Thursday, February 25, 2010

Ford At Stonewall Dems: 'Like A Deer In The Headlights'

Update: Harold Ford, Jr., has announced he's not running for senate after all. I wonder below about his Sarah Palin moment at last week's Stonewall Democrats meeting, and draw your own conclusions:

Former Tennesee Rep. Harold Ford, Jr.(D-Tenn.), seeking to run this fall for Secretary Of state Hillary Clinton's old U.S. Senate seat, (currently held by Kirsten Gillibrand (D-Hudson), addressed the Stonewall Democrats last night. Ford, long known for his anti-gay voting record and policies, came to the NYC LGBT Center to attempt to gain support for his Senate run, and tell us how he'd "changed his mind" on key issues relevant to the LGBT community. It didn't go as planned for the Congressman at all.

Ford was asked questions on a wide range of topics, including one from gay Army Lt. Dan Choi, who remarked that electing the homophobic Ford "would be asking him to fire [LGBT rights supporter] Gillibrand, the same way the Army tried to fire me [as a gay soldier]". Ford admitted he was "wrong" to believe that gay marriage was "equitable" with civil unions, but during his sometimes rambling remarks (he lectured us on his wife's decision-making which brought him to New York), he did not state clear positions on key issues like the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), or Don't Ask/Don't Tell (DADT). The audience was, at times, boisterous and vocal in its disapproval of Ford and his transparent attempt to win support from the approximately 250 people in the hall. Cries of "Liar!" and "Snake-Oil Ford!" could be heard throughout Ford's address.

Stonewall Democrats President Joe Hagelmann moderated the question-and-anser portion of the meeting, in which audience members gave him written questions for Ford to answer. Ford stumbled through queries on his voting record and poor HRC ratings on gay reights, and frequently said things like "you may not choose to vote for me". Yup. The final straw that broke the camel's back (and brought the house down, as Stonewall Dem VP Yetta Kurland later said to me), was my question to Rep. Ford. I asked him if he agreed with the 2003 Supreme Court decision in Lawrence v. Texas, a landmark ruling which said that "sodomy laws" making homosexuality illegal were unconstitutional. I felt that question on a key moment in the LGBT rights struggle was important, because Supreme Court justices are nominated by the President, but confirmed by the Senate. As a Senator, Ford might have to consider a Supreme Court nominee or two, and his thinking on Lawrence would be a good indicator of what kind of jurist he might (or might not) approve. Ford's response to my question? "Tell me what that decision is...I don't know that decision."

In the above video, the final segment of the meeting, (see the entire meeting's video here) watch beginning around 3:00, when Hagelmann reads my question to Ford. Ford has his "deer in the headlights" moment, then tells Hagelmann he doesn't know that decision. I'm the guy in the red shirt and ponytail, center screen, who jumps up, stunned, and calls Ford out on his ignorance as the audience gasps at this astonishing "Sarah Palin/Bush Doctrine" (as NCR's blog put it) display by Ford. After Corey Johnson from gay blog Towleroad explained the decision to Ford, Hagelmann tried to move to the next question (after I called Ford out AGAIN, my arm outstretched to drive my point home) but the audience had seen enough. Ford was hustled off the stage as pandemonium ensued, culminating in some fool running up to the front of the room and shooting off a "party popper".

After the political theater was over, I was interviewed by New York 1 News and several other media, about my question and Ford's dumbstruck response. (The NY1 footage aired last night on Inside City Hall, and yes, I missed it, too.) As I have jusat been picked up, along with my co-host Wilfredo Florentino, for a new political program on the EMBRACE TV Network, this dramatic exchange between me and Ford was a good start to my tenure with the network. It's not every day you get to catch a Congressman unprepared and tongue-tied. I daresay Rep. Ford will not be getting any LGBT votes--if he even decides to run after last night's fiasco. The truck has hit the deer.

(Photos:, New Civil Rights Movement)
(Video, David Badash)

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