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July 22, 2003

REPUBLICANS FINALLY STAND UP FOR GAY RIGHTS!....Fox News reports that Republicans — well, "one Republican" anyway — is outraged over Pete Stark's homophobic outburst last week:

"'You little fruitcake, you little fruitcake, I said you are a fruitcake,'" [Rep. Kenny] Hulshof, R-Mo., read from the unofficial transcript.

Stark directed the word — considered by some to be a gay slur — at Republican Rep. Scott McInnis, who is married and by all accounts not gay.

Republican sources also claim that during the chaotic scene in the committee, Stark fired another gay slur in the direction of Chairman Thomas. The word is too vulgar to print in full, but the last half of it is "sucker."

Now, one Republican wants to know where is the outrage at the Democrat for his seemingly intolerant remarks.

Oh please. Everybody knows that "cocksucker" is just a codeword that allows baseball managers to be ejected from games. And "fruitcakes" — well, those are the guys with the tinfoil hats, which seems to be a fairly accurate description of Bill Thomas, the guy it was directed at. In fact, apparently even Republicans are now "quietly whispering" that perhaps Thomas is something of a fruitcake.

And who is this Republican who's so eager to see a gay slur in all this? Why, none other than Palm Beach congressman Mark Foley, who, as we all know, is a wee bit sensitive about the proposition that being gay is a slur. Time to get a new schtick, congressman....

Posted by Kevin Drum at July 22, 2003 03:13 PM | TrackBack


Comments

What crap! I've heard gays called, "fruits"--I've never heard of them being called "fruitcakes." It reminds me of the DC official who got in trouble for using the word, "niggardly."

Posted by: rea at July 22, 2003 03:19 PM | PERMALINK

If you ask me, Foley is nuttier than a .... :-)

Posted by: David W. at July 22, 2003 03:23 PM | PERMALINK

It seems like a homophobic slur to me, and if the party affiliations were reversed, all us lefties would probably be upset about it. But since there is an unofficial rule that no Republican can use the word 'homophobia', since using it would affirm the right of gays to live free from persecution, Pete Stark is probably not going to be called on his homophobia.

Posted by: SYM at July 22, 2003 03:24 PM | PERMALINK

Even if the charge is preposterous, I don't want to go into the position of defending Rep. Stark's language. The behavior of both parties in this sorry mess seems to be pretty appalling. It sounds like a bipartisan knuckle-dragging session.

Posted by: MattK at July 22, 2003 03:26 PM | PERMALINK

"And 'fruitcakes' — well, those are the guys with the tinfoil hats"

Or sock puppets.

Posted by: Joe Grossberg at July 22, 2003 03:35 PM | PERMALINK

SVM: Please. I've used the phrase "nuttier than a fruitcake" many times. It has no anti-gay connotations at all. And "cocksucker" is just vulgar language, like "dipshit" or "dickhead."

Besides, isn't an anti-gay slur just a bit of an odd choice to use against someone who's *not gay*?

MattK is right: it's just bad behavior from both parties, not any kind of homophobia. However, at least it has provided us all with a comedic interlude from Uranium-Gate.

Posted by: Kevin Drum at July 22, 2003 03:42 PM | PERMALINK

I still wanna know what the odds were on a Dem calling a Rep a fruitcake, and not the other way around. Ah, ain't democracy grand?

Posted by: spc67 at July 22, 2003 03:46 PM | PERMALINK

What Kevin just said. Neither term has anything to do with gays, just as Pryor's bizarre decisions had nothing to do with Catholicism. The GOP clearly plans to milk the victim mentality every chance they get. What a surprise.
I'd like to know how the guy made Stark mad, but I seem readier than most to excuse his taunting. If he were 20 years younger instead of older, it would upset me. And the other guy calling his mommy should definitely be played in his next CO campaign. It should go down a treat.

Posted by: John Isbell at July 22, 2003 03:56 PM | PERMALINK

Well, fruit has gay connotations, whether or not the fruit are in a cake. Saying another man sucks cock definitely has gay connotations. Fruitcake means 'insane' or 'gay', depending on the context.

