S.C. Sen. Lindsay Graham: ’I’m Not Gay’
The South Carolina GOP senator who was accused by the Tea Party of capitulating to Democrats out of fear that he would be outed has addressed the question of his sexuality head on: "I know it's really gonna upset a lot of gay men--I'm sure hundreds of 'em are gonna be jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge--but I ain't available," Graham told New York Times Magazine correspondent Robert Draper in an article from the magazine's upcoming July 4 edition. I ain't gay. Sorry."
The exchange took place when Draper mentioned how at an April Tea Party rally in Greenville, South Carolina, William Gheen--who heads up Americans for Legal Immigration PAC (ALIPAC)--accused Graham of being a closeted gay politician who only worked with Democrats on immigration issues because the Democrats had the goods on the senator. Gheen declared that being gay was "a secret" of Graham's, and added, "I hope this secret isn't being used as leverage over Senator Graham, so today I think Senator Graham, you need to come forward and tell people about your alternative lifestyle and your homosexuality."
A tag superimposed on an ALIPAC-posted YouTube video of Gheen's speech claims that Graham changed his mind about amnesty for illegal aliens "just 7 days after [Gheen's] speech was delivered in his back yard!" A second tag encourages viewers to "Let all Americans know the secret that DC Special Interests have to influence Senator Graham!"
In the New York Times Magazine piece, Graham made light of Gheen's charge that he has a "secret" to keep regarding his sexuality. "Like maybe I'm having a clandestine affair with Ricky Martin," he suggested.
Graham also dismissed the influence and longevity of the Tea Party; Draper recalled that in an earlier conversation, Graham had reckoned, "The problem with the Tea Party, I think it's just unsustainable because they can never come up with a coherent vision for governing the country. It will die out."
But Gheen's charges are nothing new; rumors about Graham, 54 and never married, have circulated for years. A Sept. 12, 2007 article in South Carolina newspaper the Charleston City Paper noted that, following the arrest of anti-gay Idaho Republican senator Larry Craig for allegedly soliciting sex from an undercover police officer in an airport restroom, gay equality advocates began to speculate that Graham might turn out to be another politician with an anti-gay voting record and a secret sexual proclivity. The article quoted gay writer Michelangelo Signorile, who blogged, "Like Larry Craig, Graham has voted antigay--including for the federal marriage amendment--while people in South Carolina and Washington have discussed what some say is an open secret for a long, long time."
On the other side of the cultural divide, Graham raised eyebrows among social and religious conservatives when he said that although he thought the anti-gay ban on openly gay troops was "working," he added, "But if that's wrong, I'd like to know. I mean, if there are outcries within the ranks to change it, if there's a reason to change it, I'd like to hear from our military commanders."
With theories about Graham's sexuality and motives sprouting up on both left and right, another alternative seems to have been largely overlooked: Graham might be something even more politically endangered than a gay Republican: he might be a moderate Republican.