Dick Polman, 6/14/2016 [Archive]

After Orlando, 3 Words Republicans Refuse to Utter

By Dick Polman

Let's flag some Republican statements about the Orlando massacre. See if you can spot what's missing.

House Speaker Paul Ryan said, "We pray for those brutally attacked." Senate leader Mitch McConnell said, "The nation's prayers are with the victims." Sen. Rob Portman said, "Praying for the victims." Sen. Rand Paul said, "Praying for the victims." Sen. Bob Corker said, "Praying for the victims." Sen. Tom Cotton said, "My prayers, and the prayers of all Arkansans, are with the victims."

Stumped so far? Need more examples?

Sen. Tim Scott said, "Our prayers are with the victims." Sen. Kelly Ayotte said, "My heart goes out to the victims." Sen. Lamar Alexander said, "My heart goes out to the families and loved ones." Congressman Pete Sessions said, "My thoughts and prayers are with the people of Orlando." Congressman Mark Meadows said, "My thoughts and prayers are with the victims." Sen. Richard Burr said, "My thoughts and prayers are with the victims." Sen. Ron Johnson said, "My thoughts and prayers are with the victims."

You've got it by now. None of these Republicans had the strength of character to say the word gay.

A guy with a newly purchased weapon of war walks into a gay nightclub, blows away 50 LGBT people and allies and wounds 53 more, yet most Republicans can't muster the requisite pronunciation skills to state the obvious. They all love the phrase radical Islamist terrorist, but somehow they can't bring themselves to acknowledge that this particular shooting can just as easily, and perhaps more accurately, be described this way:

Homophobic hate crime.

Why is it so hard for Republicans to use that phrase, to acknowledge that truth? Why are they incapable of saying what Vice President Biden said on Sunday ("the targeting of our lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans is evil and abhorrent ... they were our brothers and our sisters")? And even now, amid mounting evidence that the shooter was a self-hating closeted gay, why are most Republicans still not willing to say that these victims were targeted on the basis of their sexual orientation?

I wonder if it's because Republicans have long been hostile to gays. It's an unfortunate truth that many in the Republican base are homophobic, and party leaders are loath to risk their anger by sounding soft on gays.

Remember, this is the party that concocted the nonexistent transgender bathroom crisis; that is mostly opposed to gay marriage even now, one year after the Supreme Court deemed it constitutional; that is busy crafting anti-gay legislation state by state; that has consistently refused to pass a federal law banning workplace discrimination; that features candidates like Ted Cruz, who called the gay marriage ruling "the darkest 24 hours in our nation's history"; that stoked opposition to gay marriage back in '04, as a way to gin up conservative turnout for George W. Bush's re-election; that attracts homophobic pastors like Kevin Swanson, who has called for gays to be executed.

So the party's whitewashing of gay victims jibes perfectly with its longtime attitude.

Granted, a few Republican senators — Marco Rubio, Susan Collins, Mark Kirk — have seen fit to acknowledge who the Orlando victims were. Heck, even Donald Trump uttered the g-word on Monday, in the manner of a stopped clock getting the time right.

Was Orlando an act of terrorism? Of course. Was there a religious factor? It would appear so. Was the shooter inspired by online terror sites? Yes, looks like a wannabe. But when Republicans refuse to acknowledge what is perhaps the key factor — that this was a homophobic hate crime — they simply look like fools. Fools who are out of touch with the multicultural real world.

As Jack Hunter, a Republican ghost writer and former conservative talk show host, has said, "Why do so many conservatives come across as being tone deaf toward gay Americans and their supporters? .... A Republican party that is perceived as intolerant is not going to survive in the long run."

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Copyright 2016 Dick Polman, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Dick Polman is the national political columnist at NewsWorks/WHYY in Philadelphia (newsworks.org/polman) and a "Writer in Residence" at the University of Pennsylvania. Email him at dickpolman7@gmail.com.

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