What you are saying is that insults may just be an expression of anger, and it doesn't matter that the terms are specific to gays. And that can be true. When Eminem calls, say, NSYNC 'fags', he may not be saying that they actually have sex with each other. He may just be saying that he doesn't enjoy listening to their music. But I still think Eminem is being homophobic.

Besides, have you seen Scott McInnis? He's neat, he has a little moustache....Awww, nevermind.

Posted by: SYM at July 22, 2003 04:02 PM | PERMALINK

I shudder to think what my grandmother thought when I said the fruitcake she gave me made me feel gay.

Anyway, Pete Stark is fair game when it comes to behavior unbecoming an elder statesman, but it's pretty ironic to call him a homophobe.

Posted by: Sven at July 22, 2003 04:13 PM | PERMALINK

if i call someone a cocksucker, i am not implying he (or she) is gay. just like, when i call someone a mother-fucker, i'm not implying that they have ever been involved in an incestous relationship. cocksucker is a generic insult.

fruitcake, on the other hand, means, basically, nuts - just like "republican"

Posted by: ChrisL at July 22, 2003 04:15 PM | PERMALINK

About half the men in the choirs in which I sing are gay and I have never, on any occasion, in any circumstance, ever heard them use the word "fruitcake" to mean "gay". And trust me, I think I've heard every possible codeword in the book... ;)

Posted by: Anarch at July 22, 2003 04:19 PM | PERMALINK

Sven: Guess Pete Stark is not actually a homophobe. Voting record is what should actually determine that. But if it was Santorum that called someone a fruitcake cocksucker, I would take it as more evidence of his homophobia.
That's all I'm trying to say.

Posted by: SYM at July 22, 2003 04:21 PM | PERMALINK

Mark Foley is a gay fruitcake.

Posted by: David Ehrenstein at July 22, 2003 04:26 PM | PERMALINK

BTW, I interviewed Scott McGinnis, a hyperactive ex-cop from the Colorado high country, several times early in his career. I think it's fair to characterize him as "eccentric." But one should do it in an indoor voice.

Seriously, there's no excusing Stark's behavior and there's no spinning "cocksucker" into a quaint, old-fashioned aspersion — outside of New Jersey, that is.

Posted by: Sven at July 22, 2003 04:30 PM | PERMALINK

The precise analogy of cocksucker is motherfucker, as stated above. Which has fuck all to do with incest. I'd think this is pretty straightforward. For fruitcake, I could imagine a very tenuous case being made, were it not for the fact that it self-evidently means crazy. That's what it means. So, if I say "put it in the trunk", it's possible that I'm referring to an elephant's trunk. But, you know, I'd have to have an elephant. SYM, I think you need to mellow out, or you're going to start worrying when people talk about buying fruit.

Posted by: John Isbell at July 22, 2003 04:32 PM | PERMALINK

Thinking about it, my own argument convinced me of the opposite. Stark's message is that the other guy is a wimp. It's a taunt. How does calling him crazy do that? So I now agree with SYM that the exchange has a subtext. But I don't think it's in the dictionary semantics.
And it's also true that the word "cocksucker" has no business whatever in the House. He should be censured or cautioned or whatever.

Posted by: John Isbell at July 22, 2003 04:38 PM | PERMALINK

Now 'fess up... How many of you are participating in this thread just because you get to say "cocksucker" in a discussion blog and not get booted?

:)

Posted by: MattK at July 22, 2003 04:59 PM | PERMALINK

Even if it were homophobic, he would get a pas- remember the attacks on Lyndsey Graham in 2002, or the Max Baucus attacks on his opponents. Only republicans can be homophobic or racist- didn't you guys get the memo?

BTW, HEre is what Stark said besides fruitcake:

When asked later if he also aimed a vulgar, anti-gay slur in the direction of Thomas, Stark said, "I'm certain that at some point in the last year I called Chairman Thomas a ' ****sucker,' but not last Friday."

