Gosh, I'm so confused. Grandmother Kathy McClain, Manendo's opponent in this very bitter race, had written in her mailer that he was 42, never married and has lived with his mom for long periods of time. When asked what that was supposed to mean, the candidate told me she was a more stable person because of her marriage and her children. But now it seems that (a) Manendo lived with his mom to care for his dying father, (b) Manendo, who's actually 43, has been in a long-term relationship for several years and (c) McClain was a single mother when she was 43 and is so proud of that choice/situation that that's part of the heroism of her life story on her site.
Today, the Review-Journal picked up on this story with a piece by Ben Spillman that cited this blog and weighed the merits of whether McClain's May 17 mailer was gay-baiting.
And then Jon Ralston, who rabidly hates it when politically impactful issues develop that he has previously deemed unworthy, unloaded on me in his daily e-mail blast about the whole thing. Jon's the one who insisted that whether anyone actually barters for health care and whether GOP Senate candidate Sue Lowden actually meant for that to be her health care policy platform didn't matter, that her woes were as much about perception and a failure of damage control as anything else.
Well, so, too, is this Grandmother McClain's problem in this race. She and her campaign used language that everyone knows is code for a whisper campaign suggesting her opponent is gay. She did it in a district with a lot of gays, the district that produced David Parks. Whether she and her campaign manager, Gary Gray, meant it that way may be debatable -- the way they said they meant it makes no logical sense but Jon's good with papering over that as that it was "clumsy" -- but the impact of using those words has resonance.
That, Jon, is why this issue continues to fester. They did something politically stupid and potentially offensive and they've failed to respond to it in any serious way. It's tough, of course, because their explanation is ridiculous.
So it's not because I have some sort of sway over the Vegas gay community. Read this. I'm not that beloved. But I called out something that gay people are sensitive to and I was far from the only one who saw it. It's the equivalent of fried chicken and collard greens, Jon, and similar language has been used in countless campaigns for decades to subtly raise the gay issue. There's a history there, whether you choose to acknowledge it or not.
Here's the part of Jon's screed I loved best:
But, Jon, I did speak to Gary Gray. You know what he did first? He laughed in my ear and claimed that "all of his gay friends" didn't see anything in it. That is, he attempted to make a journalist feel stupid even though I had already talked to several of HIS gay friends and they agreed with me. It's not a wise move to insult a reporter's intelligence and definitely not a move that would make that journalist believe much else Gray had to say.
The transom I simply cannot cross is how, in any circumstance whatsoever, the notion that someone is a 42-year-old single Momma's boy has ever been code for sexual predator. It's not. What then? It falls back to the first explanation, the one with common sense and history behind it.
Jon critiqued my notion that Las Vegas Sun reporter David McGrath Schwartz shouldn't have allowed his anonymous source to say Manendo has had sexual harassment issues every session in the most peculiar way:
Whoa. So journalists who cover the Legislature are aware that sexual harassment is rampant in the highest ranks of the government and not a single one has ever done a feature specifically on that?
Jon, I know who Schwartz's source was. If I do, you do as well, as this passage implies. And this person, who I'm not prepared to name yet, is as close to absolute power as Carson City gets. If you know of allegations of this nature against this person or anyone presently running for office, don't you think now is a good time to speak up, during an election cycle? And hey, don't let the fact that they're mere unproven, anonymous allegations stop ya. You sanction unproven, anonymous allegations being floated in the newspaper as "super solid" journalism, remember?
So here's the question: If you know the kettle is calling the pot black, do you as a journalist allow the kettle to do so with your protection even though the kettle is the far more powerful, far more significant player anyway? Jon rejects that there's even a valid journalistic discussion to be had on this.
And speaking of kettles, I just loved this zinger:
Jon, Jon, Jon. Really? It was your wont long before Las Vegas ever heard of me. The list of journos you've vivisected is legend and, truth be told, is what has emboldened me to do so as well. Is there really something wrong with calling out other reporters when their coverage is full of holes or allows questionable material to surface? I like Schwartz, but his Manendo-McClain piece -- and your own dissertation on same -- reminds me how clubby the media is with powerful legislators.