dignity is concerned, Ms. Mehlman has none.

  • mrpeenee

    Mehlman is simply the most striking example of the Washington press corps knowing someone is gay and helping him cover his tracks. The queer reporters and the queer congressmen all go to the same bars, of course they know.

  • Swen

    Just a hunch, but maybe because personal lives are no one’s business?

  • Ken S

    I suspect that enyone expecting this cynical, self-interested neocon toady to try and make amends for all the lousy shit he participated in against GLBT people is going to be disappointed. Like most of his ilk, I don’t believe he’ll ever give a shit about anything until it effects him personally, which is unlikely; how much deprivation is this million-dollar-condo-having creep likely to suffer?

    No, I expect the only way we’ll ever hear so much as a note of genuine remorse for the anti-gay animus he helped whip up is if some rough trick he picks up in desperation (because he can’t find a nice, self-respecting gay guy who’ll forgive his track record) wrecks his little gay oasis in Chelsea and beats him senseless while telling him he deserves it for being a “disgusting, sub-human faggot.” Maybe– just maybe– getting his ribs kicked in while some *other* bigot spews poison about how “sodomy isn’t a family value” (or whatever stupid bullshit those people believe), and then having the cops not take him seriously because it’s “just a pervert with buyer’s remorse,” would cause something to finally click and make him realize ‘OH! This is the ugly fucking world that I helped create by being a party to dehumanizing gay people!”

    Now am I *wishing* such an attack on the man? Well, I do like to see people reap what they sow, so that they can learn about consequences and grow as moral agents.

  • rrr

    @Cam: Bill Maher just provided some rumor, he didn’t have any proof and even Bill mentioned the risk of being sued. Bloggers can make all kinds of allegations because suing over online material is still tricky and doesn’t happen very much. The traditional media is in real jeopardy of law suits (that they could well lose even if they are right – Tom Cruise and Liberace won in court when people suggested they were gay) and respectable news outfits don’t go with sex or sexuality stories unless there is hard evidence available. That goes for straight sex stuff too – there weren’t mainstream media stories about Edwards’ mistress or Spitzer’s escorts until hard evidence existed and it was tabloids or law enforcement agencies that did the leg work on those not the respectable press.

  • mk

    Maher didn’t back up his comments.

    All he said was he thinks it’s known around DC Ken is gay and that he didn’t think Ken had denied it when he was asked. He was wrong about that, Mehlman had been asked and denied it and other republicans had denied it about Ken.

    Maher obviously thought better of it himself because he said on Larry King that he was going to drop some names including Mehlman’s in his upcoming speech about Ted Haggart on his show, but he when the time came he didn’t include anyone’s name but Ted’s.

  • David

    Here in Texas it used to be libel (or slander?) to call someone gay, and you could recover “damages” in court. I dunno, it might still be considered libel in Texas, and maybe in other states.

    That really irks me, that being called “gay” could be basis for a lawsuit.

  • B

    No. 5 · Cam wrote, “Well here is something from the Washington Post about the worst celeb cheating scandals. There is no separation between the real and the tabloid press.”

    … the “tabloid press” ignored Mehlman as well and for good reason – they publish these sex scandals to attract readers, and figure their readers are interested in the sex lives of movie stars. If you print a headline, “Ken Mehlman caught in gay love nest”, the public’s reaction would be “Ken WHO?” (It may be different now that he has become front-line news but previously most people wouldn’t have recognized his name).

  • Michael

    Ken, and all the “Kens” in politics get a pass from the “mainstream” press, because they are the gatekeepers to the bigger “story,” and access is golden. In Ken’s case, the story was George Bush. Imagine for a sec, you’re the reporter for the “Times,” assigned to cover the White House. The job does not come with a key to the Oval Office, and you will not get in, unless you have some pretty good connections. You will never get connections by making enemies. What to do? Write a expose about some guy named Ken that 99.999% of America has never heard of, and really doesn’t care about, or befriend Ken, warts and all, and do your job covering the White House? If you want to keep your job, it’s critical to give your publisher something they can sell to readers and advertisers. If your job is unimportant, you can quit, and try your luck as a blogger. In summary, I should say; “don’t bite the hand that feeds,” or “he who has the access, rules.” This is simply the way works.

  • D'oh, The Magnificent

    @Baxter: Bullshit. There is no “real” press as you are trying to define it in this country by pretending one is dedicated to coverage. If you know anything about the industry right now, you would know how much of a laugh your assertion would induce in the newsrooms. Most news orgs are non existent at this point, and what you are reading is often dueling press releases rather than investigative reporting or analysis to find truth.

  • D'oh, The Magnificent

    @David Ehrenstein: Exactly. Its like okay , John so you are admitting to knowing he was a closet case, and what exactly were you hanging out with him doing?

  • D'oh, The Magnificent

    @Michael: Exactly right.

