by Joe Siegel
Pete Buttigieg ended his historic campaign for president after a poor showing in South Carolina on February 29. The openly gay former mayor of South Bend, Ind., later endorsed rival Joe Biden.
But the questions remains: Did LGBTQ media coverage of Buttigieg’s campaign help or hinder his candidacy?
Iowa’s GoGuide, located in the first in the nation caucus, was vocal in its support.
“I have to believe that [our] endorsement of Pete Buttigieg helped his campaign locally,” said publisher Tim Nedoba. “I know that sounds arrogant, but it was a strong counterbalance to all the negative stories being written about his campaign. If you really dig into the subject, I believe you will find that almost 100 percent of the negative stories were coming from the Bernie Sanders campaign. I’m very proud of our endorsement. I’m very proud that an openly gay man running for president won the Iowa caucus.”
Mark Segal, publisher of the Philadelphia Gay News noted that since this was the first time an LGBTQ candidate had a real shot at becoming president, “It was a learn-on-the-job experience for both sides. Many of us were lucky to have covered out LGBT candidates in our area and had experience. It also was the first time a viable LGBT candidate had to learn how to deal with and respect LGBT media.”
Leo Cusimano, editor of Dallas Voice, said his news outlet did its best to treat each of the candidates equally. “We sent the same 10 questions to each of the Democratic candidates and published their written responses, verbatim, online as soon as they sent them. Because we don’t have the staff to cover each and every campaign event, we chose not to cover any of them, so that we wouldn’t be showing any bias.”
Washington Blade editor Kevin Naff believes the media coverage of Buttigieg was fair.
“I don’t think the LGBTQ media were overly critical of Buttigieg’s campaign,” said Naff. “Our job is to scrutinize all the campaigns, not to cheerlead. The LGBTQ media coverage was a key part of his early campaign, when no other media outlets could spell his name or paid him any attention, he talked to us and appeared on our cover.”
Buttigieg took a hit from Norm Kent, publisher of the South Florida Gay News, last June when Buttigieg wasn’t giving interviews with LGBTQ meida. “The gay candidate, energizing the gay American community, ought to be actively reaching out and empowering the free American gay press, not turning it away.” Kent wrote at the time. “The strategy Mayor Pete’s team is employing is one of utter and sheer stupidity.”
In November last year, however, the Wilton Manors, Fla.-based publication endorsed Buttigieg in the primaries.
In February of this year, Nicole Lashomb, editor in chief of Boston-based The Rainbow Times, also took issue with Buttigieg’s candidacy.
“Any presidential candidate that blatantly doesn’t care about the concerns of racial and ethnic oppressed groups will not get my vote either, even if he is a member of the LGBTQ+ community. I can’t,” Lashomb wrote. “I won’t support a candidacy that is riddled in privilege — for someone who shows no regard for other marginalized groups, groups that exist in his own LGBTQ+ community too.”
Egan Orion, in a column for the Seattle Gay News, pointed out how Buttigieg’s candidacy was a symbol of progress for the LGBTQ community. “His candidacy in and of itself wasn’t about him being gay at all. He was a veteran. A mayor. A Rhodes scholar who went to Harvard and Oxford, who spoke many languages including Spanish and Arabic. To many, including a widening majority of non-LGBTQ Americans, he wasn’t a gay candidate, he was a presidential candidate who happened to be gay.”
Orion added Buttigieg’s candidacy also reflected a newfound acceptance of same-sex marriages: “Even 10 years ago, the image of Pete and his husband standing, hands clasped, before an adoring audience as a plausible contender for president of the United States was impossible to imagine. The fact that the majority of the country sees that and barely even blinks now tells us how far we’ve come.”
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