GOP campaign group accused of using homophobic trope against Hoadley

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News

A political group supporting gay candidates is accusing the House Republicans' campaign arm of using homophobic tropes in reference to state Rep. Jon Hoadley, the Democrat challenging longtime GOP U.S. Rep. Fred Upton in southwest Michigan this fall. 

The LGBTQ Victory Fund called Tuesday for the National Republican Congressional Committee to stop referring to Hoadley as a "pedo sex poet" and for the committee to apologize. 

The LGBTQ Victory Fund said the "startling" use of the phrase "pedo sex poet" by the NRCC perpetuates harmful homophobic stereotypes of gay men as pedophiles and sexual deviants. 

"Fred Upton is resorting to digging up Jon’s puerile college blog posts and pulling together out-of-context words and phrases because he can find nothing else to criticize about Jon’s public service record,” said Annise Parker, president and CEO of the LGBTQ Victory Fund. 

Upton hasn't raised the issue of Hoadley's blog in his campaign.

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Hoadley, 37, of Kalamazoo is the first openly gay nominee for the U.S. House in Michigan.

State Rep. Jon Hoadley

The NRCC has repeatedly referred to Hoadley as "pedo sex poet" since a report in the New York Post last month about blog posts from 2004 and 2005 in which Hoadley wrote about going to a gay bar to “learn about crystal meth," described sexual partners as “victims” and made reference to a 4-year-old "wearing a thong." 

Hoadley, who was a student at Michigan State University at the time, also used the term "breeders" to refer to heterosexual people.

Hoadley's campaign last month dismissed the blog entries as “bad college poetry.”

The NRCC did not back down amid the criticism Tuesday, with spokeswoman Carly Atchison saying that Hoadley "must still be high on the meth he spoke fondly of in his poems sexualizing toddlers, trivializing rape and calling pregnant women ‘breeders’ if he thinks anyone but him should be apologizing.”

Hoadley did apologize for the blog posts in a Facebook video last month, while accusing Republicans of distorting the truth and promoting misinformation.

"I said things 16 years ago that I would never say today. That are not reflective of who I am," Hoadley said. "For folks that I hurt with my words, I'm sorry." 

The LGBTQ Victory Fund said Hoadley's blog was a "bad attempt at humor" and said the NRCC is purposely using snippets out of context to claim he mocks women, uses drugs, victimizes sexual partners and is a pedophile.

For example, the LGBTQ Victory Fund said Hoadley's reference to a thong was in a post about a "clearly satirical" discussion that he had with a friend about whether "gay men desire to be flower girls," with his friend joking that he had no desire to see a "four-year-old wearing a thong" — a condemnation of hypersexualizing kids. 

Both Hoadley and the LGBTQ Victory Fund called on Upton to speak out against the NRCC's "distortion and smear campaign." 

"I agree Congressman Upton should denounce these disgusting, bigoted attacks. These represent the worst kind of politics and the people of the 6th District deserve better from their member of Congress," Hoadley said in a Tuesday statement.

Upton has not referred to Hoadley's blog posts in ads, mailers or fundraising appeals, according to his campaign. 

"The Upton campaign has had nothing whatsoever to do with Jon Hoadley's own words being used in campaign ads by independent outside groups, which we legally do not, nor can we, have any control over," said Nate Henschel, Upton's campaign manager. 

"But the facts are the contents of the blog were written by Jon Hoadley. He deleted the blog as a candidate for Congress until his writings resurfaced election night. He has since apologized, acknowledging his words were hurtful."

Henschel added that the controversy is an attempt to distract from Hoadley's public record as a state legislator.

The Log Cabin Republicans, a conservative LGBT group, said Hoadley has been in the public eye for a long time and, in reference to his blog, "knows better than to describe children and women so dismissively."

"That 'catty gay' trope does nothing but continue to embarrass the LGBTQ community," said Charles Moran, managing director for the Log Cabin Republicans.

"The Victory Fund, which is no stranger to relying on startling and defamatory homophobic tropes about gay conservatives they don't agree with, should sit out of this race."

Hoadley, minority vice chairman of the state House Appropriations Committee, narrowly defeated teacher Jen Richardson in last month's Democratic primary. 

Democrats are targeting Upton's district and last month added Hoadley to the Democratic congressional fundraising organization's select "Red to Blue" program for candidates who hit thresholds for local support, campaign organization and fundraising.

Upton, first elected in 1986, is Michigan's senior Republican in Congress and former chairman of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee.

A moderate conservative who has occasionally voted against President Donald Trump, Upton won reelection in 2018 by 4.5 percentage points, defeating Democratic political newcomer Matt Longjohn of Portage in his closest challenge in decades.