Obama Campaign Manager Jim Messina’s Dirty Little Homophobic Secret

President Obama’s campaign manager, Jim Messina, has a reputation for going to almost any length to win. That’s usually a good thing, but his involvement in one of the most infamous—and potentially criminal—attack ads in U.S. history is enough to give us pause.

In 2002, Messina—who’s been called “the most powerful person in Washington that you haven’t heard of”—was working for Sen. Max Baucus of Montana on his re-election campaign against Republican contender Mike Taylor. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, supposedly working separate from Baucus or Messina, whipped up a campaign ad that made Taylor look like a disco-fag version of Al Capone.

With porno music blaring, the sport showed decades-old footage from Taylor’s cosmetics business, of the Republican rubbing some lotion onto another man’s face. As the clip ends, Taylor is reaching down, presumably into the man’s crotch and and a  voiceover claims “Mike Taylor—not the way we do business in Montana.”

Ostensibly the voiceover is a reference to some education-loan shenanigans the Republican candidate pulled with his cosmetology school, but the implication is clear: Taylor is a faggot.

As Salon’s David Sirota explains:

Thanks to the deliberate choice of music, the footage of man-on-man physical contact and the voice-over message, the ad is considered the epitome of homophobic demagoguery—a spot ostensibly about Taylor’s Department of Education loans, but really designed to raise questions about Taylor’s sexuality in a culturally conservative state.

Summarizing the national uproar over the ad, the Denver Post at the time noted that “only the most naive adult would miss the implication that Taylor is a homosexual” and that clearly “the supposedly inclusive Democrats deftly played on the right’s homophobia.”

It’s the same thing as when right-wingers claim a liberal has “San Francisco values.”

At the time both Messina and Baucus claimed they had no knowledge of the ad’s content. In fact, campaign law forbids  a candidate and his campaign from directly being involved in ads paid for by third-party groups like the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

But in a recent, rather glowing profile of Messina in Businessweek, Baucus tells a different story:

“Jim is tough,” Baucus says. I’ll never forget when he showed me that [Taylor] ad. We were in Bozeman in a motel. The curtains were drawn. He said, ‘Max, what do you think?’ They were afraid I wasn’t going to like it. I loved it!”

So a decade after the ad pushed Taylor to drop out of the race and Baucus scored more than 60% of the vote, he admits both he and Messina knew all about this sleazy, homophobic ad. Oh, and as Sirota reminds us, Baucus votedforthe Defense of Marriage Act.

It doesn’t seem like Messina is particularly anti-gay, however—more of an attack dog eager to take down a threat to his master. It was Messina, after all, who took point on the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell when he was the White House deputy chief of staff.

“With the exception of the President himself, the LGBT community has had no greater champion or advocate within the administration than Jim Messina,” Joe Solmonese, HRC president and Obama campaign’s national co-chair emailed BuzzFeed. “In the fight to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, I had the honor of working by Jim’s side throughout the entire process. No one that I know was more proud of that accomplishment or more visibly moved on the day of its passage than Jim. I’m proud to call him a friend.”

So, at least this attack dog is on our side… right?

Photo: The White House

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  • Olive Austin

    It’s not homophobic; everything looked Gay in the 70’s. Get over it.

  • hf2hvit

    “With porno music blaring”… What is “PORNO MUSIC”????

  • ousslander

    Homophobia is ok as long as it’s used by the “correct” people

  • jason

    Obama is known to associate with homophobes when it suits him. This should give us pause to think that Obama’s gay advocacy is fake.

  • Kurt

    @jason: Hell, I associate with homophobes at times. Other than living in a gay ghetto, how can one not?

  • randy

    Uh, NO! Both Obama and Jim Messina had to be pushed and dragged into repealing DADT. I can’t stand this rewriting of history by the HRC. Listen up:

    The facts are that throughout the early years of Obama’s presidency, Messina assured gay bloggers and activists that DADT would be repealed “soon.” How soon? Don’t ask, and don’t push us on it, was his response. And he threatened that if anyone tried to push them on it, they would cut all support for repeal.

    So no one did anything for the first two years. Every once in a while someone would ask what’s going on, and Messina replied that they had a “plan.” What was the plan? Don’t ask, dammit!

    As things started heating up, and more press coverage was coming, Messina kept telling everyone that there is a plan, but would not reveal it, nor act upon it. Eventually, it dawned upon everyone (except the HRC), that there IS NO plan!

    So the Senate voted to repeal DADT, and Obama did absolutely nothing to get swing votes — not a single phone call. Yes, the plan was to do nothing. They feared that if DADT came up before the mid-term elections, the Dems would lose big. All the Democratic consultants told us that gay rights are still the third rail, and nothing can be done until Obama’s SECOND term, if he has one, because then he won’t suffer the consequences at the ballot box.

    Repeal was all but dead, since the Senate voted it down. Then there was a flurry of press coverage over the protestors, and the Senate decided to do a stand alone bill, which the House quickly voted on, and then and only then did Obama finally sign the bill to repeal.

    At no point during any of this did Messina or Obama push things along — in fact, they tried to stall it as long as possible. It’s only because of our friends like Nancy Pelosi, and Senators Shumer and Gillibrand who forced the issue do we have DADT gone.

    So let’s get the record straight — Messina doesn’t give a damn about gays or gay rights. What he cares about is getting money from gays and winning elections. If our interests align, then great — it not, the we have to force him to do the right thing.

