Another Slam on Condi
>FromThe Sunday Times
December 2, 2007
Gay rumours eclipse Condi's glory moment
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
Tony Allen-Mills, New York
IT SHOULD have been Condoleezza Rice's finest hour as US secretary of
state: at last President George W Bush was hosting a Middle East peace
conference that she had been struggling to organise for months.
Yet when Rice's photograph appeared on the front page of America's
bestselling weekly newspaper last week, it had nothing to do with her
peacemaking efforts. She had been dragged into a National Enquirer
article headlined "Who's Gay and Who's Not".
The article revived long-standing Washington gossip about Rice's
sexuality and sparked off the usual flurry of internet chatter about
her high-profile role in a Republican administration widely regarded
as hostile to gays.
It also underlined the increasing friction in American politics
between a high-minded media establishment disdainful of bedroom gossip
and the no-holds-barred, consumer-driven world of instant internet
scandal. A Google search of the words "Condoleezza" and "lesbian" last
week yielded 146,000 hits.
* Presidential campaign lands in the gutter
* Cool Hillary shines in hostage crisis
* Condoleezza Rice returns home empty-handed
Rice was not alone in falling victim to what the US media elite
invariably decries as corrupted journalistic standards but what the
rest of America seems to regard as the real story in Washington: who
is sleeping with whom?
While most leading US newspapers were preoccupied with serious policy
issues such as Iraq and illegal immigration, New York tabloids were
feasting on startling g new details about Rudolph Giuliani, the city's
former mayor, who is alleged to have concealed the cost of the
security protection he needed while on secret trysts with his then
Giuliani dismissed the allegations as a "political hit job" and "dirty
trick" that just happened to pop up hours before a key televised
debate between Republican presidential candidates. Although it
appeared that Giuliani had done nothing illegal, the fuss refocused
attention on his colourful private life and may damage his appeal to
Political insiders also noted that the detailed allegations, including
documented evidence of the accounts used to hide Giuliani's
potentially embarrassing expenses, were published not by a newspaper
but by Politico.com, an increasingly influential website.
The mainstream US media also managed to ignore one of the most read
political stories on the internet last week, an account in The Time s
about a dirty-tricks campaign in South Carolina, including anonymous
allegations that Senator Hillary Clinton is having an affair with Huma
Abedin, a female member of her campaign staff. Democrat officials
dismissed the allegations as an obvious attempt to smear the
frontrunning presidential candidate.
The former senator John Edwards, Clinton's Democratic rival, felt the
tabloid lash when the Enquirer claimed he too was having an affair
with a campaign aide while his cancer-stricken wife campaigned on his
behalf elsewhere. Edwards denounced the story as "false, completely
untrue, ridiculous" and said the Enquirer had failed to produce
evidence "because it's made up".
The steady flow of salacious and often thinly sourced sex-related
stories is causing headaches for US newspaper editors, who have been
bludgeoned by shrinking circulations and internet competition yet are
still clinging to values described by one blogger last week as
"snoozy, prissy and haughty".
The drift towards internet-fuelled sensationalism was deemed to be so
serious earlier this year that the Columbia Journalism Review, a
bastion of US media elitism, convened a panel of top editors to
consider whether the government should step in to subsidise serious
newspapers as a valuable public service, along the lines of the BBC.
The Enquirer described its article as "the ultimate guessing game
among Hollywood fans - trying to figure out which big-name stars are
gay". The report went on: "According to the buzz among political
insiders, it's an open secret that . . . Rice is gay."
The piece quoted an unnamed "in-the-know" blogger as saying that
during her years as provost of Stanford University in California, Rice
was "completely out as a lesbian and it was not a scandal, just a
reality". The paper referred to reports that in 1998 Rice bought a
house with a "special friend", another unmarried - woman, a film-maker
named Randy Bean.
It was far from the first time that she had been linked to lesbian
rumours. In a recent biography of Rice, Glenn Kessler, the Washington
Post's diplomatic correspondent, noted that Bean, described as a
"liberal progressive" , was her "closest female friend". It was Kessler
who discovered from a search of property records that Rice and Bean
owned a house together.
Rice does not comment on her private life, and she is not an elected
official, so her sexuality has never been a campaign issue. But the
gay community has long been troubled by her association with
conservative Republicans opposed to gay marriage, and with evangelical
Christians who regard homosexuality as a sin.
At one point last year Rice was regarded as a possible Republican
candidate in the 2008 White House race. Yet most commentators agreed
that she was reluctant to run, and a Washington Post columnist
concluded th at she was "the longest of long shots", as it indeed
The columnist Chris Cillizza made no mention of Rice's sexuality, and
it took an internet reader named Anne Roifes to remind the Post that
high journalistic standards sometimes miss the point.
"It is widely believed in gay circles that Condi is a lesbian," Roifes
commented. "That could be one reason she will not run."