Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Why Does The Media Think Aaron Schock's Duplicitous Life In The Closet Is Unmentionable?


Is there still anything to say about Aaron Schock on blogs like DWT which have been talking about his corruption for years and years? Now that TV news has been all over the Aaron Schock scandal, we might as well just walk away and leave it to them, right? Not so fast. Rachel Maddow's report Tuesday night on MSNBC (above) was, as one would expect, better than most of the mainstream media coverage. But like all of her journalistic colleagues, she seems to have left out a pretty key component-- the role of Aaron Schock's life in the closet and how that impacted what turned into a life of duplicity. Are we still too immature to eventually about the subject?

Hunter Walker, writing for Business Insider, asked Barney Frank about "the rumors" that Schock was gay. Schock's gay lifestyle is beyond rumor in DC-- something "everyone" in DC knows about, even if the folks back in Peoria don't. He's not deeply closeted the way Members who actually marry beards are-- like Patrick McHenry (R-NC), Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Tom Cotton (R-AR). Years ago, when Schock was asked by a TV reporter why such a handsome catch like himself was still single, he smiled and said he just hadn't found the right gal yet. Apparently the gay bars he was hanging out at were the wrong places to be looking.
When former Massachusetts Democratic Rep. Barney Frank first learned that Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Illinois) was resigning, he assumed it was related to longstanding rumors about Schock's sexuality.

"He was outed or what?" Frank said when Business Insider asked for his thoughts on Tuesday afternoon shortly after news of Schock's resignation broke.

...When Frank was told Schock's resignation stemmed from questions over his use of campaign and taxpayer funds, he noted that the congressman was reported to have improperly accepted money to take a male companion on one of his foreign trips.

"Wasn't it [that] he took somebody with him?" Frank asked. "I thought he also traveled with one particular staffer."

Indeed, Schock's travel with a man (who was actually a non-staffer) was one of the things that fueled rumors about his sexuality. The various stories led the gay magazine "Out" to say in a story on Schock's resignation that he was "believed to be working in a glass closet on Capitol Hill."

Frank noted "there's been the rumor" about Schock.

"I don't know if it's true," Frank added.

Frank went on, however, to explain that Schock had no "right to privacy" because of his record on gay issues. Schock has what The Huffington Post has described as a "virulently anti-gay voting history," including votes against hate-crime legislation and the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell.

"I will say this, I don't know if he's gay or not," Frank said. "But if he is, he's forfeited any right to privacy because he votes anti-gay. My view is that people who are gay who vote to support the right of other people to do it have a right to privacy, but the right to privacy does not include hypocrisy."

Schock's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment about Frank's remarks.

...Frank also suggested that, if the rumors were true, Schock should definitely come out now that he is leaving Congress.

"Of course he should," said Frank, who concluded with a reference to Schock's muscular physique that is often displayed in shirtless photos on Schock's Instagram:

"Yeah, if they're true, and I don't know that they are. I have to say, if they're not true, he spent entirely too much time in the gym for a straight man."
This morning the Washington Post's Terrence McCoy skirted the subject a bit. "Schock’s choice of that vibrant color underscored his lifelong determination to go big and brash. According to a review of newspaper clippings going back to when he was a teenager in Peoria, Ill., Schock always pushed for more, more, more-- and to be the youngest to ever have it... He’s bold, like his bright-red office." But neither McCoy nor anyone else talks about how living a life of duplicity-- a life as a closet case-- was key to Schock's emergence as a skilled and practiced liar. He and other journalists-- all of whom are aware of the "rumors"-- chalk it up to an over-abundance of ambition and drive. But no one even mentions the lavender belt and tight white pants.

Michelangelo Signorile, of course, doesn't beat around the bush but is HuffPo Gay Voices really a mainstream outlet that will get the story out to voters in the heartland?
That claim by Itay Hod [that a journalist caught Schock showering with his gay male roommate] and the media attention it spurred was little over a year ago. It's odd that it's missing now in virtually all the current coverage, because it's a part of Schock's media history that also points to deception. More interesting is how the media runs from this story, refusing to investigate it while looking into all other aspects of Schock's political life-- yet the possibility that he is gay is part of his political life. Just as he's denied wrongdoing with regard to who paid for his office makeover or his trips, Schock denied being gay when I asked him in 2012 in the context of his anti-gay votes. He did not do this by saying, "I'm not gay," but by saying the question was "ridiculous" and pointing to a denial from years past, saying, "I've said that before, and I don't think it's worthy of further response. I think you can look it up." The question is relevant because if Schock is gay, then he is a hypocrite, since he voted against the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" and has said he was against gay marriage and for a federal marriage amendment. There are few more stellar examples of past possible deceptions that relate to the current stories about Schock.

That doesn't mean Schock's possibly being gay hasn't been alluded to in the current coverage, however, through code words that show how backward we often still are as a society on homosexuality, as if we've not moved past the 1950s. Both Roll Call and the New York Times, for example, have called Schock "flamboyant," and The Guardian, in an article about the allegedly Downton-inspired office, noted that the decor was "dangerously flamboyant," after first mentioning the White House picnic outfit.

Come on, folks. "Flamboyant" is a word that was most used to describe Liberace but is hardly used to describe any straight male in the public eye. In fact, the Times headlined its obituary of the then-closeted Liberace like this: "Liberace, Flamboyant Pianist, Dead." And in the Times last September, in a review of Behind the Candelabra, the Liberace biopic, reviewer Mike Hale describe Liberace as "a famously flamboyant, closeted-in-plain-sight gay entertainer."

In the recent piece about Schock's current troubles, the Times not only describes the congressman as "flamboyant" but discusses his "ripped ab muscles," his "racy" Instagram account and his "lifestyle"-- a word that is often used pejoratively to discuss gays, as in the "gay lifestyle." In fact, the word "lifestyle" has come up quite a bit in much of the coverage.

It's hard to believe that reporters in D.C. and beyond didn't follow the past discussion of Schock's sexual orientation. Still, I'm not saying all or even most of the code words being used in these articles now are intentional. A lot of it may be unconscious. And Schock is, after all, leading quite a flamboyant lifestyle, painting his office red, posing on the cover of magazines shirtless and jetting around the world and showing it all off.

But whether it's intentional, unconscious, or coincidental, the lack of any overt discussion (or investigation) of Schock's sexual orientation, while wink-wink words keep popping up, betrays a lot. As I discuss at length in my next book, the media and many LGBT activists themselves often breathlessly talk about polls that point to increased acceptance of homosexuality and LGBT rights, as if we've nearly won the war. But when the media still views the possibility that someone is gay as, at best, something that would be too damagingly invasive to report on or, at worst, a dirty little secret-- even when it's relevant or interesting to report on-- then we have surely got a long way to go.
And in Out Magazine Jerry Portwood wrote about "all the talk about the cute, blond-highlighted personal photographer, Jonathon Link, who he employs and even gave a raise to while others in his office had their salaries cut." Even Aaron's father seems to be trying to convince himself his son isn't gay. "He wears stylish clothing, and yet he’s not gay … and he’s not married... and he’s not running around with women," he said. "Everybody’s throwing up their arms. They can’t figure out Aaron. So he must be crooked. So attack him. Bring him down, because he doesn’t fit into our picture."

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