Obama and McCain: Speaking to Our Community

November 3, 2008
  With the Presidential election just a day away, we thought it would be useful to take a look at both of the candidates’ track records when it comes to interactions with LGBT media outlets. During the primary season, Sen. Barack Obama took out large-scale advertisements in Ohio’s and Texas’ LGBT newspapers and published an open letter to the LGBT community which appeared in various LGBT outlets as well.  His early campaigning also led him to reach out to LGBT newspapers in Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Indiana and he guest posted on an LGBT blog. At the historic LGBT debate on Logo during the primaries the Democratic candidates, including Obama, answered tough questions from Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese, Melissa Etheridge and others.  None of the Republican candidates, including Sen. John McCain, agreed to participate in the LGBT focused debate.  Obama later sat down with The Advocate to discuss topics such as his hopes for LGBT legislation during his term as president, his first friendship with an openly gay person, and the effects of the Donnie McClurkin controversy. Despite his outreach during the campaign, a Philly LGBT outlet reminded readers that Sen. Obama previously had not spoken to the LGBT press since 2004. Many also pointed out that Sen. McCain was also very much a stranger to the LGBT media until a few weeks ago. He granted his first interview with an LGBT outlet — the Washington Blade — on October 5, marking the first known time a Republican presidential nominee interviewed with the LGBT press. While Obama is still making his presence in LGBT print known through advertisements in publications like Ohio’s Gay People’s Chronicle, McCain’s outreach has been limited to the Blade interview. His interviews with mainstream press have occasionally touched on gay issues, as have Obama’s. Earlier this year Obama told The Advocate that he has chosen to focus on discussing LGBT issues to a general audience rather than speaking to LGBT press.  “It’s easy to preach to the choir,” he said. “What I think is harder is to speak to a broader audience about why these issues are important to all Americans.” Though we still have a long way to go, we’ve seen a lot of progress in the ways that candidates speak to the LGBT community, and the increased level of engagement with LGBT media outlets this election cycle is no exception.