Well before Donald Trump sealed his alliance with Vladimir Putin by openly rebutting U.S. intelligence that confirms Russia meddled in the 2016 election, their deleterious collusion had already been reduced by many to nothing more than a gay joke.
The New York Times is responsible for the latest ugly example of conflating the acts of nihilistic world leaders bent on destroying democracy with that of love between men in an illustrated video on its digital opinion page. The video, titled "Trump and Putin: A Love Story," depicts Trump primping and using breath spray while awaiting the arrival of his suitor, Putin. Trump then hops into a car with the homophobic leader of Russia where they eventually hold hands and vigorously tongue one another until their vehicle magically becomes a unicorn flying over rainbows.
Disgust with the video that leans on the time-honored gay joke to describe the threat that Trump’s cozy relationship with Putin poses to the country was fast and furious.
Gay State Rep. Brian Sims of Pennsylvania tweeted his disdain for the Times’ video calling it “intensely stupid” and “homophobic.
@nytimes this isn’t just intensely stupid, it’s homophobic as all hell. What on Earth makes you think that equating the love that countless people across the planet fight and die for to the unconscionably criminal relationship between these two is OK?! Truly, please explain. https://t.co/Cs1TYOJ4Lp
— Brian Sims (@BrianSimsPA) July 16, 2018
This is ridiculous bullshit! Millions of LGBTQ people around this world risk their lives for love and these two schmucks use their power to take our rights, elevate those that hate us, and allow crimes against us but @nytimes thinks we should be the butt of this joke?! Gross.
— Brian Sims (@BrianSimsPA) July 16, 2018
Indeed, the Times added insult to injury to queer people by implying that the leaders who’ve done so much harm to LGBT people are also gay. Russia’s hateful "gay propaganda" law flourished under Putin while Trump has systematically worked to yank rights from queer people, throwing his support behind businesses that seek to discriminate against LGBT people and nominating far-right Judge Brett Kavanaugh to replace Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, a move that could imperil marriage equality.
The "Trump and Putin: A Love Story" video isn’t even the first time the Times declared Trump and Putin lovers. Opinion writer Frank Bruni (who is gay) wrote a column a year ago titled “Donnie and Vlad: A Love Story” in which he likened the men to Romeo and Juliet.
Sadly, the video is far from the first organization or individual to do so.
In the episode the week prior to the 2016 election, Saturday Night Live featured Alec Baldwin’s Trump and Kate McKinnon’s Hillary Clinton making their final pleas when Beck Bennett’s shirtless Putin enters to imply domestic intimacy between the men.
“I’m going to the store. Do you need anything?” Bennett’s Putin asks.
“I’m good. Thanks, sweetie,” Baldwin’s Trump replies before planting a kiss on Putin’s mouth.
— Saturday Night Live - SNL (@nbcsnl) November 6, 2016
But SNL’s not alone. The inferences that Trump and Putin's unholy communion is sexual are everywhere, including on a mural in the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius, that depicts the leaders in a lip-lock.
Late-night host Stephen Colbert drew heavy backlash for his blow-job joke about the men during his opening monologue in May of 2017.
“The only thing your mouth is good for is being Vladimir Putin’s cock holster,” Colbert said.
Faced with a possible charge of an FCC violation (which did not happen) for saying “cock” on air, the button-pushing host of the Late Show With Stephen Colbert addressed the gay sex joke in a monologue later that week, falling short of actually apologizing to LGBT people.
“While I would do it again [insult Trump], I would change a few words that were cruder than they needed to be,” Colbert said. “Now, I’m not going to repeat the phrase, but I just want to say for the record, life is short, and anyone who expresses their love for another person in their own way is to me an American hero. And I think we can all agree on that. I hope even the president and I can agree on that. Nothing else. But that.”
Not everyone took note of the shaming Colbert received for denigrating gay sex by making it a punch line. Just this spring, Chelsea Handler tweeted about the country’s racist, homophobic attorney general.
“Jeff Sessions is definitely a bottom,” she tweeted, drawing ire for the tired old joke of likening bottoming to a position of weakness.
Following blowback, Handler attempted to smooth things over by tweeting that she’s a bottom too, and therefore it couldn’t be an insult. But she completely missed the point that queer people are marginalized for who they love and how they have sex.
Meanwhile, Jimmy Kimmel went after Trump’s Fox News mouthpiece Sean Hannity with a rimming joke.
When your clown makeup rubs off on Trump’s ass, does it make his butt look like a Creamsicle? https://t.co/DEhmfOh0Hn
— Jimmy Kimmel (@jimmykimmel) April 6, 2018
In creating and posting the digital video that posits Trump and Putin as unicorn-riding, tongue-kissing lovers, the Times not only turned love between men into a dirty word, but it failed to listen to the outcry from LGBT people calling out all of the homophobic jokes that came before.