It has the makings of a fascinating man-bites-dog story. The provocative GOProud group went into attack mode against Rick Perry pollster Tony Fabrizio for not stepping-in to stop an offensive ad. In the process, Fabrizio was allegedly “outed” as a gay man by GOProud (and the media that later reported it).
The latest wrinkle to the story is that BigJournalism founder Andrew Breitbart has resigned from GOProud’s board
On numerous occasions I have spoken with [GOProud leaders] Jimmy LaSalvia and Chris Barron of the significant impact the practice of “outing” had in my evolution from the political left to the right. I was under the absolute impression that both agreed. I have a zero tolerance attitude toward the intentional infliction of vocational and family harm by divulging the details of an individual’s sexual orientation as a weapon of political destruction.
So where’s the journalism question, you ask? Here’s the interesting quote from GOProud ‘s Chris Barron defending GOProud from the accusation of maliciously “outing” Fabrizio.
Second, both Jimmy and I have known Tony for years and have known that he was gay for years. Multiple media outlets contacted us after the Perry “Strong” ad debuted asking our opinion of Fabrizio’s role in the campaign given the anti-gay nature of the ad. Every news outlet that called asked our opinion of a gay man being a part of this campaign’s leadership.
As we were responding to these inquiries it never occurred to us that he wasn’t out. We would never intentionally out anyone, but quite honestly, we didn’t think we were outing anyone. If Tony Fabrizio was closeted it was news to both of us.
So allegedly every journalist who contacted Barron–and this would probably include conservative and liberal media, as well as mainstream media–knew Fabrizio was gay and apparently Fabrizio’s sexual orientation was no secret inside conservative circles.
As someone who works “inside the Beltway,” the idea that many gay folks are working–often quite openly–inside conservative and GOP circles as no surprise. There was a friend of mine who used to joke that the best place to pick up gay guys in DC was a Heritage Foundation event or CPAC. At times, I’m not sure that’s far off.
So journalists working inside the Beltway are going to know about the sexual orientation of power player, liberal and conservative, and it is logical that they ask the next obvious question during a situation like this: how does ___________ gay aide feel about this? That’s what journalists do, or should do.
THe bigger question is when do you go asking the question and begin reporting the fact. Would it have been appropriate, for instance, to mention Fabrizio is gay in a story about the ad if there had not been a controversy. If Fabrizio endorsed (or criticized) the ad, should the reporter identify Fabrizio as gay?