(CNN)Medal of Freedom winner Rush Limbaugh said Wednesday that Democrats are in a panic because one of their presidential front-runners — former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg — is both gay and married to a man.
“They’re looking at Mayor Pete, 37-year-old gay guy, mayor of South Bend, loves to kiss his husband on the debate stage. And they’re saying, ‘OK, how’s this going to look, 37-year-old gay guy kissing his husband on stage next to Mr. Man Donald Trump? What’s going to happen there?’ And they got to be looking at that, and they’ve got to be saying, that despite all the great progress and despite all the great wokeness, and despite all the great ground that’s been covered, America’s still not ready to elect a gay guy kissing his husband on the debate stage president. They have to be saying this, don’t they?”
When asked Thursday and whether Americans would support a gay candidate for president, President Donald Trump told conservative radio host Geraldo Rivera that there “would certainly be a group” that would not support an LGBTQ president, but “you and I would not be in that group.”
“I think there would be some that wouldn’t, and I wouldn’t be among that group to be honest with you,” Trump said. “But I think that yes, I think that it doesn’t seem to be hurting Pete Buttigieg. … It doesn’t seem to be hurting him very much.”
Let’s start with some facts. We have never had an openly gay major-party presidential nominee. And, obviously then, we have never had an openly gay president. Or one married to another man — since gay marriage was only made legal nationwide by the Supreme Court in 2015. So, like anything else that we’ve never had before — like, say, a black president prior to 2008 — there is an unfamiliarity with it and some level of education that is necessary.
But here are a few more facts: There’s not much evidence to suggest that either the Democratic Party “grand poobahs” (as Limbaugh suggests) or the broader American public has serious doubts about voting for a gay person as president.
In a Gallup poll conducted released earlier this month, more than 3 in 4 Americans (78%) said they would vote for a gay person to be president. While that number was lower than those who said they would vote for a Catholic (96%) or a woman (93%), it was higher than the number who said they would vote for someone over 70 (69%) or a socialist (45%).
In fact, according to the Gallup numbers, Buttigieg’s age (he’s actually 38, not 37) is more of an impediment to their voting for him than his sexual orientation; 7 in 10 said that would be willing to vote for a candidate under 40.
(Worth noting: It is, of course, possible that people may be more leery of telling a stranger over the phone that they wouldn’t vote for someone who is gay for fear of being regarded as homophobic. But we have no way of knowing whether that happens or whether it is statistically significant.)
And let’s make one other thing clear: Rush Limbaugh is not exactly plugged into what Democrats — whether the party’s base or its professional class — are thinking about their current crop of nominees. His insight into the Democratic mindset is pretty, pretty limited.
So what Limbaugh — a man who was awarded the highest civilian honor by President Trump at his State of the Union speech last week — is doing here is engaging in some casual homophobia to score political points.
Just look at the language Limbaugh uses: Trump as “Mr. Man,” Buttigieg “loves to kiss his husband on the debate stage.”
Limbaugh is trying to paint what he hopes is an unsavory picture to many Americans. That should be called out for what it is: Intentionally stoking homophobia for political gain.
Will what Limbaugh is trying to do — and make no mistake, this is intentional — work? I hope not.