Mitt Romney has been under assault all week for a variety of political gaffes, but a new report in Raw Story highlights the questionable ethics of his top aide and political strategist, Eric Fehrnstrom.
Before he was an adviser to Romney, Fehrnstrom was a political columnist for the Boston Herald, and according to a recent profile in GQ titled "Mitt Romney's Dark Knight," in 1992 he intentionally outed Althea Garrison as transgender. A Republican, Garrison had recently been elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives, but the outing effectively ended her career.
Fehrnstrom, often called Romney's "balls" in the same way Karl Rove was called Bush's "brain," has been with Romney for over a decade, longer than any other political aide. He's recently become famous for comparing Romney's shifting views to an "Etch-a-Sketch."
Mara Keisling, director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, told Raw Story that the malicious outing speaks to Fehrnstrom's character.
“Privacy for transgendered people is a matter of survival, physical and economic survival,” Keisling told Raw Story. “Once you out a trans person, you can’t just ‘Etch a Sketch’ it away.”
A Boston activist, Garrison was elected to the Massachusetts House in 1992. Two days later, Fehrnstrom's column in the Boston Herald announced that Garrison had been born male.
“I can remember his glee when he found the birth certificate,” former Herald reporter Robert Connolly told GQ. Speculation had previously gone around the community about Garrison’s gender status, wrote Raw Story. But after Fehrnstrom’s column, it became her defining characteristic to the media. In every mention of her name in the press, Garrison's performance as a House member was overshadowed by her gender orientation.
Keisling told Raw Story that Ferhnstrom’s campaign against Garrison is “just more bullying. It’s an invasion of privacy. We’ve had five or six hate murders of trans people across the U.S. just in the last six weeks.” She said that these kinds of tactics represent the worst form of transphobia, describing it as “putting people at risk just because you get your jollies from it.”
Fehrnstrom wrote in Boston magazine in 1999, “In my trade, politics was never personal. Hell, people were rarely people — they were ducks in a shooting gallery.”
Raw Story tried to reach Garrison, but she refused to speak about Fehrnstrom or her outing. Garrison's term in the House ended in 1995, and her eight later runs for office (including a 2011 bid for Boston City Council) were all unsuccessful.
Pictured: Althea Garrison in 1992