Monday, March 12, 2007

Outrage in Both the U.S. and Canada Over Anti-Gay Attacks on Prominent Politicos

A Right-Wing Commentator Crosses the Line By Calling a U.S. Presidential Candidate a 'Faggot,' While Fallout Continues to Spread in Quebec Over a Radio 'Shock Jock's' Similar Blast at Pro-Independence Party Leader

By Skeeter Sanders

Everyone who knows the English language knows that the four-letter F-word is obscene. Now, it appears, everyone is waking up to the obscenity of that other F-word.

You know -- the six-letter one with two G's in the middle.

It took the uncivil tongues of a right-wing political commentator in the United States and a radio "shock jock" in Canada to force the issue, but it can finally be said that the use of the six-letter F-word -- and the virulent homophobia that gives the word its power -- is no longer acceptable in modern political discourse on both sides of the border.

Finally, the six-letter F-word with two G's in the middle is being treated by mainstream society all across North America as the hateful vulgarity that is every bit as unacceptable to use as that other six-letter word with two G's in the middle.

You know -- the one that starts with the letter N.

As an openly bisexual African American, this blogger has been on the receiving end of both six-letter insults at different times in my life -- including a 1985 incident in San Francisco in which I was assailed with both epithets at once. But my assailant was so drunk that the words came out, "figger naggot!"

I kid you not.

Having said that, I nonetheless would like to congratulate Ann Coulter and Louis Champagne for finally forcing mainstream society all across North America to once and for all confront the ugliness of the homophobia that gives the six-letter F-word its power.

Coulter, a best-selling right-wing author and newspaper columnist, while speaking to a conservative audience in Washington on March 2, called former U.S. Senator John Edwards (D-North Carolina) -- who's seeking the 2008 Democratic Party presidential nomination -- a "faggot."

Three days earlier, Champagne, a radio "shock jock" in Quebec, did the same thing on the air to Andre Boisclair, the leader of the French-speaking Canadian province's pro-independence Parti Quebecois -- throwing the campaign for the March 26 provincial election into turmoil (The French-language version of the six-letter F-word is "tapette").

Almost immediately, both Coulter and Champagne came under heavy attack from one end of the political spectrum to the other -- and now are both dealing with the severe consequences of using their uncivil tongues in public.

Coulter Unloads on Edwards Before CPAC Convention

Coulter was a featured speaker at the 34th annual Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington. Following her prepared remarks -- which were nationally televised live on the C-SPAN public-affairs network -- Coulter was asked by a member of the audience for her comments on Edwards' presidential candidacy.

"It turns out you have to go into rehab if you use the word 'faggot,' so I'm kind of at an impasse -- I can't really talk about Edwards," she said, to a mixture of gasps and nervous laughter before her audience broke into applause.

Coulter was apparently referring to the recent decision of Isaiah Washington, star of the hit TV series "Grey's Anatomy," to undergo anger-management counseling amid a public-relations firestorm after it was leaked that Washington hurled the six-letter F-bomb at fellow cast member T.R. Knight.

(Knight, who is openly gay, reportedly overheard Washington's homophobic reference to him during an on-the-set confrontation last October between Washington and another fellow cast member, Patrick Dempsey.)

All Hell Breaks Loose After Coulter's Remarks

Reaction to Coulter's anti-gay jab at Edwards, a married heterosexual who has been an outspoken supporter of extending full civil and constitutional rights to gay and lesbian Americans -- despite having personal misgivings over legalizing same-sex marriage -- was swift and cut across the political spectrum.

Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean called on Republican presidential candidates, especially those who attended the CPAC conference, to denounce Coulter's remark, Fox News reported.

For his part, Edwards responded on his Web site by characterizing Coulter's words as "un-American and indefensible" and asking readers to help him "raise $100,000 in 'Coulter Cash' to keep this campaign charging ahead and fight back against the politics of bigotry."

Coulter's attack on Edwards also drew condemnation from Republican presidential candidates John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, and even Mitt Romney -- who, while governor of Massachusetts, infuriated gay-rights advocates in the Bay State for his outspoken opposition to same-sex marriage and his unsuccessful effort to outlaw it there after the state's highest court ruled in 2004 that banning it violated the equal-rights clause of the state constitution.

A Growing List of Newspapers Ax Coulter's Column; Advertisers Dump Her Web Site

Coulter's latest diatribe is also causing severe consequences for her career as a commentator. As of last Friday, three major corporate sponsors -- Verizon, Sallie Mae and Netbank -- pulled their advertising from Coulter's Web site after receiving "thousands" of complaints, according to a Verizon spokesperson.

"Pursuant to our policy, [Verizon's list of Internet] ad purchases are supposed to be stripped of certain kinds of Web sites," the spokesperson said. "This one [Coulter's] could be considered an extreme political Web site, should be off the list, and now it is off the list."

Several newspapers also dropped Coulter's column over her use of the epithet, including The Times of Shreveport, Louisiana; The Oakland Press, which circulates in the Detroit suburbs of Michigan; The Mountain Press of Sevierville, Tennessee; and the New Era in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

A Long History of Highly Inflammatory Rhetoric -- Including an Attack on 9/11 Widows

Coulter has previously suggested that other prominent Democrats are gay -- including former Vice President Al Gore, former President Bill Clinton and his wife, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-New York), whom Edwards -- along with Senator Barack Obama (D-Illinois) -- is challenging for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Given Bill Clinton's reputation as a "ladies' man" -- particularly his highly-publicized affair with Monica Lewinsky, which nearly destroyed his presidency -- Coulter's claim that the former president is gay (or even bisexual) appears particularly ludicrous.

