An Outing -- Or Not

GOProud's attack on Rick Perry's pollster led Andrew Breitbart to resign from the group, but underlying questions remain unanswered

By Chris Geidner
Photo by Todd Franson
Published on December 13, 2011, 5:59pm | Comments

[UPDATE: Barron Out As GOProud Board Chair, Former CPAC Director De Pasquale Steps In]

Texas Gov. Rick Perry's ''Strong'' presidential primary advertisement, which has more than 664,000 ''dislikes'' on YouTube, went on the attack against President Obama and the repeal of ''Don't Ask, Don't Tell.''

But it was the attack by the two co-founders of gay conservative group GOProud on one of Perry's top pollsters and strategists that has raised questions about outing in 2011 and the brash tactics of the outspoken organization.

On Dec. 7, following the launch of the ad, GOProud Executive Director Jimmy LaSalvia tweeted, ''I've just about had it with faggots who line their pockets with checks from anti-gay homophobes while throwing the rest of us under the bus.''

In case there was any doubt, about two hours later, LaSalvia added, ''I was talking about Rick Perry's pollster/strategist.''

Whether or not GOProud board Chairman Chris Barron and LaSalvia outed Perry pollster and strategist Tony Fabrizio, as some have claimed, their actions led Andrew Breitbart, one of the most prominent conservative supporters of the organization, to cut his ties with the group Dec. 10, resigning from the advisory board.

Talking about the decision Dec. 12, Breitbart tells Metro Weekly, ''It appeared to me that this was an outing. I could not have been more clear with Chris and Jimmy that that tactic, which emanated from the political AIDS wars of the '80s – this isn't subtle for me. I cannot be on an advisory council and not be advised that somebody is going to be attacking a person in this type of way.''

Muddying the waters, however, was the claim from Barron, who told Metro Weekly Dec. 8, ''We didn't think that there was any question about Tony Fabrizio's sexual orientation,'' and the fact that Fabrizio has a long history of involvement with pro-LGBT organizations, including Log Cabin Republicans and the Gill Foundation.

Fabrizio conducted polling for LCR and other organizations in 2007 regarding marriage, the military and employment nondiscrimination – a time when Barron was the political director of LCR. Fabrizio also has appeared as a speaker at OutGiving, an event for LGBT donors that is organized by the Gill Foundation.

Of the reason for their outspoken comments about Fabrizio, Barron told Metro Weekly Dec. 8, ''Perry's pollster and strategist Tony Fabrizio has lined his pockets with gay money (from folks like [the] Gill [Foundation]) for years and now he sits back and watches as Perry unfolds a designed strategy to demonize gay people to score political points.''

When asked why he considers this situation to be an outing, Breitbart says, ''Outing is not simply just exposing to the greater public that a person who is closeted is gay. It's the act of acting punitively against that person because that person doesn't conform to what you think is the proper politics that a certain group should have. Regardless of whether he was publicly out, this had the hallmark of outing.''

Because Breitbart says he has a ''zero tolerance'' policy regarding outing, he says, ''It made it impossible for me to stand by the group. … I want to draw a bright line in the conservative world, and hopefully in the gay conservative world, that we do not adopt these evil tactics.'' He added, however, that he holds no ill will toward GOProud and hopes that they can move beyond this incident to advance the role of gay conservatives in the conservative movement.

Asked to respond, Barron would only say on the record, ''I'm not authorized by my board to say anything about the situation. The last statement that we put out is the last statement of the organization on this matter.''

In that statement, released in both Barron and LaSalvia's name, they said, ''From the time this organization was founded we have been clear in our opposition to outing. We would never intentionally out anyone. However, in the case of Tony Fabrizio, top pollster and chief strategist for the Presidential campaign of Texas Governor Rick Perry, we did not believe there was any question about his sexual orientation – nor did the reporters who called us to ask about his involvement in Perry's anti-gay campaign strategy.''

Barron noted, however, that no other advisory board members have resigned and that a board meeting was scheduled for today. Liz Mair is an advisory board member for GOProud and a consultant to the Perry campaign, and it appears at this time that she will continue in both roles. Another GOProud advisory board member, Lisa De Pasquale, told the Daily Caller's Matt Lewis that she has no intention of leaving the board.

Somewhat lost in the debate over Barron and LaSalvia's words has been their initial criticism, which was about the conflict between the role that Fabrizio has played in attempting to advance LGBT equality initiatives and his current leadership role in a campaign that has gone from an aggressive economic focus to one focused repeatedly on social issues, particularly LGBT issues.

Although The Huffington Post's Sam Stein reported Dec. 8 that Fabrizio, ''called [the ad] 'nuts,' according to an email sent from Fabrizio to the ad's main creator, longtime GOP operative Nelson Warfield,'' Barron and LaSalvia had responded by saying that, even if that was so, Fabrizio should resign from the Perry campaign. Fabrizio did not respond to a request for comment from Metro Weekly.

On the question of the strategic trajectory of the Perry campaign, at least, Breitbart appears to be in agreement with Barron and LaSalvia. Of the ad, Breitbart says, ''I think that the political left and the media framing anyone that agrees with traditional marriage as a hater or who disagrees with gays in the military as a hater is wrong-headed. That said, I found the ad to be clumsy and ineffective and unnecessary – and desperate. And pandering.''