Spacey’s com­ing-out no Hol­ly­wood cel­e­bra­tion

Some ca­reers sur­vive gay scan­dals

The Washington Times Weekly - - Culture, Etc. - BY VA­LERIE RICHARD­SON

Kevin Spacey has been cas­ti­gated in Hol­ly­wood for com­ing out as gay in re­sponse to an ac­cu­sa­tion of sex­ual mis­con­duct, but play­ing the ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity card in the face of scan­dal is noth­ing new in pol­i­tics.

It goes back to 1983, when Rep. Gerry Studds, Mas­sachusetts Demo­crat, ad­mit­ted to hav­ing an af­fair with a 17-year-old male con­gres­sional page, a dis­clo­sure that would have been ca­reer-de­stroy­ing for vir­tu­ally any politi­cian — but not Studds.

He de­clared he was gay — be­com­ing the first mem­ber of Congress to do so — and ar­gued that he had been tar­geted for cen­sure over his ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity. The vot­ers ap­par­ently agreed: They re-elected him six more times. A na­tional marine sanc­tu­ary was named for him in 1996.

Other politi­cians who have come out only af­ter land­ing in hot wa­ter in­clude New Jer­sey Gov. Jim McGreevey, a Demo­crat, who an­nounced at a 2004 press con­fer­ence that “I am a gay Amer­i­can” af­ter a former lover ac­cused him of sex­ual ha­rass­ment.

Two years later, Rep. Mark Fo­ley, Florida Repub­li­can, ac­knowl­edged he was gay af­ter he was caught send­ing sex­u­ally ex­plicit texts to teenage pages.

Co­me­dian Wanda Sykes has a term for it: She ac­cused Mr. Spacey of try­ing to hide “un­der the rain­bow” by com­ing out in or­der to di­vert at­ten­tion from the sex­ual as­sault ac­cu­sa­tion made by ac­tor An­thony Rapp.

“No no no no! You do not get to ‘choose’ to hide un­der the rain­bow!” Miss Sykes said in a tweet.

Mr. Rapp, 46, has ac­cused Mr. Spacey of pick­ing him up and ly­ing on top of him at his Man­hat­tan apart­ment in an at­tempt to se­duce him af­ter a party in 1986. Mr. Rapp was 14 at the time, and Mr. Spacey was about 26.

A two-time Os­car win­ner, Mr. Spacey is­sued a state­ment last Mon­day say­ing he didn’t re­mem­ber the en­counter but owed Mr. Rapp “the sin­cer­est apol­ogy for what would have been deeply in­ap­pro­pri­ate drunken be­hav­ior.”

Mr. Spacey, 58, went on to say that “I choose now to live as a gay man.” That touched off a firestorm of crit­i­cism from gay celebri­ties such as ac­tor Zachary Quinto, who de­scribed it as a “cal­cu­lated ma­nip­u­la­tion to de­flect at­ten­tion from the very se­ri­ous ac­cu­sa­tion that he at­tempted to mo­lest [a child].”

“Com­ing-out sto­ries should not be used to de­flect from al­le­ga­tions of sex­ual as­sault,” said Sarah Kate El­lis, president and CEO of the gay me­dia group GLAAD. “This is not a com­ing-out story about Kevin Spacey, but a story of sur­vivor­ship by An­thony Rapp and all those who bravely speak out against un­wanted sex­ual ad­vances. The me­dia and pub­lic should not gloss over that.”

Ac­tor and co­me­dian Billy Eich­ner chimed in: “Kevin Spacey has just in­vented some­thing that has never ex­isted be­fore: a bad time to come out.”

Oth­ers have de­nounced Mr. Spacey for con­flat­ing ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity and pe­dophilia in his blan­ket state­ment, per­pet­u­at­ing what [U.K.] Guardian columnist Owen Jones called a “vi­cious lie” about gay men.

“Usu­ally when celebri­ties come out we’re quick to send on our congratulations and to talk about the im­por­tance of role mod­els. But for Kevin Spacey to choose this par­tic­u­lar mo­ment to come out is harm­ful to the LGBT com­mu­nity,” the Bri­tish gay rights group Stonewall said in a state­ment.

“His sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion bears no rel­e­vance to the se­ri­ous al­le­ga­tions he is fac­ing, and to con­flate th­ese things is ex­tremely dam­ag­ing,” said Stonewall.

Mr. Spacey al­ready has paid the price. Pro­duc­tion on sea­son six of his pop­u­lar Net­flix show “House of Cards” has been sus­pended while the com­pany in­ves­ti­gates “any con­cerns of our cast and crew,” ac­cord­ing to a state­ment.

Net­flix and Me­dia Rights Cap­i­tal an­nounced that sea­son six would be the last.

The In­ter­na­tional TV Academy an­nounced that it had with­drawn plans to honor Mr. Spacey with an In­ter­na­tional Emmy Founders Award “in light of re­cent events.”

Mr. Fo­ley and Mr. McGreevey were able to avoid pros­e­cu­tion af­ter be­ing ac­cused of sex­ual mis­con­duct, but their politi­cal ca­reers were ru­ined. Both re­signed in dis­grace be­fore the end of their terms.

That begs the ques­tion: How did Studds, who died in 2006, man­age to not only sur­vive the scan­dal but thrive?

Part of it had to do with the na­ture of the ac­cu­sa­tions. Studds and the male page both said the re­la­tion­ship was con­sen­sual dur­ing the con­gres­sional ethics in­ves­ti­ga­tion, and the af­fair was not a crime given that the age of con­sent was 16 in the Dis­trict of Columbia.

Still, the re­la­tion­ship was con­sid­ered highly in­ap­pro­pri­ate given that mem­bers of Congress are in au­thor­ity over pages. The ethics in­ves­ti­ga­tion also found that Studds had made sex­ual ad­vances to two other teenage pages.

Studds ad­mit­ted that he made a “very se­ri­ous er­ror in judg­ment” but was also defiant, re­fus­ing to apol­o­gize and de­fend­ing the re­la­tion­ship as mu­tual.

Would a con­gress­man who had sex with a teenage girl have sur­vived such a scan­dal? There is no need to guess: On the same day that the House voted to cen­sure Studds, it also cen­sured Rep. Dan Crane, Illi­nois Repub­li­can, for hav­ing sex­ual re­la­tions with a 17-year-old fe­male page.

“There was a big in­ves­ti­ga­tion of al­le­ga­tions of mis­con­duct with pages, and they nailed one het­ero­sex­ual and bal­anced it off with one gay mem­ber,” Studds later told OutHis­tory in an in­ter­view.

But Studds, who rep­re­sented a lib­eral Cape Cod dis­trict, was given two stand­ing ova­tions by con­stituents at a sub­se­quent town hall. Mr. Crane, a so­cial con­ser­va­tive run­ning in a staunch Repub­li­can dis­trict, lost his re-elec­tion bid.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

In light of ac­cu­sa­tions that Kevin Spacey sex­u­ally as­saulted a 14-year-old boy in 1986, Net­flix has sus­pended pro­duc­tion on its pop­u­lar politi­cal se­ries “House of Cards.”

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