Democratic Presidential candidate Bill Richardson know a thing or two about spin. Making his first public remarks on the “maricon moment”, the New Mexico governor blamed the “anti-gay” story on his competitive peers.
He tells the AP:
My record is the strongest among the presidential candidates on gay rights issues and I’m puzzled by the timing of this. When it happened a year ago, nobody seemed to think it was terribly important. Now it surfaces. It’s probably a sign from other campaigns that they are little worried about me.
And they should be. Richardson may only have $6,186,932 in personal contributions and 10% of the polls
, but Richardson’s foreign policy experience and pro-gay track record may give him a leg up. None of the other leading democrats seem to have as good a record.
Richardson also took his time with the AP to apologize once again for using the pejorative on the now-canceled Don Imus radio program. He meant it as a joke, he says, and didn’t know the severity of the insult:
…The term [meant] simply ‘gay,’ not positive or negative. It was a playful exchange between me and Don Imus that was not intended to mean anything, but if I offended anybody, I apologize.
The Richardson situation comes the same week that Miami-based Telemundo reporter, Luisa Fernanda lost her job after using the Cuban word cherna, which she thought meant “grouper,” as in the fish. It actually means “gay”.
Via Miami Herald:
Fernanda used the Cuban word for grouper, cherna, which for Cubans has another meaning: a pejorative term for a gay man.
Other networks also have taken action against on-air personalities recently. But in Fernanda’s case, she had no clue the word she was uttering is an insult in Cuban Spanish; several local gay community activists are defending her.
Fernanda was dissecting the latest sex videotape scandal last month with co-host Mauricio Zeilic when she asked him if he would back her if she was attacked, and he said yes.
Fernanda then joked that if they were attacked by the feared Central American gang the ”Mara Salvatrucha” — Salvatrucha is Central American slang that includes the word trucha, or ”trout” — they could send in a different gang: the “Grouper of Hialeah.”
Telemundo executives fired Fernanda on June 22, the next day, saying her conduct was ”inconsistent” with the company’s culture and its respect for diversity.
Her dismissal marks the first time a national Spanish-language radio or TV personality has been fired for making an allegedly homophobic remark, according to the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, or GLAAD.
”For me, it was just an association of words, comparing a fish to a fish,” said Fernanda, 36. “I had no idea it was an offensive word. I would be incapable of being homophobic.’
While some gay groups, including GLAAD, praise Telemundo’s vigilance, they also wonder if they’re taking it too far. Says GLAAD’s Monica Taher,
What Telemundo did really sets a precedent in Spanish-language media outlets and raises the bar in terms of finally respecting diversity. Spanish-language media talent, regardless of the country they come from, will have to familiarize themselves with pejoratives that insult not just gays and lesbians, but anyone. [But] we actually watched the clip, and the context wasn’t to insult gays and lesbians.
So, what do we do? Do we just stop using the word gay all together? How can we be sure of intent and definition when even fish get lost in translation? While it’s good to keep an ear out for slurs, where do we draw the line?
As for Richardson – while it’s tempting to shake a fist or two, perhaps people should also recall Richardson’s comments to Karen Ocamb, who co-penned the inflammatory “maricon moment” piece:
I would be for protecting gays, whatever it takes, and lesbians. Let them have full rights. The easiest way is to make laws that cover all Americans and bar discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity and sexual orientation. I would be very comprehensive in my approach. I would be an activist on these issues. I would actually promote these initiatives as president. And so my hope is the LGBT community supports me because of what I’ve done, not because of what I say I’m going to do. Every campaign stump speech, I mention the importance of barring discrimination based on sexual orientation. I’ve done it in debates, I’ve done it at the Democratic National Committee, I’ve done it in my stump speech. It’s part of my being.
Hopefully there’s no need for translation