Republicans are using homophobic tropes against gay Michigan congressional candidate Jon Hoadley, calling him a "pedo sex poet," according to the LGBTQ Victory Fund.
Hoadley, a Democrat who's currently a Michigan state representative, is running for U.S. House in the state's Sixth Congressional District against Republican incumbent Fred Upton. Victory Fund, which works to elect out candidates, has endorsed him.
The trope being used by the National Republican Congressional Committee originated with a Live Journal blog that Hoadley maintained in 2004 and 2005, when he was a student at Michigan State University. In it he referred to women as "breeders" and joked that he was learning about crystal meth. It also included a comment from a friend saying he had no desire to see a 4-year-old wearing a thong.
A New York Post article published in early August described the blog as "creepy," and since then the NRCC has been using the "pedo sex poet" phrase in campaign materials, according to Victory Fund. The blog has been deleted, but an archived version can still be found on the web.
But Victory Fund officials say the controversial comments were taken out of context and that the Post article was a "political hit piece" pitched by the NRCC, which supports Republican candidates for the U.S. House. His rival in last month's Democratic primary, Jen Richardson, also had a part in publicizing the comments, for which she has apologized.
"In a clearly satirical discussion about whether all 'gay men desire to be flower girls' an aforementioned friend jokes that he has no desire to see a 'four-year-old wearing a thong' as a condemnation of the hypersexualization of children," a Victory Fund press release notes. "The phrase has been removed from context to somehow imply that Jon is a pedophile, an accusation that has been repeated multiple times in many ways by the NRCC and its staff."
The reference to learning about meth derives from a post in which Hoadley said he went to a meeting to hear about the drug's effect on the LGBTQ+ community, according to Victory Fund. He ended the post by advising, "Don't do meth."
The "breeders" comment has been used to imply Hoadley is a misogynist, but in reality he has been "a champion for women," Victory Fund's release says, campaigning in the Michigan legislature for equal pay, reproductive rights, and more. The remark was merely "a bad attempt at humor when he was just 21," the release states.
Hoadley issued a Facebook video in August apologizing for the blog posts, saying, "I said things 16 years ago that I would never say today, that aren't reflective of who I am." Richardson joined him in the video, and she apologized for her team's role in publicizing the blog. She and her staff didn't do their due diligence, she said, and offered her support to Hoadley in his challenge to Upton.
Hoadley and Victory Fund have both called for an end to the use of homophobic tropes and for Upton to speak out against the NRCC. "Fred Upton is resorting to digging up Jon's puerile college blog posts and pulling together out-of-context words and phrases because he can find nothing else to criticize about Jon's public service record," Victory Fund President and CEO Annise Parker said in the release. "If Upton wants to be a digital avenger working to critique 15-year-old internet postings, why does he remain silent on the racist, sexist, transphobic and anti-immigrant tweets that are a constant from this White House? Where is his rebuttal of Donald Trump's tweets denying the extent of a pandemic that has killed 180,000 Americans with no end in sight? It is pathetic to see Fred resort to becoming an internet troll at a time when our president's words and actions have led to a resurgence in hate crimes, white supremacy and divisiveness. Any media outlet that reports on Fred's take on Jon's internet musings from 15 years ago should also ask for Fred's takes on Trump's tweets from just the past week."
Upton's campaign manager said his candidate has not been the source of the attacks but still got in some criticism of Hoadley. "The Upton campaign has had nothing whatsoever to do with Jon Hoadley's own words being used in campaign ads by independent outside groups, which we legally do not, nor can we, have any control over," Nate Henschel, the campaign manager, told The Detroit News Tuesday.
"But the facts are the contents of the blog were written by Jon Hoadley. He deleted the blog as a candidate for Congress until his writings resurfaced election night. He has since apologized, acknowledging his words were hurtful."
The NRCC showed no signs of backing down. Hoadley "must still be high on the meth he spoke fondly of in his poems sexualizing toddlers, trivializing rape and calling pregnant women 'breeders' if he thinks anyone but him should be apologizing," spokeswoman Carly Atchison told the News. (The "trivializing rape" comment references the fact that Hoadley sometimes called his sexual partners "victims.")
Upton is a longtime Republican congressman, first elected in 1986. He has generally low scores on LGBTQ+ issues on the Human Rights Campaign's Congressional Scorecard. He is considered vulnerable in this election; Democrats have made flipping his seat a priority.