Quayle's opponent for a House of Representatives seat, Rep. David Schweikert, sent out a campaign mailer that reads Quayle "goes both ways" and on the back and completes the thought with "...on important conservative issues." His campaign spokesman condemned the mailer, and Senator Jon Kyl ratcheted it up a bit by coming out against it, too. Kyl said:
It not only misrepresents Ben Quayle's positions on important issues, it includes what can only be described as the strangest of allusions to sexuality that have no place in a political debate. Such campaign tactics insult the voters, degrade politics and expose those who stoop to them as unworthy of high office.
It does seem hard to believe that Schweikert's campaign didn't know the insinuations of "going both ways," but who can say whether they really meant the allegation as an actual dog whistle to voters, or just wanted to make a goofy pun to catch voters' eyes before getting them to read the brochure's talking points. A Schweikert spokesman denies the charge:
As for the bizarre claim made by the Quayle campaign ascribing a meaning to a Schweikert mailer that has no basis in fact, we find that unfortunate and the act of a desperate campaign grasping at straws.
If the Quayle campaign were truly worried that a charge of bisexuality would hurt them with voters -- that this was anti-gay baiting and not just eye-catching punnery -- it seems to us they would've been foolish to go public with their outrage, much less enlist the outrage of a prominent supporter. After all, here we all are talking about Ben Quayle's bisexuality charge, when, politically speaking anyway, there isn't much to indicate even a sympathy to LGBT issues. (He's been iffy on a Constitutional ban on gay marriage, but solidly in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act.) More likely, they've calculated that the benefit from claiming their opponent is practicing dirty politics is worth a little press about bisexuality rumors. If you're worried about gay-baiting in politics, that's sort of a heartening calculation, we suppose.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.