Mything the Story
BY Kerry Eleveld
May 12 2010 5:35 PM ET
Rarely have I been more journalistically frustrated by a story than that of Elena Kagan’s sexuality this week. And rarely have I felt more grateful to another journalist, Politico’s Ben Smith, for finding a credible source to settle the question and put me out of my misery.
First off, as a reporter, I like nothing less than engaging in wild speculation, especially in my writing, about things for which I have no evidence.
Heading into this week, based on informal conversations I’d had about Kagan and background interviews with the White House, I had no reason to believe Kagan is a lesbian. So on Monday we at The Advocate focused our reporting on the substantive matter of whether her potential recusals from critical LGBT cases could adversely affect the outcomes of those lawsuits were she to be confirmed.
Yet people wanted answers. Advocate.com readers were as anxious as anyone for confirmation or denial of the rumors about Kagan. One reader on our website actually scolded, “Hey, Advocate, is it too much to ask that your reporters actually compose an article informing the GLBT community on something important like this?”
Plenty of mainstream reporters chatted me up about Kagan — some wondering what I actually knew about her sexuality, even if they felt sheepish for asking, and others looking for advice on how to cover the issue.
This is not the first time. In last year’s lead-up to President Obama’s first Supreme Court nomination, one mainstream reporter who was wrestling with how to approach the sexuality of nominees who had not yet been identified as openly gay, sent me an e-mail wondering, “How are you dealing with the fact that a bunch of the front-runners for SCOTUS are gay, but not exactly out?”
I sympathize with my mainstream brethren here in Washington. Outing people or trying to determine their sexuality has never been something that drives me as a reporter. It can also take an extraordinary amount of time unless someone just stumbles into coverage like Family Research Council cofounder George Alan Rekers did last week.