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.