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Andrew Sullivan Rips Jo Becker's Marriage Equality Book; Author Responds

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ANDREW SULLIVAN JO BECKER
Journalist Andrew Sullivan has lambasted Jo Becker's forthcoming book as "truly toxic and morally repellent." | T.J. Kirkpatrick via Getty Images
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NEW YORK -- Andrew Sullivan unloaded Wednesday on New York Times investigative journalist Jo Becker and her forthcoming book, Forcing the Spring: Inside the Fight for Marriage Equality.

Sullivan, a gay journalist who has advocated for same-sex marriage for decades, argued that Becker overplays the accomplishments of a few figures in the marriage equality fight -- namely, Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin, Republican operative Ken Mehlman, and Proposition 8 attorneys David Boies and Ted Olson -- and minimizes or ignores many others, like ACLU lawyer Dan Foley and Freedom to Marry president Evan Wolfson. The result, Sullivan wrote, is a "troubling travesty on gay history."

In a lengthy post on his Daily Dish site, Sullivan wrote that Becker's book is "truly toxic and morally repellent," and that it includes instances of "jaw-dropping distortion" and statements "so wrong, so myopic and so ignorant it beggars belief that a respectable journalist could actually put it in print."

Sullivan suggested Becker's "distorted and ahistorical and polemical attack" was the result of access journalism, with her top sources getting the starring role in the marriage equality narrative. In a Thursday follow-up post, Sullivan called Becker "a credulous, ignorant reporter."

Such criticism is surprising given Becker’s stellar track record at the Times, and previously, at The Washington Post, where she won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize in national reporting for her series with reporter Barton Gellman on Vice President Dick Cheney. Becker has also won, or shared, other prestigious journalism honors, including the Loeb Award, Polk Award, Goldsmith Prize and Livingston Award. She's considered one of the Times' best investigative journalists, and, with Scott Shane, first reported on President Obama's terrorist "kill list" in 2012.

In an email to HuffPost, Becker didn't specifically respond to Sullivan's critique, but broadly described her intention with the book.

"Many people have contributed to the success the movement has experienced," Becker said. "I have the upmost respect for all the people who contributed to that success. My book was not meant to be a beginning-to-end-history of the movement. It's about a particular group of people at an extraordinary moment in time, and I hope that people will be moved by their stories."

In a follow-up email, HuffPost asked Becker about Sullivan's claim that Griffin, Boies and Olson are sponsoring her book party.

Becker said that Mehlman "is hosting a party for many of the people involved in the issue and has invited me to do a reading, which I am more than happy to do."

Sullivan's criticism has been making the rounds on Twitter, with several journalists weighing in.

American Prospect senior editor Gabriel Arana called Becker's account "idiotic." New York magazine's Frank Rich tweeted that he agreed with Sullivan and later added: "For a journalist to claim that marriage equality revolution began in 2008 is as absurd as saying civil rights struggle began with Obama."

New Republic senior editor Isaac Chotiner also took issue with Becker's reporting based on a New York Times Magazine excerpt from the book published Wednesday. Chotiner wrote that "Becker's story feels like history written from the perspective of rich donors and advisors."

Amid the criticism, however, Becker's book also made some news Thursday.

The Washington Post obtained a copy of the forthcoming book and reported that according to Forcing the Spring, attorney Charles Cooper, who defended California's gay marriage ban, is now "planning his daughter's upcoming same-sex wedding ceremony."

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