This blogger noted in a previous commentary last June that Coulter, who openly describes herself as a polemicist who likes "to stir up the pot" with her incendiary commentary, has become an increasingly embarrassing thorn in the side of the right wing, with a chorus of conservatives openly bashing her after she blasted a group of widows whose husbands were killed in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

In her book, Godless: The Church of Liberalism, Coulter branded the widows "self-obsessed women. . .genuinely unaware that 9/11 was an attack on our nation and acted as if the terrorist attacks happened only to them. . .I've never seen people enjoying their husbands' deaths so much."

(To read the full article, you can click onto the link below).

It's too bad that under current U.S. law, public figures can't sue each other for libel, slander or defamation without having to prove malice. If they could, Coulter would be up to her neck in lawsuits.

Meanwhile, In Quebec, Fallout Spreads Over Anti-Gay Slur at PQ Leader Boisclair

On the northern side of the U.S.-Canada border, the Quebec radio "shock jock" who created a firestorm by suggesting that local factory workers would never vote for an openly gay candidate in the French-speaking province's March 26 general election has been pulled from the airwaves, at least for now.

Corus Quebec, which owns CKRS Radio in Chicoutimi, located in the heart of the staunchly pro-independence Saguenay-Lac St. Jean region northeast of Montreal, suspended the acerbic Louis Champagne indefinitely.

In a press released issued last Tuesday, Corus declared Champagne made "unacceptable" comments about Andre Boisclair, the openly gay leader of the sovereigntist Parti Quebecois, "that don't represent the company's opinion," and announced that the company suspended him from the airwaves "pending further investigation."

Champagne branded the PQ a "club des tapettes" ("faggots' club") and told its local candidate, Sylvain Gaudreault, during an on-air interview that he would have trouble winning in the region because of his sexual orientation.

A visibly angry Gaudreault came out of the closet during a press conference the following day -- and blasted Champagne.

The "shock jock's" comments triggered a public debate about the role of homophobia that has virtually overshadowed the election campaign, with the leaders of all of Quebec's political parties condemning Champagne's remarks.

For his part, Boisclair said the comments were offensive to voters in the Saguenay. And the union that represents employees at the Alcan aluminum plant in nearby Jonquiere that the "shock jock" referred to in his remarks issued a statement declaring that Champagne's "generalizations about factory workers was insulting."

In a subsequent campaign visit to the plant, Boisclair received cheers and a standing ovation from the workers, with several carrying signs declaring "Non à L'homophobie!" ("No to Homophobia!").

Rival Party Unveils Platform to "Fight Homophobia"

The controversy prompted a rival pro-independence party, the left-leaning Québec Solidaire, to unveil a "plan to fight homophobia," which the party says should be "a top priority" for the next provincial government.

The party declared it would foster programs that encourage children and teens to be more tolerant and accepting of gays.

"Gays and lesbians can get married [across Canada] and have equal rights under Quebec laws, but homophobia is still rampant," said party co-leader Françoise David. "If we needed any other proof that homophobia exists, it seems that we got it," David told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, referring to Champagne's attack on Boisclair.

Québec Solidaire members voted unanimously over the weekend to push a $10-million policy proposal that would invest annually in programs to counter homophobia, especially in regions outside Quebec's main cities.

"Homophobia remains a problem in big urban centers too," said Québec Solidaire candidate Manon Massé, who is running for a seat in the National Assembly, the province's legislature, to represent the Montreal-area riding, or district, of Sainte-Marie-Saint-Jacques. "I'm a lesbian and I have kids. When my kids go to school, they don't want to say that their mother is gay. That's a problem," Massé told the CBC's French-language network, Radio-Canada.

Meanwhile, a new poll released Friday suggests that the Quebec election campaign has become a three-horse race.

The survey, conducted by the respected Centre pour La Recherche des Opinions Publiques (CROP) for the French-language Montreal daily La Presse, put support for the governing Liberal Party at 33 per cent, the opposition PQ at 29 per cent and the conservative Parti Action Democratique du Quebec (ADQ) at 26 per cent.

The results were compiled after CROP redistributed the poll’s 11 per cent undecided respondents.

The telephone poll of 1,000 people across Quebec, conducted between March 1 and 8, is considered accurate within three percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Controversy Erupted Amid New Report on Bias Against Gay Senior Citizens

Coincidentally, the controversy over Champagne's remarks erupted at the same time that a research team from McGill University in Montreal released a report on the health-care and social-service needs of gay and lesbian senior citizens across Canada.

The report documented a pattern of widespread discrimination, including heart-wrenching cases in which:

# a doctor expressed disgust after discovering his elderly patient was gay,

# a gay man carried his ailing partner into the washroom of a nursing home so the two could steal a hug away from the critical eyes of others,

# a caregiver tried to impose her religious beliefs to "rid" an elderly patient of homosexuality.

"These are real events that are happening," said Shari Brotman, a professor at McGill's School of Social Work. "There's a strong mistrust and fear of the system, and [gay and lesbian elders] are very hesitant to seek out services."

The four-year study was based on 90 interviews with elders, caregivers and health and social-service providers in Vancouver, Montreal and Halifax.

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From June 19, 2006: "Red-Baiting Joe McCarthy Is Alive and Well and Living in the Person of Ann Coulter"

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Volume II, Number 13
Copyright 2007, Skeeter Sanders. All rights reserved.


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