During a Thursday press conference, one of the most obscure of Lindsey Graham's six primary challengers decided to troll the two-term Republican senator from South Carolina about his sexuality, calling Graham "ambiguously gay."
"It's about time that South Carolina [says] hey, we're tired of the ambiguously gay senator from South Carolina," said Dave Feliciano, an Iraq war vet who quit his job as a police officer to run for office. The press conference followed an event where the primary candidates signed a pledge promising to support each other if any of them make it as far as the runoff election. One of Feliciano's fellow pledge-signers, businessman Richard Cash, immediately called the statement "inappropriate."
Senator Graham, who opposes same-sex marriage and voted against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act in 2013, has long been the subject of gossip about his sexuality. It's one of the first things to come up when you Google him; an activist website, has an entire page devoted to "Questions About Senator Lindsey Graham's Sexual Orientation"; In 2010, it was reported that gay rights activist Mike Rogers claimed to have "pictures of a man who spent the night" with the Senator.
However, the two-term Republican senator has long denied the rumors, which have never been demonstrated to have any factual basis at all. In 2010, Graham joked to the New York Times, "I know it's really gonna upset a lot of gay men. I'm sure hundreds of 'em are gonna be jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge -- but I ain't available."
The Daily Beast reached out to Feliciano for clarification about his "ambiguously gay" statement. He was all laughs, calling it "a way to push my platform."
The phrase, he said, "means -- have you ever watched the old SNL skit, The Ambiguously Gay Duo? That's where I got the idea from. I thought it was kind of funny. It means that he says he's not [gay], but based on public perception and internet searches, it appears that he is. I don't know one way or the other."
Feliciano claimed that his comment is "a sentiment that I share [with] most of South Carolina…But all of those politicians are afraid to say it, because they care more about being a politician than telling the truth."
He also denied the accusations of homophobia which immediately followed his remarks. "I love gay people!" Feliciano said. "If you go to my website, I have a whole spot on there about what I think about homosexuals. I have some dear friends that I cherish, and I've actually put this to them and said, 'hey, what do you guys think [about Senator Graham]?' And they said, 'man, that guy's gay!' The other candidates got all scared and stuff and they were running to their press people, because they don't really know gay people. Gay people are cool!"
Feliciano laughed that he would "absolutely not" be surprised if it ever surfaced that Senator Graham was involved with gay prostitutes. "I mean, come on. How many scandals have we heard of these guys running around? I mean, it's just bound to come out -- if he's gay! I don't know if he's gay. I just thought it was funny."
On Feliciano's website, he says that he does not think the Federal government should play a role in regulating marriage.
The candidate's website goes on to to explain that Feliciano believes "to some, not all, homosexuality is not a choice. There are some who were born legitimately desiring the same sex. Then there are others who are recruited into that lifestyle(My gay friends know exactly what I am talking about……). He continues that "the gays I know are not the flamboyant shove-it-in-your face type of people." Ultimately, though, Feliciano says that because he is "a follower of Jesus Christ…I recognize that the institution of marriage is a Christian institution."
Feliciano, who has never run for public office before, does not yet have a campaign manager. In the most recent poll of the Senate primary by Winthrop University in late Feburary, his name was not even included.
A spokesperson for Senator Graham did not respond to several requests for comment.