But five sources have confirmed to Fox News that they heard Stark call Thomas that "sucker" word at Friday's meeting -- and another choice term that can't be cleaned up for print.

As for Thomas' behavior, Democrats want an apology to ranking committee Democrat Charlie Rangel and assurances that Republicans will work with the minority in a more bipartisan manner in the future.

Stark is a raving asshole, and always has been. But he is a Democrat, so he can't be that bad, right guys?

Posted by: John Cole at July 22, 2003 05:14 PM | PERMALINK

1. Kevin, Stark called McInnis a fruitcake, not Thomas.

2. I'll be blogging this myself soon, hopefully -- Stark has an incredibly long history of picking up the nastiest slur handy for whomever is in his way.

Posted by: Crank at July 22, 2003 05:15 PM | PERMALINK

"How many of you are participating in this thread just because you get to say "cocksucker" in a discussion blog and not get booted?"

Me! Me! Me!

"And it's also true that the word "cocksucker" has no business whatever in the House. He should be censured or cautioned or whatever."

Actually, while I'd agree that it has no business on the floor of the House during business hours, it's pretty much a given that in any given group of men (and I'm being slightly sexist here, but I'm fairly confident on this one), given enough time, the word "cocksucker" is going to be tossed out, especially when tempers get inflamed. It's just the way it works. I suspect that such words are thrown about more often than we know; this one just got blown up because it escalated into a full scale shouting match and the Republicans called the police (plus the conservative press is desperate to distract people from the Niger/Uranium - hmm. Now that I think about it, Stark should have called him a "yellowcake").

Posted by: The Mighty Reason Man at July 22, 2003 05:34 PM | PERMALINK

I wouldn't say that "fruitcake" is never used to imply that someone is gay but it sure isn't used much. I've certainly never heard it used and I've heard just about every gay reference and insult in the book.

As for "cocksucker," as already noted, it is frequently used as an insult in all sorts of situations, most of which have nothing to do with homosexuality.

The gay issue here is a red herring that I predict will die a quick death. If you want to censure the guy for cussing, fine, but personally I think you should be censuring the guy who tried to ram through a bill without letting members read it and who called the police to evict the Democrats from a room where it was perfectly appropriate for them to be. I regard these offenses as far more egregious than the harmless epithets tossed by the elderly gentlemen.

Posted by: PaulB at July 22, 2003 05:38 PM | PERMALINK

MattK: "Now 'fess up... How many of you are participating in this thread just because you get to say "cocksucker" in a discussion blog and not get booted?"
Curses, foiled again!
John Cole: "But he is a Democrat, so he can't be that bad, right guys?", etc. John, you really should read the thread before you comment, you'll look less silly (this time).

Posted by: John Isbell at July 22, 2003 06:34 PM | PERMALINK

How many of you are participating in this thread just because you get to say "cocksucker" in a discussion blog and not get booted?

oh yeah. :)

Posted by: ChrisL at July 22, 2003 06:39 PM | PERMALINK

This is same Bill Thomas that had a sports writer fired awhile back.

Rep. Bill Thomas was unable to take the criticism of a sports reporter from the LA Times. He got the man fired from his job because he made the mistake of sending the critical letter from his office email account instead of his personal. Free speach for Mr. Thomas but forget everyone else.

And Mother Jones' Nominates Thomas for Sex in Congress Award And the winner is .... my Congressman! It seems that Thomas is one those Republican who can't keep his fly zipped.

Rep. Bill Thomas (R-Calif.) was outed for having an affair with Deborah Steelman, a health care lobbyist who routinely had business with Thomas' health care committee and steered huge campaign gifts to Thomas' war chest. Steelman, now a vice president for Eli Lilly, did not deny the affair; rather, she was enraged that anyone would think having sex with Thomas gave her undue advantage: "To suggest I would stoop to an 'inappropriate relationship' to achieve legislative results is repugnant and sexist.

Here'some more stuff as Villagenews is keeping a record on this Thomas.

