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Michelangelo Signorile

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The Laughable Attempt To Soften Santorum

Posted: 01/07/12 08:30 AM ET

At the same time that Rick Santorum's 19-year-old daughter Elizabeth emerged on the campaign trail talking about "gay friends" who support her father, Santorum's former Senate communications director, a gay man named Robert Traynham, popped up on "Hardball" defending Santorum. All this while Santorum continues to get booed and jeered at campaign appearances all over New Hampshire for his stance on marriage equality.

More interesting is how Traynham, now a political analyst with a show on the Comcast Network in DC, seems to have previously purged his former boss from his past, perhaps seeing him as radioactive to a career in media. Pittsburgh blogger Sue Kerr had written a blog post just a week ago (before Traynham surfaced in the media) titled, "What Ever Happened to the Gay Guy Who Worked for Santorum?" in which she noted that Traynham has gone on to an illustrious career but doesn't mention anywhere in his bio on his website that he worked for Santorum:

He was Santorum's PR Director/Communications Director while Santorum was in the Senate. He was an openly gay, African-American man who worked for Rick Santorum. Then he got a fancy job in the D.C. (imagine) and is now teaching at George Mason, hosting a political talk show, making appearances on NPR and other swell stuff. Money will do that. Make you swallow your soul. If you check out his website, Robert doesn't mention Santorum.

Traynham in fact only says in his bio that he worked for a "member of the US Senate." It seems odd that Traynham would cover up his past for several years, only to come out now -- unless perhaps Santorum or his campaign reached out just when they need to soften the candidate's image, no matter how ridiculous an effort that may be.

Traynham claimed to Chris Matthews in a jaw-dropping interview that, while Santorum disagrees with him on the issue of marriage -- for religious reasons -- he has "never ever, heard him say anything" against gay sex, and that he would "never work for him" if he did.

You'd have to be deluded on a level we've not previously seen in American politics to actually believe Santorum has nothing against gay sex considering that Santorum in 2003 lashed out at the U.S. Supreme Court for its decision striking down sodomy laws. Santorum said at the time: "If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery, you have the right to anything...Whether it's polygamy, whether it's adultery, whether it's sodomy, all of those things, are antithetical to a healthy, stable, traditional family." He also added that he doesn't approve of acts "outside of traditional heterosexual relationships."

That doesn't exactly sound like someone who is okay with gay sex.

Traynham defended Santorum in the past -- long before he scrubbed him from his resume -- when he was first revealed to be gay back in 2005, after Mike Rogers of Blogactive called him and asked the question:

After receiving tips from readers of his Web log, BlogActive, Michael Rogers called Traynham and asked him if he is "out to the senator." In a tape Rogers provided to Advocate.com, Traynham responded, "I am." Asked whether the senator's constituents know he's openly gay, Traynham said, "I'm not sure that's really relevant."

Santorum defended Traynham, releasing a statement at the time: "Not only is Mr. Traynham an exemplary staffer, but he is also a trusted friend and confidant to me and my family. Mr. Traynham is a valued member of my staff, and I regret that this effort on behalf of people who oppose me has made him a target of bigotry in their eyes. It is entirely unacceptable that my staff's personal lives are considered fair game by partisans looking for arguments to bolster my opponent's campaign."

Why Traynham, as a gay man, was ever working for Rick Santorum is of course a question we ask all the time about gay conservatives who publicly support the very politicians who would strip them of their rights. Santorum attempted to turn Traynham into a victim in the way that Dick Cheney claimed his lesbian daughter Mary was under attack for supporting an administration that pushed a federal marriage amendment. Traynham now seems to be returning the favor, going public even though he's previously tried to hide any association with Santorum. But he and the campaign must be smoking something pretty powerful if they think people are going to buy it.

 

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