Hillary: dyke?

Doug Henwood dhenwood at panix.com
Wed Oct 18 10:25:23 PDT 2000

GFN.COM, October 16, 2000 http://www.gfn.com/news/news.cfm?story_id=7687&topic_name=gfn_com_exclusives [*** Note: You can view the infamous commercial on this site. ***] Commercial Closet: Hillary, Legislator or Lesbian? By Mike Wilke

As a groundbreaking, independent woman, perhaps it was likely that someone would say Hillary Clinton is a lesbian. But in a political commercial?

This year's New York state senate race is history-making, where the nation's First Lady is seeking elected office for the first time. Hoping to foil her campaign, little known right wing organization Christian Action Network (www.canetwork.com), Forest, Virg., tried to air a gay-baiting commercial questioning her sexuality.

With ominous music and drum beats, a narrator intones: "It is rumored that Hillary Clinton is a lesbian...It is rumored that Hillary Clinton supports homosexual marriage...It is rumored that Hillary Clinton will leave her husband upon taking office...It was rumored that Bill Clinton had an affair with Monica Lewinsky. Sometimes rumors are true. Shouldn't you know the truth? For more information on traditional family values, please contact the Christian Action Network." Grace Communications, Dayton, Ohio, produced the commercial.

Ten-year old CAN, which claims 150,000 members, has been described by gay activists as "the fringe of the fringe" among conservative groups, tried to air this commercial on New York City stations and during an appearance on the contentious Fox political program "Hannity & Colmes" in late September. Despite the network's reputation for having conservative politics, top Fox executives decided against even showing the commercial within the context of the program.

Stations in Watertown, NY, and Elsewhere May Carry the Commercial

To date, the commercial has not yet aired but conservative broadcasters who own UPN and WB stations in upstate New York may show it.

UPN affiliates WLOT and WBQZ in Watertown, N.Y., not far from Canada, are expected to air the ad Oct. 23 & 24. The stations' president and general manager, Anthony DiMarcantonio, was frustrated when Clinton and her Republican competitor Rick Lazio declined to place advertising on his small market stations. "Hillary Clinton and Rick Lazio won't touch us, we're not corporately owned," he says. "She's spent no money with me and I have no loyalty to her. They're not even throwing us a bone."

DiMarcantonio sought out CAN after reading about its difficulty in airing the lesbian-baiting Clinton commercials. "I called them and said, 'I hear you've got some money to spend,'" says DiMarcantonio, who hasn't seen the spot that he intends to air. "It's not my job to interpret content or I'd be a censor." When the text was shared with him, DiMarcantonio says, "You know what they say about most rumors - they're facts waiting to be confirmed." Without a bit of irony, he adds, "Have you ever known a Christian to lie, besides maybe Jim Baker?"

DiMarcantonio says he has buddies in the capital city of Albany, northern Plattsburgh and elsewhere who feel the same way and may also carry the ad.

"These are questions voters should be informed about," Philip Vaught, media director for CAN, explains about the commercial's message. "The CNN/Time exit poll now always asks voters the question, 'Are you gay/lesbian or bisexual?' If it's such a standard question, it's appropriate to ask a person running for U.S. Senate too."

The organization, which provided its commercial to reporters as well as it stations it hoped would air the commercial, says it wasn't surprised when New York City stations declined the ad as "inappropriate."

CAN's stated mission is "To defend the American family and to advocate traditional American principles of religious liberty, public virtue and good government." But a perusal of the group's Web site reveals its preoccupation with gay themes. It has a petition for members to send to William Kennard, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, urging the FCC to "endorse voluntary HC warning labels by all network and cable broadcasters at the beginning of shows containing homosexual content."

There is also a petition to Michael Eisner of Disney, urging the company to stop promoting Gay Day at Walt Disney World and another to Robert T. Conrad, president and CEO of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, urging PBS stations to refuse to air the pro-gay documentary film "It's Elementary."

An interview with Ms. Clinton in the Oct. 24 issue of The Advocate asks her about gay-baiting in politics. Rather poetically, she responds, "It's abhorrent and it is an unfortunate relic of a sad chapter in human history. Every time we've had great change happen, whether it was overcoming slavery or the women's movement or civil rights or standing against anti-Semitism, it's always been necessary to stand against both the evil and the weakness that still stalks the human heart, stand against how people try to lift themselves up by putting others down and how they try to externalize and project their own insecurities and their own fears onto each other."

Gay Baiting Commercial Succeeds In Mexico

Gay-baiting in politics is becoming rarer in the U.S., but in a presidential campaign earlier this year in Mexico, opposition candidate and former Coca-Cola executive Vicente Fox aired a commercial about his incumbent rival, Francisco Labastida, that used a Mexican slang term for a person of undefined sexuality. The ad also showed Labastida hugging and lifting a colleague by the thighs, as well as shots of male strippers at a campaign rally for another candidate of the incumbent party. Though the ad was pulled, Fox won the race and is now president-elect. ("Masculinity Arises As Issue In Mexican Presidential Race," June 26).

David Smith, a spokesman for the Washington-based gay organization Human Rights Campaign, explains, "The tactic is widely used even by us to get press to focus on an issue. You buy a small amount of TV air time and get a lot of coverage for it."

Linda Semans, who creates political commercials for HRC and others, calls CAN's commercial "rumor mongering." Semans says, "There is a reason so many political ads are sourced now - the whole industry is trying to be factual and people have demanded it."

When asked about the source for CAN's rumors in the commercial, Vaught cites a "Hannity & Colmes" program and a book from Gennifer Flowers (www.genniferflowers.com).

CAN's 1992 Commercial Cause of FEC Lawsuit

In 1992, another TV spot from CAN, "Clinton's Vision for a Better America" aired over 250 times in 24 major cities across the country along with newspaper advertisements, in which CAN condemned Clinton for supporting "radical homosexual rights." The ads were interspersed with pictures of young men wearing chains and leather marching in a Gay Pride parade. The ad concluded by asking, "Is this your vision for a better America?"

The group, which failed to register as a political action committee, led to a Democratic complaint with the Federal Election Committee, or FEC, which said CAN was violating campaign laws. Following a government investigation, the FEC sued CAN in federal court in October 1994. However, the FEC lost the case against the group.

Though he was unaware of the CAN's previous ad, DiMarcantonio has no concerns for the group's latest commercial, which means a few dollars for his locally owned and operated station. "Once this hits, I guarantee you there will be more political commercials coming in after that."

* Mike Wilke writes a bi-weekly advertising and marketing column for gfn.com. His column, Commercial Closetand presentations about gay images in TV commercials from around the world over 25 years, can be found at commercialcloset.com

More information about the lbo-talk mailing list