Posted by: Cheryl at July 22, 2003 06:49 PM | PERMALINK

"Well, fruit has gay connotations"
In retrospect, I probably should have rephrased that.
Just to be clear, I don't think Stark should be censured or whatever; given what the Republicans were doing at the time, I would have probably used stronger language. But the homophobic subtext is there. I think gay organization Human Rights Campaign has the right idea:

"I think Congressman Stark's use of the word, he probably regrets having used it. I think he meant nothing by it, but I think in the 2003 context, it's probably a poor choice of words. But it's also important to note that Congressman Stark is one of the gay community's staunchest allies," said Winnie Stachelberg, political director of the Human Rights Campaign."

Posted by: SYM at July 22, 2003 07:00 PM | PERMALINK

Now 'fess up... How many of you are participating in this thread just because you get to say "cocksucker" in a discussion blog and not get booted?

Personally, I just enjoy using the word fruitcake.

Posted by: SYM at July 22, 2003 07:01 PM | PERMALINK

Now 'fess up... How many of you participating in this thread have actually sucked cock?

Posted by: David Ehrenstein at July 22, 2003 08:32 PM | PERMALINK

Hum di dum...
I'm not sayin' nothin'.

Posted by: John Isbell at July 22, 2003 08:47 PM | PERMALINK

How many of you participating in this thread have actually sucked cock?

Now, there's a thread-stopper.

Posted by: Molly at July 22, 2003 08:51 PM | PERMALINK

None of your business what me and my husband do at night. (*saunters off whistling innocently*)

Posted by: Canadian Reader at July 22, 2003 08:55 PM | PERMALINK

David, Molly - does it count if that question caused me to start participating in the conversation?

Posted by: aphrael at July 22, 2003 08:58 PM | PERMALINK

Crank: right you are. McInnis was the fruitcake and Thomas was the cocksucker.

Hard to keep straight....

Posted by: Kevin Drum at July 22, 2003 10:15 PM | PERMALINK

One shouldn't deny the fact that some Democrats aren't below using anti-gay slurs as an attempt to denigrate their opponents. The 2002 senatorial elections in Montana and South Carolina are perfect examples.

That said, as far as I'm concerned (and more than a few people on the NYTimes gay pride board concur), the Republicans in congress trying to use the Dem's use of "fruitcake" as an anti-gay slur is more than a bit of chutzpah. (Calling him a "Fruit" would be a slur--not "fruitcake"--as in "nuttier than a fruitcake.") Particularly given the fact that the vast majority of congress people who have signed onto one of the most anti-gay pieces of legislation in years--the federal marriage amendment--are Republicans

Posted by: raj at July 22, 2003 11:21 PM | PERMALINK

"The 2002 senatorial elections in Montana and South Carolina are perfect examples."

There was absolutely nothing homophobic in the Montana campaign (S. Carolina is a different story). As a gay myself, I reject any suggestion that showing somebody in a leisure suit implies that they are gay!

Posted by: rea at July 23, 2003 05:45 AM | PERMALINK

the vast majority of congress people who have signed onto one of the most anti-gay pieces of legislation in years--the federal marriage amendment--are Republicans

Speaking of same-sex marriage - of Stark and Foley, only one voted for DOMA, and it wasn't Stark. Foley's got no business criticizing Stark for being anti-gay when Stark's got a better record than Foley on gay rights.

Posted by: Drew at July 23, 2003 05:47 AM | PERMALINK

I'm just pissed it went no further. When's the last time we had a good cane beating in the Senate? 1856?

Ah, those were the days...
.

Posted by: Harry Tuttle at July 23, 2003 07:03 AM | PERMALINK

>>How many of you participating in this thread have actually sucked cock?

raises hand

I guess that makes me a lesser man here, huh?

I'm from SC and the campaign against Lindsay Graham never made anything of the fact that he is gay. To start with, Alex Sanders is too much of an old-school gentleman for such crapola, and secondly, the Sanders campaign couldn't help being aware that while the redneck Southerner might hesitate for a moment over Graham's (very discreet, perhaps even celibate) sexuality, the fair-play Southerner would have been energized and outraged by an attempt to splash it into the campaign. Furthermore, the redneck and the fair-play Southerners are often the very same people.

