Donald Trump offers many distinctions as a candidate: the most narcissistic, most bombastic, most orange candidate ever. But his campaign staff has a truly appalling distinction all its own: it may well be the most homophobic ever. Trump has surrounded himself with a virtual Murderer’s Row of far-right crazies who are calling the shots in Trump’s disorganized march on the White House.
It’s not as if previous GOP presidential campaigns didn’t have their share of anti-gay staffers. But, to the dismay of the right, they were often offset by campaign officials who were surprising supportive. Mitt Romney actually appointed a gay foreign policy expert to the campaign, Richard Grenell, until the religious right forced Grenell to resign. John McCain’s campaign manager, Steve Schmidt, was an early supporter of marriage equality and reached out to gay voters. Even George W. Bush had Dick Cheney making pro-gay noises, even as Karl Rove was fanning anti-marriage flames.
You’ll look in vain for a similar counterbalance in Trump’s campaign staff. As befitting the candidate’s own background, the campaign leaders don’t pack a lot of high-level political experience. Instead, they floated around the fringes, aided by the far-right echo chamber. For a man who hasn’t feasted on homophobia the way he has on racism, Trump has picked a surprisingly wretched crew to surround himself with.
Here’s a rundown of the low-lifes that are running the Trump campaign these days:
Conway has the official title of campaign manager, but she operates more as a spokesperson. Whatever she may be, Conway has a long antigay track record. For one, she was the pollster for the National Organization for Marriage, cooking up survey results that buoyed the organization’s stance even as its political power was eroding. For another, she worked for Ted Cruz before moving over to Trump.
As a pundit in the conservative bubble, Conway could be counted on to express her revulsion at anything lavender. Gay marriage? Two years ago, on a panel with NOM’s Maggie Gallagher, Conway said Americans were “sick of lawyers in black robes making stuff up” and people redefining family to be “whatever feels cool.” When John Kerry noted that Dick Cheney’s daughter was a lesbian, Conway complained that it was the same as calling her a slut. When a children’s TV show portrayed two lesbian mothers, Conway exploded that “regular Americans are standing up and saying … ‘I try to protect my kids from outside, external influences corrupting their minds and their bodies.’” There’s plenty more, but you get the idea.
Trump’s latest campaign hire is the man who brought us Citizens United, the group whose lawsuit successfully opened the floodgates to corporate money in politics. He’s really But Bossie’s agenda also includes attacking gays. When Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was repealed, Bossie predicted that Marines would abandon the services in droves, leading to the restoration of the draft. “Pushing this legislation during a global war on terror is a dereliction of duty,” Bossie proclaimed. Bossie also bestowed a Free Speech award on Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson for his offensive remarks about homosexuality. “Even when the entire mainstream media demanded he disavow his beliefs and attempted to have him fired from his own hit show for expressing these beliefs, he stood firm in his faith,” Bossie said.
As the campaign CEO, Bannon advocates for Trump to be even more Trump. As head of Breitbart News, Bannon played a key role in the mainstreaming of the white supremacist alt-right. He’s also directed the site to portray the LGBT community in the most lurid and defamatory manner possible. Of course, that’s when he’s not slurring us himself. In the past week, a tape from 2011 emerged in which Bannon complained that conservative women like Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann were attacked by liberals who prefered “a bunch of dykes that came from the Seven Sisters schools.” Unsurprisingly, one of Bannon’s former employees says that such comments are par for the course: “He made more off-color comments about minorities and homosexuals than I can recount.”
The vice presidential candidate isn’t in the campaign leadership. At times, he barely seems to be part of the ticket at all. But for reliable homophobia, no one can beat the man who made homophobia a hallmark of his political career. He should feel right at home with the new gang.
Photo credit: Gage Skidmore