Why I take Karen Han­del’s ly­ing per­son­ally

GA Voice - - Outspoken -

One of the harsh­est back­handed com­pli­ments I ever re­ceived was from a staffer for Nathan Deal, who in 2010 used my past re­port­ing to dis­credit the con­ser­va­tive bonafides of Deal’s op­po­nent in the Republican pri­mary runoff for gover­nor, Karen Han­del. Deal had just edged Han­del by less than a sin­gle per­cent­age point to win the GOP nom­i­na­tion, and when I called Deal’s spokesper­son, Brian Robin­son, about the role that LGBT is­sues would play in the gen­eral elec­tion, Robin­son be­gan our con­ver­sa­tion with ku­dos and thanks.

“That was some solid re­port­ing,” Robin­son said of the South­ern Voice ar­ti­cles his op­po­si­tion re­search had un­earthed about Han­del, which Deal’s cam­paign used to show that the arch­con­ser­va­tive Han­del had es­poused LGBT-friendly views when she ran for the Ful­ton County Com­mis­sion a few years ear­lier. “They were like … real ar­ti­cles.”

“Well,” I said, dumb­founded, but try­ing not to sab­o­tage what I hoped would be a fruit­ful in­ter­view with the likely in­com­ing gu­ber­na­to­rial ad­min­is­tra­tion, “We liked to con­sider our­selves real jour­nal­ists at South­ern Voice.”

With my bi­ases self-ev­i­dent – a rag­ing lib­eral work­ing for a news­pa­per that ad­vo­cates for LGBT rights – the cul­ti­va­tion of con­ser­va­tive sources has been one of the most re­ward­ing parts of my ca­reer in LGBT me­dia. In my first few months of re­port­ing, the Ge­or­gia Leg­is­la­ture de­bated the con­sti­tu­tional amend­ment to ban same-sex mar­riage.

For­mer state Sen. Mike Crotts, a Republican, was the fig­ure­head be­hind the anti-gay con­sti­tu­tional amend­ment, and we spoke sev­eral times a week while the Leg­is­la­ture de­bated the ban. Any typ­i­cal SoVo reader who read my ar­ti­cles would have seen Crotts as a buf­foon, as he had a way of re­duc­ing his ar­gu­ments to a sim­plic­ity that made you won­der whether his brain was still so­phis­ti­cated enough to reg­u­late his bowel move­ments.

But af­ter ev­ery story, I would see the con­ge­nial sen­a­tor and he would thank me for re­flect­ing his words ac­cu­rately, and of­fer in­sight

“I de­vel­oped a … rap­port with Han­del when she was court­ing LGBT Ful­ton County vot­ers by promis­ing to be a mod­er­at­ing in­flu­ence among Ge­or­gia’s anti-gay Republican Party – a pro­fes­sional, re­spect­ful re­la­tion­ship that spanned sev­eral months and pro­duced the ar­ti­cles that haunted Han­del when she be­came a bor­na­gain, far-right can­di­date for sec­re­tary of state and gover­nor.”

into the next phase of his strat­egy (al­though it hardly takes strat­egy to suc­cess­fully mar­shal big­otry through the Ge­or­gia Leg­is­la­ture).

I de­vel­oped a sim­i­lar rap­port with Han­del when she was court­ing LGBT Ful­ton County vot­ers by promis­ing to be a mod­er­at­ing in­flu­ence among Ge­or­gia’s anti-gay Republican Party – a pro­fes­sional, re­spect­ful re­la­tion­ship that spanned sev­eral months and pro­duced the ar­ti­cles that haunted Han­del when she be­came a born-again, far-right can­di­date for sec­re­tary of state and gover­nor.

“The South­ern Voice is go­ing to say all kinds of wacky stuff,” Han­del’s gu­ber­na­to­rial cam­paign spokesper­son Dan McLa­gan told the AJC’s Poli­tifact in 2010. “The fact a re­trac­tion was not asked for is not proof of the as­ser­tion. She prob­a­bly wasn’t sit­ting around read­ing a gay tabloid.”

Poli­tifact rated Han­del’s over­all claim that she wasn’t once pro-LGBT as a “pants on fire” un­truth.

I’m not the least sur­prised that a politi­cian would be a con­niv­ing liar, but with Han­del, it’s per­sonal. Ryan Lee is an At­lanta writer.

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