No Shaking Sexual Harassment Allegations for Gay GOP House Hopeful
Allegations of sexual misconduct have dogged Carl DeMaio since he entered politics. But is it just because he’s gay?
In my May story about Carl DeMaio, an openly gay Republican running for Congress in San Diego, I outlined the various troubles his sexuality—or allegations about his sexuality—seemed to have caused him throughout his political career. Still, none of the chatter about DeMaio's character had prevented him from mounting his current campaign, and it has been a competitive one at that. But with just a few weeks until election day, DeMaio has been caught in a web of charges from a former staffer that forced him into a he-said-he-said argument which threatens to sideline his race in the home stretch.
On Friday, CNN reported that Todd Bosnich, a former member of DeMaio's staff, had accused DeMaio of making inappropriate sexual advances, "massaging and kissing his neck and groping him" without permission, and even masturbating in front of him. "I came over to his office, door was open. And he was masturbating," Bosnich told the publication. "I saw his hand, his penis in his hand, and he had a smile on his face. And as soon as I came over he was looking at me."
Bosnich also claims DeMaio "grabbed my crotch" while the two sat in the candidate's car. Bosnich alleges that when he finally came forward to DeMaio's campaign manager, Tommy Knepper, he was not taken seriously, and was made to feel as though he had invited DeMaio's behavior. Bosnich says that he was fired, offered a position at the local Republican party, and asked to sign a nondisclosure agreement for a cool $50,000.
DeMaio categorically denied the accusations, calling Bosnich "clearly troubled."
The candidate told CNN that Bosnich had been terminated from the campaign because he had been caught plagiarizing, and later broke into the campaign headquarters after being told he wasn't welcome there. DeMaio claims the San Diego Police Department is investigating the break-in, wherein Bosnich is alleged to have smashed computers and cut phone lines just days before the primary, which surely would have made phone-banking difficult during that all-important time.
"It's the classic stereotype that gay people, at the end of the day, are boiled down to nothing more than their sexual orientation, or sex, and the negative stereotype that gay individuals are sexual predators," Gregory T. Angelo, Executive Director of the Log Cabin Republicans, told me.
It has long been DeMaio's contention that many of the attacks against him are in their nature homophobic, and more than that, are either being lodged from, or tacitly endorsed by, those on the left side of the aisle.
DeMaio has claimed that his 2012 mayoral opponent criticized his partner "just to point out the fact that I was gay." During the same campaign, a deceptively named political action committee, Conservatives for Gay Rights Supporting Carl DeMaio for Mayor 2012, paid for robocalls that not-so-subtly alerted voters to DeMaio's sexual orientation, by asking them whether or not it would make a difference to them. The same group sent out literature which featured a photoshopped image of DeMaio next to a man dressed in drag. The group heavily focused their distribution of the image to the historically religious and slow-to-warm-the-idea-of-gay-rights African American community.
Within the LGBT community, the attacks did not inspire a desire to support or protect DeMaio—to the contrary, many LGBT groups were openly hostile to him, to the extent that he was booed at a gay pride parade. (The lack of love likely stems from DeMaio's silence on Proposition 8.)
It is tempting to compare DeMaio’s treatment by the LGBT community to the way in which some conservative women are treated by the feminist establishment and the left in general—which is to say, sexism that would be condemned if it were being rained upon Nancy Pelosi or Kirsten Gillibrand is ignored or endorsed when the target is Sarah Palin or Michele Bachmann. However, such a sympathetic interpretation of DeMaio's reception would overlook the fact that among gay Republicans currently running for Congress—Dan Innis in New Hampshire and Richard Tisei in Massachusetts completing the trifecta—DeMaio is the outlier who is not being welcomed with open arms by the LGBT establishment. It seems that, for the gay community, the problem is not so much gay Republicans as it is gay Republicans named Carl DeMaio.
Still, as soon as DeMaio announced his bid for Congress, allegations of sexual deviancy began to fly—but they seemed flimsy at best.
The Voice of OC, a “a non-profit investigative news agency focusing on politics and government,” reported that DeMaio had been caught masturbating in men's rooms during City Council meetings. The City Council president told the publication he had twice seen DeMaio in action, and a second member of the Council confirmed the accusation. By way of proving his innocence, DeMaio took a polygraph test—and passed. The City Council president refused to do the same.
It is, perhaps, with that in mind that some are viewing the current series of charges being lobbed at the candidate.
"I just see someone that seems like they have an axe to grind and the media running with unsubstantiated claims 25 days out from a hotly contested election where a gay Republican is on the verge of making history," Angelo told me.
Indeed, the timing of the story is incredibly poor for DeMaio, whose opponent, Peters, for his part, has stayed mum on the topic. DeMaio is currently leading him by three points.