  • Sean

    I call bullshit on the media’s excuse of needing “proof”. There is no such thing as “proof” of sexual orientation. A male priest who is a celibate virgin but sexually attracted to men, is just as gay as a bathhouse whore. It’s also disingenuous for Ambinder and others say they were waiting for Mehlman to state it himself. But that is not “proof” either. Ed Koch says he’s straight, is that “proof”? Malcolm Forbes said he was straight and the media accepted that as “proof”. It’s bullshit. People knew Mehlman was gay just as they knew Judge Walker was gay and that’s “proof” enough. The media needs to end the double standard.

  • Jaroslaw

    #14 Ken S – Well, I don’t know if I wnat him to get beat up, then he would just get sympathy. But I get your point, of course.

    Ok, everyone agrees he’s a whore on many levels, selfish,caused great damage to the Gay community etc.

    Why did he come out then? He could have lived his life in relative obscurity, and he certainly has enough money to buy the boys/men he wants….or someone equally unprincipled to share his life. Why bother with the firestorm of criticism?

  • Sean

    Thank you for speaking the truth!! I’m so sick of the media’s lies about this. During the 2004(?) Republican Convention, the media ‘outed’ Liz Cheney as het without missing a beat just as they’ve outed thousands of other hets without a shred of “proof”. The whole thing is about perpetuating the anti-gay meme: het=wholesome, public relationships, healthy celebratory love; gay=shadowy, threatening, kinky, dirty, secret xxx sex for adult eyes only.

  • hephaestion

    Not just Mehlman. Half the Bush Administration was self-loathing closet cases. The White House staff as well.

  • Sean

    Sexual orientation is not someone’s “private life”. You have got to be kidding. For hets, love relationships are the most IMPORTANT element of their lives. That’s why the first thing every het male politician does is plaster pictures of his female sex partner on his web site and parade her around on the campaign trail. That is only normal because 99% of life and the arts (music, tv, theater, etc) is focused on our #1 priority: sexual orientation. It is only when you mention gays, that we are suddenly supposed to shut up and keep it secret because it’s seen as disgusting. Sorry, we don’t play that game any more.

  • Susan

    I went to Law School with the bastard. HLS, class of 1990. I’m a woman, so I didn’t have sex with him, obviously. However, a very gay friend of mine did (or at least, they were sympatico, though my friend was somewhat conflicted himself at the time). Anyway, Mehlman sure as hell knew who he was in 1990, even if he didn’t admit it. I find it absolutely unbelievible that he has “only just” figured out who he is 20 years later. No one is that oblivious when they are fucking other guys in law school. What bullshit. He made a fortune, and a name for himself, fucking over his brothers. Now, he presumably wants to live an open life and get married, and “suddenly” he discovers he’s gay. Fuck him.

  • Tessie Tura

    @Swen: It *is* our damn business when you suck cock in airport bathrooms, solicit sex on phone personals ads, hiring rentboys for sex and / or meth, when you pay hookers to dress you up in diapers – all the while claiming “family values” and influencing or passing laws that hurt us.

  • Tessie Tura

    Ya know, we just might find out NOW who in the White House was shtupping that rentboy / reporter / Republicunt Jeff Gannon. That’s one little secret that really needs to be INVESTIGATED. (There ARE the Dubya / Victor Ashe rumors, ya know. And Bush’s nickname @ Yale: “Lips”.)

  • Mike in Asheville, nee "in Brooklyn"

    Its no wonder MSM (mainstream media) is losing its audiences in droves. Average network news audiences is now over the age of 60!!! Faux News audience 62+!!!

    Hopefully fucktards like Mehlman are a dead breed. The Internet and Blogs, with such a much larger reporting potential than all the MSM combined, will always have folks ready to jump on stories of hypocritical anti-gay gays — thats now the George Renkers story broke, and again, hopefully, that is the new beginning of reporting about these monsters.

  • Troy M

    @Baxter: You mean the tabloid press that exposed John Edward’s affair? The one that got it right? That tabloid press?

  • VTR

    And like all good Sondercommandos, Mr. Mehlman it your time to take the cyanide shower. Buh-bye. Never was there a more deserving recipient of the Roy Cohn Award.

  • randy

    The press has no problem speculating on someone’s sexuality when it’s meant to discredit them, like Judge Walker. Apparently, being pro-gay AND actually gay isn’t a good thing and must be exposed! But being anti-gay and actually gay demands discretion and complicity.

    I’m old enough to remember that whenever a serviceman in the military went batshit and killed himself, they always speculated that he was a ‘latent homosexual’ just so everyone could say, ‘oh that explains why he went batshit.’

  • WalkderDC


    But the press can easily say that Bill Mahr said that Ken Mehlman is gay on the Larry King Show, not only didn’t they do that, but CNN edited out the comment in subsequent runnings of the show. John King stating later that he was a friend of Mehlman’s shows that the press probably wasn’t afriad of proof, they were protecting a friend and somebody who got them access.

  • rrr

    @randy: Judge Walker is openly gay, has a longterm partner and doesn’t deny he’s gay when it comes up. It’s not speculation in his case.