  • Cam

    @randy: said…

    “So let’s get the record straight — Messina doesn’t give a damn about gays or gay rights. What he cares about is getting money from gays and winning elections. If our interests align, then great — it not, the we have to force him to do the right thing.”

    Yes, and right now our interests ARE lined up.

    It took Obama a while to be pushed into doing what we wanted, and has now signed the DADT repeal, ordered the DOJ to stop defending DOMA in court and has come out in favor of gay marriage.. Romney on the other hand has gone before Congress to demand the U.S. constitution be amended to prevent gay marriage. Romney stated he was against the repeal of DADT and would not have signed it. AND he fired a gay staffer because his base doesn’t want gays to even have jobs.

    To pretend that the choice is even close is the height of idiocy. But it’s fun to watch you Log Cabiners try.

  • Does it Matter

    Posts like this (and some of their responses like Randy) always make me wonder if this site is ran by members of the self-hatred group known as Log Cabin Republicans.

  • Ewoks R Us

    I don’t think Randy’s post was off base at all. This is exactly how I saw things as well, and I voted for Obama so don’t call me Log Cabin for agreeing (nor does the message give any indication of being from the Log Cabiners). Obama did drag his feet and it was all a cold, calculated political move. In fact, the only reason he came out against DOMA is because Biden forced his hand. DADT was the same way, he credits it as a personal victory when the White House opposed all other methods but their “plan” for repeal. Even HRC supported Obama on this to try to calm the crowds.

    It is one thing to be critical of Obama because you blindly oppose him, but it is another thing to be critical of him because you support him. I fall into the latter.

  • Cam

    @Ewoks R Us:

    Sorry I’m not buying it. The EASIEST way to see that somebody is lying is when they put in a sentence trying to prove they are part of that group.

    i.e. the Mormons used to come in here during the Prop 8 fight and ALWAYS start their posts with “As a gay man”.

    The issue here is, we have a person who can be pushed into doing what is right on gay issues running against a person who not only opposes gay rights, but wants a U.S. constitutional amendment against gay marriage, wants gays kicked out of the military and even fired a gay staffer for being gay when outsiders complained.

    Yet all Randy and your posts do is try to complain about Obama. Sorry but when one is reluctantly doing what we want and the other doesn’t want us to be able to hold jobs and wants our relationships to be illegal, there isn’t a discussion.

  • randy

    @Cam: Uh, I’m not a log cabiner. I’m a solid Democrat and have been my whole life. It’s surprising that any criticism of Obama automatically makes me a Republican! But it certainly isn’t true. You may recall I mentioned Nancy Pelosi as a friend, and I am aware that both Senators Schumer and Gillibrand, all of whom I praised in this matter are Democrats.

    Of course, if Obama now supports gay rights, that’s a great thing. I’m really glad, and will certainly support him.

    But lets’ keep history straight — we can’t just ignore or change it because it’s no longer convenient. The fact is that only because of liberal activists did Obama repeal DADT.

  • randy

    @Cam: I never said that Romney would be better.

    All I want is Obama to be on our side of this fight. He gave us plenty of rhetoric, but little action for a long time. Our liberal activists kicked him and Messina in the pants and they finally moved in our direction. All that’s good. And I will certainly vote for Obama in the next election.

    But if you want your rights, you have to know how to fight for them. No one is intereted in just handing them to you out of the goodness of their hearts. And in any case, the record must be kept accurate.

    I guess all the commentators here are perfectly okay that Messina gay-baited in an ad to win an election, and won that election on behalf of someone who voted against us on DOMA.

    So please, Cam and Doensn’t Matter: Are you seriously defending all that?

  • randy

    @Does it Matter: So talking about history is self hatred? Do you dispute anything I’ve said? What a load of bull crap — I guess if you don’t like the truth, it’s much easier to just throw around insults, isn’t it?

  • Gorbeh

    Are you accusing me of lying? Please don’t. The only “basis” you have for your claim is your false assumption that any criticism of Obama automatically makes me a Log Cabin Republican. I have no idea who Randy is or what his beliefs are, I don’t make a habit of reading the comments, but I did agree with his that Obama has only been a “fierce advocate” when we drag him along without a choice. Does this mean I am ungrateful for what he has done? No. Does this mean I automatically support Romney or some other Republican? No. I am extremely thankful he finally “evolved” and I do recognize that his support is a great victory, especially given the timing, but I will not forget that this was all a political move for his convenience and the entire gay community was essentially used as leverage. Both parties politicize us and it sickens me. The Right does its fear-mongering against us while the Left drums up support from us and largely ignores us afterwards. Political partisanship will be the death of America. I am neither Left nor Right; I am moderate. And while I support Obama and certainly don’t support Romney, I can’t help but be disappointed by Obama.

  • Gorbeh

    Whoops, used a different computer. This is Ewoks R Us

  • B

    Re No. 2 · hf2hvit- “With porno music blaring”… What is “PORNO MUSIC”????

    It’s basically a less mainstream version of what used to be called “elevator music” (something you’d barely pay attention to, put their because silence would be even more distracting). Usually it is a bit rhythmic, with a “beat” suggesting two-state repetitive motion (e.g, in and out).

    You can find examples in films in which they are watching unseen porn (to avoid an X rating), with the music coupled with the actors’ facial expressions providing the cues.

  • 1equalityUSA

    B, Like in Pelican Brief?

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