Volume 75, Number 29 | July 21 - 27 2005


Top Santorum Aide Is Gay

Anti-gay Pennsylvania Republican senator stands by communications chief, charges bigotry


Pennsylvania’s Republican Sen. Rick Santorum compares homosexuality to bestiality and says preventing gay marriage is the “ultimate homeland security,” but he has rushed to the defense of his openly gay communications director, Robert Traynham, II.
This week, a Washington, D.C-based media activist reported on his Internet news site that Pennsylvania’s Rick Santorum, the third-ranking Republican in the Senate, known for his conservative views on social issues, including his staunch opposition to same-sex marriage, has a gay communications director.

In a telephone interview this week, Mike Rogers, the editor and publisher of PageOneQ.com explained that he gets hundreds of tips from confidential sources about public officials who are closeted gays and yet work against issues like same-sex marriage or the discussion of homosexuality in public school health classes. Based on multiple tips, Rogers said, he “picked up the phone and called” Robert Traynham, II, Santorum’s senior spokesman.

Rogers played the tape of his two-minute conversation on June 14 with Traynham in which Rogers identified himself as being from PageOneQ.com and Blogactive.com and asked Traynham how he could work for a lawmaker with such a virulently anti-gay record.
Traynham, a Santorum staffer for eight years, called his boss “a man of principle. He is a man who sticks up for what he believes in. I strongly support Sen. Santorum.”

Asked if he were out as a gay man to Santorum, Traynham replied, “I am.” When Rogers pressed Traynham on whether Santorum’s constituents knew one of his senior aides is gay, Traynham said, “I’m not sure that’s relevant.”

He soon refused to answer any more of Rogers’ questions and hung up the phone.

Gay rights groups have long criticized Santorum for his outspoken remarks about gays and lesbians. In June 2003, Santorum attacked the Supreme Court’s Lawrence v. Texas decision decriminalizing adult consensual homosexual relations, saying it could lead to the legalization of bestiality and pedophilia.

More recently, particularly during Pres. George W. Bush’s 2004 re-election campaign, Santorum has been a leading voice among Christian conservatives crusading against same-sex marriage. Following Massachusetts’ legalization of same-sex marriage in 2004, Santorum said that reserving the institution of marriage for heterosexuals is “the ultimate homeland security.”

News of Traynham identifying himself as a gay man became a hot topic on the Internet and in the media. In response, Santorum issued a written statement calling the aide “an exemplary staffer” and “a trusted friend confidente [sic] to me and my family.” The senator said, “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 staffs’ [sic] personal lives are considered fair game by partisans looking for arguments to bolster my opponent’s campaign,” an apparent reference to the Democrat seeking the two-term senator’s seat in November 2006.

Santorum added that Traynham has “my full support and confidence as well as my prayers as he navigates this rude and mean spirited invasion of his personal life.”

Rogers said that he has evidence that Traynham leads a sexually active gay life, including cruising Gay.com with a screen name related to Brooks Brothers. “He did not say he was a celibate,” Rogers said. “He hangs a rainbow flag outside his house on Pride Day.”

The revelations about Traynham come one week after Santorum, who is a fervent Roman Catholic, reiterated comments he has made in the past, in which he blames the Boston archdiocese’s clergy sexual abuse scandal on that Northeastern city’s “sexual liberalism” and “sexual freedom.”

“If you have a world view that I’m describing [about Boston]… that affirms alternative views of sexuality, that can lead to a lot of people taking it the wrong way,” Santorum told the Boston Globe. When the reporter mentioned that the sex abuse problem was a worldwide, not local, crisis, Santorum replied, “There was an indication that there was more of a problem there” in Boston.

Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank, a gay Democrat, told the Boston Globe that Santorum is “a jerk.” Frank also said that in the case of Terry Schiavo, the Florida woman in a persistent vegetative state who died after a court-ordered removal of her feeding tube, “This is one of those people who claimed to have had eye contact with a blind woman.”

State Treasurer Robert P. Casey, Jr., son of former the Democratic Gov. Robert Casey, has led Santorum in several polls of likely voters.

Santorum has been mentioned as a potential White House aspirant in 2008. Another possible Republican contender, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, told the Globe, “I think he has probably written off Massachusetts.”

Traynham was named by Roll Call as one of the “50 Most Powerful Staffers on Capitol Hill.” He is deputy chief of staff and director of communications for the Senate Republican Conference, led by Santorum. Traynham has also served as the political director of Black America’s Political Action Committee, seeking to elect African-American conservatives to national office. He is a graduate of Cheyney College in Pennsylvania, an historically African-American school, and now serves on its board of trustees. His biography on the college’s Web site says he “enjoys reading, cooking, and playing sports.”

Speaking at a 2003 Harvard forum on being a conservative person of color, Traynham said, “Being black has nothing to do with my job—zero.” When confronted about supporting those who display the Confederate battle flag, he said, “Those who are romantic about the Confederate flag, that’s our base. We need their support; this upcoming election is going to be close.”

When asked about gay people in the Republican Party, he said, “I have a lot of friends who happen to be gay.”

Asked about his willingness to divulge the sexual orientation of closeted gay officials, blogger Rogers said, “I’m only interested in exposing people, regardless of party, who are gay and enabling anti-gay politicians to deny us basic civil rights.”

Among the politicians Rogers has exposed include GOP Rep. Ed Schrock of Virginia who announced he would not run for re-election after a tape of him asking for phone sex with men was posted on the Blogactive.com Web site and later played on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show.”

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