Wolff: ‘Otherwise unsexy’ should be ‘grateful’ if their sexuality is openly discussed

By Ron Brynaert
Thursday, May 13, 2010 11:34 EDT
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Michael Wolff appears to be more than a little bit obsessed with the sexuality of President Obama’s new Supreme Court selection. The best-selling author and Vanity Fair contributor published “Part 3″ of his “Is Elena Kagan Gay?” series Wednesday morning at his Newser website.

But according to the two-time National Magazine Award winner who left New York Magazine after his bid to buy it failed, “the otherwise unsexy” should be flattered when their sexuality is openly discussed in the media.

“The obviously coordinated effort to squelch the Elena Kagan gay stories is going to have the opposite effect,” Wolff claims in his latest Newser column.

For one thing, the the White House’s need to defend against the gay talk is not just a peculiar choice, but a prudish one. Without a defense, the rumors about Ms. Kagan’s sexual leanings would be no more significant than the rumor’s about anyone else (Condi Rice, Karl Rove, Oprah, etc). Actually, the rumors tend to add a little excitement to otherwise unsexy people. One could easily be grateful for them—they reflect the interest that surrounds you. But the White House got agitated—even offended on Ms. Kagan’s behalf. And now the story—is she? Isn’t she?—is everywhere. It’s all anyone really wants to talk about.

Wolff does make a point about the peculiarity of unleashing a “she’s not gay” strategy. Years ago, New York Mets catcher Mike Piazza was roundly mocked for calling a press conference to
“defend” himself from tabloid reports he played for the other team. In some ways, it’s also reminiscent of the 2008 race, when the Obama team published a flyer which pictured the then-presidential candidate in front of a cross, to combat accusations he was Muslim (As Jerry Seinfeld might have added, “not that there’s anything wrong with” being either).

But if it’s really “all anyone really wants to talk about,” they’re (whoever the they is that Wolff is referring to) apparently doing a good job of keeping it private, since according to Memorandum, other issues such as Kagan’s views on the second amendment, presidential power, relationship with Obama, and her never serving as a judge are dominating political sites: mainstream and bloggy.

Aside from Ben Smith’s Politico article, and some blogging by Andrew Sullivan and other gay and lesbian bloggers on the left, the sexuality issue has been relegated to the fringes.

Wolff argues, “It is one thing to be gay—that seems, all in all, relatively easy to admit. On the other hand, it might be much more personally complicated, and much more problematic for the confirmation process, to admit not know what you are.”

I’ve skirted back and forth, senators. I’ve never been comfortable here or there. In some instances bi, or not entirely bi, but possibly bi-curious, and, frankly, so sublimated and tortured that…well, sheesh.

Or, you miss the point, it’s not girls I’m into, or girls per se, but…I mean…if you really want to know…

Why a Supreme Court justice would be asked particulars about their sex life is never mentioned by Wolff, but he seems to be implying such questions would be fair game if you don’t know or won’t say if you’re gay or straight, when he concludes, “Straight or gay are just social categories. Beyond that we quickly hit whole realms that defy categorization and argue for privacy and stuffing the genie back in the bottle. We can’t handle the truth.”

A year ago, Wolf questioned the sexuality of an earlier Obama Supreme Court pick, asking “Is Sonia Sotomayor Gay?”

Well there, I asked the question. It might as well be asked. It is being asked. It’s the question mark about every single public person without a spouse or children or a big time social life.

This is partly for a very good reason: A great number of public people are gay. A great number of public people are obviously gay and for so long we’ve been complicit in pretending that they’re not. And, indeed, it may not matter that they are. Except for the dark and dismal air of dishonesty and subterfuge—which, of course, in politics is business as usual, gay or not.

I have no idea what Sonia Sotomayor’s sexual tastes might be—if any. (Though asexual, once an acceptable status, is now pretty much understood to be a cover.) The evidence is wish-washy. No children. Vagueness about an early marriage. A lot of pictures with nieces and nephews—a standard cover. Yes, apparently, a present relationship. But then there’s you-know-who in Chicago, with her unconvincing escort. We have become very savvy and sophisticated and doubtful about this stuff.

Continuing his column at Newser, Wolff claimed, “I don’t care (really). On the other hand, I wouldn’t mind knowing. I wouldn’t mind not having to wonder. And—so shoot me—knowing does explain a bit, fill in the picture, round out the profile. And, again, it certainly is something that comes up a lot. Inquiring minds do want to know.”

In response last year, Gawker’s Hamilton Nolan blogged, “Does Michael Wolff Molest Goats?”

I have no idea! It’s just an eye-grabbing headline. Like Michael Wolff’s own headline on his onanistic daily column today: “Is Sonia Sotomayor Gay?” Michael Wolff has no idea. But he made you click, ha!

Nolan noted that Wolff’s private life was thrown back at him by a News Corp. expose after he wrote an unflattering biography of Rupert Murdoch.

Bad: Rupert Murdoch biographer Michael Wolff is rumored to be having an affair with his younger employee. Far worse, for Wolff: this gives News Corp (and others) a chance to get back at him.


But far more annoying for Wolff is the New York Post, which jumped on this story with a level of interest reserved for its enemies. Of which Wolff is one, because he talked bad about the boss, Rupert Murdoch! You can just tell the Post is gonna run this one into the ground. Page Six had one item yesterday reviewing the rumor itself, and then another item today plugging Wolff, just because they can. And they gave him the greatest honor of all: A Sean Delonas cartoon mocking his body.

But Wolff wasn’t flattered by such an invasion of privacy, just a few weeks after posting the first part of his “Is Elena Kagan gay” saga, he told the Guardian he was frightened by what he considered Murdoch’s revenge.

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be at the receiving end of Rupert Murdoch’s wrath, to be cast into the role of Enemy of News Corporation and to be hit with all the firepower of the tycoon’s empire? Michael Wolff, the media columnist for Vanity Fair and Murdoch’s biographer, thinks he knows exactly how it feels.

“It was an act of revenge,” he says as we chat in a coffee bar next door to his apartment in New York’s East Village. “The larger point here is ‘I can control you’. And actually I really felt this. I was afraid. I thought that if I said anything, these guys would go after me.”


There are those in the New York media firmament who will have little sympathy for Wolff. Some will think it is hardly surprising that a tabloid newspaper owned by Murdoch invaded his private life – that is what they do. Others will point out that this is a case of pot calling kettle black as Wolff is himself a famous peddler of tittle-tattle – the aggregator website that he cofounded, Newser, even has a section called “Gossip”. So isn’t he merely bleating about the treatment he dishes out to others?

“This is an issue of scale. Why do you report gossip? Because there will be a market of people who are interested. I guarantee there is not a market for this; I am probably the least famous person whose acts of adultery have been written about in the New York Post.”

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