    I call bullshit on the media’s excuse of needing “proof”. There is no such thing as “proof” of sexual orientation.

    There may not be definitive proof of something mental like orientation, but there is such a thing as evidence you can solidly infer from. That’s the same as other mental things, like whether someone might be concealing secret bi-polarity or prejudice.

    Concealed orientation of people in politics is important and a significant news story when the people are anti-gay or espousing the family values rhetoric. When the press say an anti-gay/family values person is secretly closeted they are also saying the person is a hypocrite and their public image is completely false and untrustworthy. That is a major allegation and stands to ruin the person, so the press need to have something substantial they can rely on and use to defend themselves inside and outside of court.

    If a man had come out publicly and claimed to have had sex with Ken like happened with Ted Haggard it would have been a story on networks other than FOX. If Ken can been caught by the cops doing something illegal like Larry Craig’s bathroom activity or hiring escorts like Elliott Spitzer or Mark Foley’s texts to minors it would have been a news story on the networks other than FOX. If a tabloid has got their hands on something like a video of Ken picking up or fucking guys it would have been a news story. If some of these people who were talking in Washington about Ken had been willing to go on the record and had something to say beyond that it’s weird he’s not married or seen hitting on women, it would have been a story.

    The respectable press is the same way about major, potentially career ruining sexual allegations against straight politicians.

  • TO

    No 19 Michael is correct. Speaking as a PR professional, the Bush White House’s PR strategy which was lead by then press secretary Ari Fleischer had a no tolerance policy. If you criticized or asked hard questions of any of the president or the senior team, you were never given access again and certain members of the press had there access to the white house revoked if they did not follow the rules. This was much talked about at the time in the time if you research. The administration would have used proper channels to go after any members of the media who broke this story, especially if they person wrote for a big outlet. If so, the entire publication would never receive any access to the administration again. It only helped the GOP and Bush Admin to keep him in the closet because he had more influence and power by not coming out. If he was outed, he would not be half as effective as a deal maker. Trust me, everyone in DC new he was a gay it was no big secret.

  • mk

    I think the tabloids are right biased. Digging up this shit is what the National Enquirer does. How come they put all that effort into exposing John Edwards but not Bush administration gays who probably would’ve been easier? Now those tabloids are running cover stories about Obama being a Kenyan muslim and having sex romps with men and a love triangle with Oprah, but don’t remember them doing that kind of stuff with Bush. I wonder if it is an owner’s decision or if it is because right wing nuts are bigger consumers of tabloids than the left.

  • mk

    @TO: Maybe that explains the National Enquirer thing too. They are owned by a company that owns some other media outlets I think, so even though access isn’t an issue for the NE it would be for other parts of the media empire.

  • Truth Seeker


    Hate and bigotry are religious principles, not conservative ones. Mehlman was infected with religious beliefs that caused him to speak against homosexuality, not conservative beliefs.

    While we have profound disappointment about Mehlman’s previous actions – we should applaud the fact that he is getting his life back by rejecting hateful RELIGIOUS beliefs.

  • rrr

    @Truth Seeker: I disagree. The republicans do this with minorities all the time whether religion is involved or not. Come election time they are always promoting hate against some group for political power and votes. It’s been blacks and gays and “welfare queens” and immigrants and muslims. It was cynicism and greed that caused Ken to drum up more gay hate and exploit it for his party.

    Hate and bigotry have become cornerstones of the republican party. Religion gets in the way of gay rights, but not all religious people are against gay rights and republican strategies are an evil of their own.

    Mehlman is still a republican and I haven’t heard of him rejecting religion (assuming he ever honestly was religious at all instead of purely employing religion for gain).

  • Jaroslaw

    I had a thought – all this talk about “access” – and losing it if you ask the hard questions.

    OK, the government is here to serve the people supposedly – make it fair and democratic.

    Give each reporter a number and if there are 50 reporters and you’re only going to answer 5 questions a day, pull five numbers each day until all 50 reporters get to ask a question. And of course, the President would be required to answer….

  • Dame Helga von Ornstein

    I have believed for years that Ralph Reed (the late Jerry Falwell’s all-American poster boy for the Moral Majority) is gay and so was Falwell.

  • Jaroslaw

    #43 why would even one person be against more openness in government and making the president answer questions?

    #44 – I kinda suspected Ralph Reed, but I don’t have a clue about Falwell. Perhaps since he was so against homosexuality, I’ll give it a maybe with the statistics…..

  • B

    No. 36 · rrr wrote, “@randy: Judge Walker is openly gay, has a longterm partner and doesn’t deny he’s gay when it comes up. It’s not speculation in his case.”

    From what I’ve read, Judge Walker has never made a public announcement as a judge, just as straight judges do not make public announcements as to whether they have a long-term partner – it’s not relevant to their jobs so it doesn’t get mentioned in court.

    He’s not, however, being secretive or evasive on a personal level,
    as “rrr” points out.

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