Journal editorial writers play dumb on Mary Cheney


Eric Boehlert
October 15, 2004 7:50PM (UTC)

It's unlikely that after three presidential debates and one VP face-off that Republicans are thrilled that their best take-away line of attack is that Sen. John Kerry mentioned that Dick Cheney's daughter is gay. But that seems to be the best material they have to work with so GOP operatives, including the Wall Street Journal editorial page, are doing what they can.

The spin faces an obvious uphill battle since it's counterintuitive for Republicans -- whose candidate is urging gay marriages be outlawed -- to argue that the liberal from Massachusetts is the one somehow engaged in gay bashing or gay baiting. Also, the fact that the Cheneys themselves remained relatively quiet last month when the Republican candidate for the Senate in Illinois, Alan Keyes, called homosexuals, and specifically Cheney's daughter, "selfish hedonists," raises suspicion that the current outrage is politically driven.

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Nonetheless, this morning the Journal published its obligatory editorial on the matter as Journal editors played dumb, trying to dress up Kerry's mention as a wildly offensive piece of character assassination. The column, aiming for moral outrage with its over-the-top headline of "Outing Mary Cheney," managed three obvious deceptions in just the opening two sentences.

1. "If Americans didnt know it before Wednesday night's debate, they know it now: Dick and Lynne Cheney have a gay daughter," wrote the Journal.

Not know Mary Cheney is gay? She may be the most famous Republican lesbian in the entire country, but the Journal pretends it was Kerry who broke the news to America. Here's a very small list of news outlets -- taken from just the last six weeks -- that have made reference to Cheney's homosexuality, and did it before Kerry ever brought it up: The San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Post, Fox News, New York Daily News, Los Angeles Times, Associated Press, The Tennesseean, Philadelphia Daily News, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Baltimore Sun, Chicago Sun-Times, Newsday, Washington Times, CNN, Financial Times, CNBC, USA Today, and Orlando Sentinel.

2. The Journal writes Mary Cheney is a "low-profile member of the Vice President's family." She is in fact director of vice president ial operations for the Bush-Cheney campaign and often serves as a surrogate for her father.

3. The Journal wonders how Cheney's daughter is "relevant to the election," conveniently ignoring the fact Kerry brought her up in the context of a debate about the rights of homosexuals.

With less than three weeks to go before the election, partisan Journal editors must be privately shaking their heads that they're writing editorials attacking Kerry for being too tough on gays.

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Eric Boehlert

Eric Boehlert, a former senior writer for Salon, is the author of "Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush."

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