Reporters eagerly complete thoughts the president hasn’t even bothered to utter
There is nothing more offensive than watching mainstream reporters assist the White House in executing a public relations strategy, but when it comes to reporting on gay marriage giving the Bush administration a hand seems to be all that some reporters are doing.
In the February 16 issue of Time, John Cloud writes that President George W. Bush, while explaining his opposition to gay marriage, said: “I’m not against anybody. If some people want to have a contract, that’s O.K., but marriage is the foundation of society.”
Apparently, gay and lesbian couples are supposed to sign contracts with every hospital, nursing home, or every other institution they might enter some day to ensure that their partners may visit them in those places.
While I think that comment makes Bush look idiotic, I assume it is meant to make him appear reasonable and accommodating. Of course, we have no idea if Bush actually said it.
Cloud’s source was Rep. Jim DeMint, a conservative Republican from South Carolina who supports the Federal Marriage Amendment that would ban same-sex marriages. DeMint is one of a group of Republicans who have been attacking federal AIDS funding.
Attributing the comment to DeMint allows Bush to look like someone who doesn’t hate fags while not requiring him to actually say something gay-friendly in public. A gay-friendly comment might offend the president’s right wing base.
In a February 9 New York Times article, under the headline “Congressman Says Bush Is Open to States’ Bolstering Gay Rights,” reporter Jennifer 8. Lee cited the DeMint comments and went even further.
Lee quoted a White House spokesperson saying: “States, through their contract law, have the ability to address some of the issues that advocates of gay marriage are raising, such as hospital visitation rights and insurance benefits and the ability to pass on one’s estates to another. What the president has said is that he strongly believes in the sanctity of marriage, so that’s what he is saying.”
In other words, the president is generously bestowing rights on same-sex couples that we already possess.
Of course, we can designate our beneficiaries on insurance policies and 401(k) plans, and, of course, we can leave our estates to anyone we please.
However, when we fail to make those designations or write wills those assets will not automatically go to our partners as they would if our partners were legal spouses.
These reporters appear to be entirely misinformed on the laws they are writing about, but they sure don’t mind making the White House look good.
Lee, like Cloud, allows the president to look like a nice man who doesn’t hate anyone without actually having to say the words gay or lesbian in public.
The Times pulled the same stunt on February 5 in a story on the president’s expected endorsement of the Federal Marriage Amendment.
Reporter Richard W. Stevenson gave us this whopper: “[Bush’s] statements on gay marriage have always been carefully respectful of gay men and women.”
First of all, gay women have been called lesbians for several decades and, secondly, Bush has never mentioned “gay men and women” in any of his statements concerning marriage. Not once. In fact, I do not believe that Bush has uttered the words gay or lesbian in public since he became president. The words he uses in private are anyone’s guess.
When he responded to a question on gay marriage last July and in this year’s State of the Union address, Bush made vague comments about respecting others, but reporters, particularly Times reporters, have been thoughtfully filling in the blanks for the White House.
On July 31, Neil A. Lewis, a Times reporter, gave us a story about Bush’s comments on same-sex marriage during a Rose Garden press conference. In his opening paragraph, Lewis wrote that “[Bush] believes Americans should treat homosexuals in a welcoming and respectful manner.”
The president never said that. He did not even make comments that would allow anyone to infer that, but then I’m assuming that these reporters are writing news stories. They aren’t.
They are happily promoting the White House spin and doing their level best to advance the president’s image.