Saturday, June 06, 2020


Is Lindsey Graham about to be enmeshed in a sex scandal? South Carolina politics site FITSNews reports:
Around the time most South Carolinians were sitting down to their evening meals on Thursday night, a gay porn star by the name of Sean Harding fired off a tweet that set tongues-a-wagging across the Palmetto State (and in the nation’s capital).

“There is a homophobic republican senator who is no better than (Donald Trump) who keeps passing legislation that is damaging to the LGBT and minority communities,” Harding tweeted. “Every sex worker I know has been hired by this man. Wondering if enough of us spoke out if that could get him out of office?” ...

“I cannot do this alone,” Harding added in a follow-up tweet. “If you’d be willing to stand with me against LG please let me know.”

Hold up ... LG?

Considering there is only one member of the U.S. Senate with those initials, speculation quickly turned (again) to U.S. senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who has been dodging rumors like this for the better part of the last decade. This time, though, the allegation quickly took on a life of its own. By Friday afternoon, the hashtag “Lady G” – which is purportedly Graham’s nickname among male sex workers – was trending on Twitter.
I don't know whether this is true. I know that it's happening less than a week before the South Carolina Republican Senate primary, which will be held on Tuesday. Graham has three challengers, but no one has been expecting him to lose -- among them, the three reportedly had $20,000 cash on hand going into the last weeks of the campaign, while Graham had $13.9 million.

South Carolina sex scandals don't inevitably derail GOP political careers. Ten years ago, a state representative named Nikki Haley was accused of having had an extramarital affair with Will Folks, a conservative blogger -- the founding editor of FITSNews, as it happens. The accusation came two weeks before the primary. She won anyway, then was reelected in 2014 and is now considered a future presidential contender.

But this is sex with gay escorts. Won't that matter in South Carolina?

First, the story is quite possibly untrue, and even if it is true, there may not be any solid evidence that it's true.

But, more important, most evangelicals in America are Republicans first and evangeicals second. They hate Democrats more than they hate gay escorts, gay porn stars, or gay people in general.

Especially if those gay people are Republican. I've seen no backlash whatsoever to Trump's appointment of the openly gay Richard Grenell as ambassador to Germany and acting director of national intelligence. (He resigned from both positions this week.) When your enemies include Eric Swalwell and members of "the fake news," most right-wingers can ignore your sexual orientation.

Red-state voters can be very forgiving when Republican candidates run for office after sex scandals. Louisiana senator David Vitter won reelection handily in 2010 after a 2007 prostitution scandal; it wasn't until until 2015, when Vitter ran for governor, that voters rejected him.

And South Carolina's own Mark Sanford may have had to step down as governor after an extramarital affair became public in 2009, but he then won a House special election in 2013, ran unopposed in 2014, and won handily again in 2016. It was only after he became a critic of President Trump that he lost a reelection bid, in 2018.

So Graham will win his primary easily on Tuesday. He could conceivably lose the general election -- his Democratic opponent, Jaime Harrison, outraised him in the first quarter of 2020, and at least one (pre-rumor) poll showed them tied -- but I'm guessing that Trump's presence at the top of the ticket will be enough to reelect him. Though who knows this year?

One more thing: On our side, the snickering about Graham's sexuality often strikes me as homophobic. Sure, if he's gay, his voting record is hypocritical and unconscionable. But we can denounce him without calling him "Miss Lindsey" or "Lady G." Many of us seem awfully eager to imitate him using a lisp or Scarlett O'Hara phraseology. It's not cool. He's a bad person, but we don't have to go there.

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