Leaving city hall a bit ago, I ran into a member of the local news media, getting ready to broadcast a report on Bob Ball’s rumors about Sam Adams.
“I hate this story,” he confessed. “I feel like I’m being used.”
That honest assessment pretty well sums up the story so far, as everyone I’ve talked to in the city sees it. Ball not only spread the rumors around about Adams (his claim that he only told Randy Leonard and Vera Katz simply isn’t true; he dropped that story, or allusions to it, to numerous people in the city), but he also lied about who he told, and then promptly split town, offering only one faxed response that said the story wasn’t about him.
But, certainly, the media picked up the gossip and ran with it. Nigel Jaquiss is now the toast of the KXL set; on his show two hours ago, Lars Larson effectively made the claim that Adams was having sex with a minor.
Adams is used to getting hit from the right—especially Lars. But this hit came from Ball, another openly gay man.
“If this had come from the right wing—and it probably will now—that would have been one thing,” Adams told me this morning. “But to come from another gay man is something more hurtful. It plays into the worst, deep-seeded fears society has about gay men: You can’t trust them with your young.”
With the exception of the Oregonian’s level-headed piece this morning, I haven’t seen much in the way of anyone trying to peel back the layers of the story. So here’s an attempt:
Bob Ball—the most potential rival to face off against Adams if they both run for mayor—heard a story from a former Adams staffer that the commissioner had befriended 17-year-old Beau Breedlove. They had dinner a couple of times—which the boy’s boyfriend picked him up from—and he even went to the young man’s family birthday party. That’s the extent of the allegation—that Adams befriended a 17-year-old who approached him looking for advice on coming out of the closet and whether it was possible to be a gay man in politics.
Ball is incommunicado, so we’ll have to guess at his motivations. He anticipated a certain amount of ingrained societal homophobia, such that a story in which nothing inappropriate is even alleged would gain political traction and throw Adams out of the race for mayor. All indications, though, are that the story has backfired on Ball, and I, personally, would be shocked if he can salvage any kind of political future for himself.
It’s not just the unfounded allegation or whisper campaign, but the fact that he’s been caught in at least two lies about the story. First, he told the Oregonian that he knew nothing about the rumor last week, which was blatantly false. Then, he called Leonard and asked him if he had told the Oregonian, because Leonard was the only person he had told about it. That, too, was blatantly false—Ball had met days before with Vera Katz, and Leonard knew it.
Ball has backed himself into a corner, and there’s not much of a way out. On the flip side, all Adams has to do is be upfront (“open and honest, and to give verifiable proof” says Adams) and the net political gain vis a vis Ball could be huge.
Perhaps the most startling thing about the story is Willamette Week's piece, penned by Nigel Jaquiss. The easiest way to read it is through Jaquiss's apparent Goldschmidt fixation and, by extension, his fixation on his Pulitzer. Even though the two stories aren't analogous in the least, Jaquiss appears to believe that this is simply a retelling of the Goldschmidt story. In Jaquiss's world, a gay man can't have contact with an underage male without there being a sexual advance, or without everyone worrying about the appearance of salaciousness. When you're a hammer, as they say, everything looks like a nail.
WW's quick buy-in to the homophobic frame--that of course all gay men are sexual predators!--also speaks volumes.
"The ironic part of this is that even Big Brothers and Big Sisters frequently pairs Queer adults with Queer youth," says Adams. "Not that a straight Big Brother wouldn't be great for a Queer youth, or vice versa, but they have a shared experience. I hope this doesn't have a chilling effect on the mentoring that should go on between Queer youth and adults."
"I'm hoping that this gives me an opportunity to talk about the bigger issues here," he added. "Like the fact that it's apparently still not okay to be gay in certain situations. It's as if, because I'm gay, I can't have any meaningful interaction with males under the age of 18."
Two final thoughts on talking points you'll be hearing in the next couple of weeks, as debuted on the Lars show today:
1. If Adams was a heterosexual man who met with a 17-year-old girl to talk about her sexual activities, all you Portland liberals would be demanding his resignation instead of coming to his support.
First, Adams wasn't discussing anyone's sexual activities, but giving Breedlove advice on coming out to his family and how to navigate politics while being an out gay man. The Lars set is so fixated on sex that any discussion of orientation must, of course, be salacious. Second, the reason Breedlove approached Adams is because he needed advice on being out in the political world. Who was he going to talk to? His substitute math teacher? His priest? No--he's going to seek advice from someone who's similarly situated.
2. All you liberals who called for the resignation of Marc Foley should demand the same from Sam Adams.
Foley was a despicable perv because he was sexually soliciting his pages through emails and text messages. According to both Adams and Breedlove, there was nothing even remotely sexual about their exchanges. End of story.
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