What If a Republican Congressman Got Outed and Nobody Cared?

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Jan. 6 2014 1:53 PM

What If a Republican Congressman Got Outed and Nobody Cared?

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A Schock to ... no one.

Photo by Kris Connor/Getty Images

On Friday a producer and former CBS reporter named Itay Hod put up a Facebook post intended to out Illinois Rep. Aaron Schock. The tabloid media, for years, has played a game with the young Republican—wink-wink stories about his photoshoot for a men's health magazine, the sexy celebrities he follows on Twitter, stuff like that. 

Hod decided to kick over the game board.

here's a hypothetical: what if you know a certain GOP congressman, let's just say from Illinois, is gay... and you know this because one of your friends, a journalist for a reputable network, told you in no uncertain terms that he caught that GOP congressman and his male roommate in the shower... together. now they could have been good friends just trying to conserve water. but there's more. what if this congressman has also been caught by tmz cameras trolling gay bars. now what if you know that this very same guy, the darling of the gop, has also voted against repeal of don't ask don't tell, opposed the repeal of doma, is against gay marriage; and for the federal marriage amendment, which would add language to the us constitution banning gay marriage and would likely strike down every gay rights law and ordinance in the country?

Are we still not allowed to out him?
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The answer, according to the Internet, is "no, you can go right ahead." The usual crop of SEO-engine-greasing sites have already run with the story. More tasteful outlets, like BuzzFeed, have used it as a hook for discussions of when outing is and isn't OK. But this isn't affecting Schock negatively at all. Why? I rang up Mike Rogers, the former proprietor of BlogActive, whose evidence-based outings of former Virginia Rep. Ed Schrock and former Idaho Sen. Larry Craig made those politicians—well, it made them "former." Why is America shrugging off the Schock story?

"I think outing is so, so 2004 at this point," said Rogers. "So 2008. Anybody who knows Aaron Schock, anybody who has half of a brain cell, knows he's gay."

Why didn't Rogers try to out him? "I'm kind of out of the business. For me, it's like—big deal. That's how I looked at it. The people who care might get a mailing with the Huffington Post article about it. If they don't, blame a bad campaign manager. My strongest emotion is pity."

But there's no obvious political cost to Schock from a story like this. Illinois' primaries are held on March 18; no Republican has filed against Schock. The congressman has earned a zero rating from the Human Rights Campaign, but there hasn't been a real test for gay rights in the House since the GOP took it over. Sure, Schock voted against the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell," but he's never served in a Congress that took up the Federal Marriage Amendment. His support for bills that blocked certain funds being used to enforce DADT repeal were basically dead letters.

"Republicans want this," said Rogers. "They want him to come out. They want him to come out before the election. The Louie Gohmert voters aren't going anywhere. Anyone who's nutty enough to vote for Gohmert will stay with him. And the power structure in the gay community will literally and figuratively be on its knees the minute he comes out. He'll get awards, he'll march in parades—an Aaron Schock outing, for the GOP, is a gift!"

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.