Posted by: Julia Grey at July 23, 2003 07:20 AM | PERMALINK

Julia, nobody says Sanders called Graham gay, or even that Graham IS gay (news to me). What was homophobic was Sanders' comments after Giuliani made a campaign commercial supporting Graham:

"He's [Giuliani] an ultra-liberal. His wife kicked him out and he moved in with two gay men and a Shih Tzu. Is that South Carolina values? I don't think so."

Posted by: rea at July 23, 2003 07:59 AM | PERMALINK

Are Shih Tzus banned in South Carolina?

Posted by: David Ehrenstein at July 23, 2003 08:02 AM | PERMALINK

">>How many of you participating in this thread have actually sucked cock?

"raises hand

"I guess that makes me a lesser man here, huh?"

Julia, that question was posed by David Ehrenstein, and I doubt he thinks that makes anyone a lesser man (incidently, my hand is raised, too).

Posted by: rea at July 23, 2003 08:06 AM | PERMALINK

"Are Shih Tzus banned in South Carolina?"

It does sound a bit like Sanders was Santoruming, doesn't it?

Posted by: rea at July 23, 2003 08:09 AM | PERMALINK

Again, it should be noted that despite his rhetoric, Sanders was the more supportive of the two candidates. To quote the HRC endorsement: "As a judge, he made case law and gained significant media coverage for granting custody of a child to its lesbian mother, over the objection of the heterosexual father. As college president, he instituted a non-discrimination policy that included sexual orientation. He also supports ENDA and the hate crimes bill, has a firm understanding of HIV/AIDS issues and is pro-choice."

Graham, on the other hand, has taken the opposite stand on every issue at every opportunity.

Posted by: Drew at July 23, 2003 08:31 AM | PERMALINK

rea says

"There was absolutely nothing homophobic in the Montana campaign. As a gay myself, I reject any suggestion that showing somebody in a leisure suit implies that they are gay!"

I'm gay, too, and expressed the same opinion on several political message boards. I mean, no self-respecting gay guy would have been dressed like the fellow in the ad in 1980.

But I was chastized by the straight posters--the ad made the guy look a little foppish, which in more than a few straight peoples' eyes would mean "gay."

Actually, I wonder how the gay guys in the Bravo show Queer Eye for the Straight Guy look. I can't get the show, but from reports I've heard I would expect them to be a bit, well, 2003 foppish.

Posted by: raj at July 23, 2003 08:48 AM | PERMALINK

drew says

"Graham, on the other hand, has taken the opposite stand on every issue at every opportunity."

Maybe he's compensating. Doesn't he have a rather--uh--interesting living arrangement? I had read that he was living with his male chief of staff.

Actually, I had also something similar about John Kasich when he was in Congress. Saving on living expenses, I guess.

Posted by: raj at July 23, 2003 08:50 AM | PERMALINK

"Saving on living expenses, I guess."

Sure. Like Cary Grant and Randolph Scott.

Posted by: David Ehrenstein at July 23, 2003 08:59 AM | PERMALINK

Yeah, "fruit" means gay, "fruitcake" means nuts, on this point there there can be no argument because it is written in stone. Basalt, specifically. And interestingly enough, it's not carved into the stone, rather some huge basalt boulders are arranged to spell it all out... somewhere in alaska.

"Cocksucker"... I've called plenty of people cocksucker in my life, what with adolescence and all, and it was not equal to simply calling them "fag", which I gave up around 16 or so. There's an argument there, but usually cocksucker is just an insult, not an implication.

Posted by: Tim at July 23, 2003 09:24 AM | PERMALINK

I've always considered being called a "good cocksucker" to be something of a compliment.

Posted by: raj at July 23, 2003 09:53 AM | PERMALINK

good cock sucker is something abnormal to hear in the walls where people are meant to make serious politics

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