"My fellow Californians, Americans, journalists and bloggers everywhere:
I debated with myself a great deal before coming out here tonight. Foremost in my mind was the question over whether I should come out here at all. Should I stand before you and issue a statement about a clearly political rumor cleverly designed to cripple my candidacy whether I respond to it or not, however I respond?
In the end, I decided that a response was necessary, not only to refute the rumor, but also to condemn the tactic.
It's that second part about which I want to speak first. I have no doubt that, based upon the unforeseen popularity of my campaign, my esteemed opponent has had to consider political strategies beyond simply restating his somewhat tired, proven ineffective 'more of the same' policies."
(pause for laughter)
"But the strategy my opponent has taken here is a deeply unfortunate one. What he has done, it's clear, is examine our social conscience, and pinpoint an issue with which we are struggling as a society: the acceptance of homosexuality. The Senator knows that we in California are a society of openness, of tolerance and of progress, and that our better selves accept homosexuals as fundamentally no different from heterosexuals -- that we are all the same, and should be afforded the same rights, respect and dignity. Certainly our better selves believe that bigotry, hate and discrimination based upon simple sexual preference is wrong, is abhorrent, is tantamount to the same discrimination that has been historically unjustifiably visited on our African American people, our Jewish people, our female population, and on and on for various long and dark periods in human history.
And yet, as the Senator is keenly aware, homosexuality is still frightening to our lesser selves, the parts of our collective social psyche that fear change, that fear the strange or unknown. Homosexuals are the last well-defined group against whom, in many societies in this otherwise increasingly tolerant state, and, indeed, country, it is still tacitly 'okay' to discriminate. 'Fag' and 'Gay' are still schoolyard insults. Our better selves know discrimination is wrong, but our lesser selves still hold homosexuals as some mysterious and scary 'other.'
The Senator knows I have been a vocal champion of homosexual rights in my previous public roles. He knows that those actions have garnered for me unprecedented support in that badly abused and under-represented community. He also knows that, as a married man with a wonderful, not to mention lovely..."
(pause for brief laughter)
"...wife, I am a comfortably traditional political figure. That is, my policies are embraced by those in who feel time is long past due for homosexuals to be treated equally, but even those who are maybe still under the thrall of their lesser selves can feel comfortable with me because, though I support homosexual rights, I am still 'one of them,' that is, a heterosexual.
What Senator Richardson has done with his accusation and, by the way, everyone, including the media most sympathetic to the Richardson campaign, has traced this 'leak' back to his people, what he has done is ... instead of playing to our better selves with policies and political proposals which move us forward as a society, Senator Richardson has chosen to attempt to provoke fear in our lesser selves. Instead of promoting himself to the good in us, he has chosen to try to paint a picture of me, his opponent, as some 'other,' of which our baser selves are afraid.
This is what I despise. The Senator knows that, as a society, we want to accept, and not to discriminate. He knows that, as a whole, Californians believe that homosexuals are the same as heterosexuals. He knows that we want to continue to grow our society as an inclusive, not an exclusive, one. But he also knows that a by-product of positive change is fear, and that, in the dark recesses of our selves, in the places where rational thought does not always penetrate, he knows that we instinctively fear that which we perceive is different from ourselves. And he knows that, despite what our brains tell us, in that dark place, through long centuries of societal ignorance, we see homosexuals as 'different.' And, while our better selves are seeking to erase that perceived 'difference' from our societal fabric, that expulsion will take years, maybe generations. And, in the meantime, that dark corner of our societal consciousness, despite all our better intentions, can be exploited.
So, in leaking rumors of a supposed homosexual affair in my past, the Senator hopes to tap into that dark corner of our collective psyche. As much as he has, and will continue, to protest that he "has no inherent problem with Gay Americans," his tactics show that he's counting on the fact that at least a portion of his fellow Californians do have a problem with homosexuals, will listen to their lesser selves, and that he can force me out of the campaign on the back of a baseless prejudice he knows to be wrong.
Senator Richardson may not be a bigot. I don't know him well enough to make that call. But what I do know is that, in starting this rumor, he hopes to use bigotry as a tool to keep his public office. His new politics are the politics of prejudice. And I strongly believe, and I know you agree with me, that is wrong. Wrong."
(pause for applause, and to let the whole thing sink in)
"So, back to the rumor itself. Did I have a homosexual affair? My first response, the one I wanted to give and still wish I could, is, 'that's none of anyone's business, as it does not in any way affect my ability to do my job as a public servant.' But I know the public and the press want to hear a straight answer and, as I do not want to start a new job in public service with incomplete or effusive statements, I will answer the question, irrelevant though it may be to the campaign at hand.
No, I did not have a homosexual affair in college. I had then, and my wife and I still have, many close friends who are homosexuals. But I have never had a homosexual affair."
(short pause until the clamor of questions recedes a little)
"I thank you for your time, and for coming out here this evening. My anger at my esteemed opponent over his tactics means there is a fair chance I might say something I should not, so I'm going to decline to answer questions right now. Please direct your inquiries to Jean Schneider and Paul Prescott, both of whom I think you know.
Again, thank you. Here's hoping that, when the time comes, we all choose to vote with our better selves.
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