Journalist Michelangelo Signorile is defending outing a prominent Republican member of the U.S. Senate.
Signorile, who popularized the practice of outing and the name for it in the ’90s, penned a lengthy essay on his blog June 7 laying out his case for the outing of anti-LGBTQ politicians. Prior to Signorile’s article, a number of male sex workers, as well as adult film performer Sean Harding, Tweeted that the senator had hired them for sex. However, none of the people naming the prominent politician cited any evidence about the encounters or about his sexuality.
The story began trending on social media late last week, reviving rumors that the lifelong bachelor has spent his career in the closet. Critics immediately criticized the outing campaign, claiming that gossiping about his sexuality is a violation of privacy.
Signorile, however, defended his story–and the outing of anti-LGBTQ politicians. “If this particular characteristic, like other characteristics about public figures, is relevant to a larger story encompassing their work, their role, their power, their influence, and is something the public should know — then it should be reported.”
The journalist skirted the question of sourcing the story, but he went on to cite the cases of Aaron Schock and Larry Craig, two other anti-LGBTQ lawmakers who were eventually driven out of the closet by journalists. Speculation about Schock’s sexuality abounded while he was in office as an Illinois congressman, but his constituency was unmoved, sending him back to office three more times before a campaign finance scandal derailed his political career.
After dozens of photos of Schock at circuit parties, gay clubs, and among gay friends at Coachella surfaced on Instagram, he finally came out. “I am gay,” he posted. “For those who know me, and for many of those who know of me, this will come as no surprise.” He has not, however, apologized for his anti-LGBTQ votes, including voting against the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and opposing marriage equality.
In Craig’s case, the Senator was arrested in 2007 at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport for soliciting a man for sex in a public restroom. After an initial claim that he was tapping his feet and reaching under the wall of his stall because he had a “wide stance,” Craig later pled guilty to the charge.
In Signorile’s view the outings of Craig, Schock and the GOP senator would have prevented damage to queer Americans and democracy itself.
“The closet,” Signorile writes, “for powerful politicians, becomes a sort of practice run at the art of deception on a grander scale. And when you will sell out your own kind, there’s really no telling how low you will go.”