U.S. Rep. Fred Upton (R-Michigan), one of the longest-serving members of the U.S. House of Representatives, has burnished a reputation for decency and civility. That’s why it is especially alarming that his reelection campaign would resort to assaulting the first openly LGBTQ candidate for Congress from Michigan with time-worn homophobic tropes. Upton is using thinly veiled accusations that Jon Hoadley is a pedophile and a sexual predator to besmirch the reputation of Hoadley, his Democratic challenger in the Nov. 3 election.
It is ironic that Upton’s unfounded attempts to assassinate the character of a rising star in the Democratic Party comes just three weeks after he and U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Michigan) participated in a virtual conversation Aug. 18 on civility and collegiality in politics and government.
“We’re tired of the vitriolic rhetoric and mean-spirited language used in our political discourse, and so are the American people. That’s why Debbie Dingell and I are proud to serve as vice chairs of the Problem Solvers Caucus, and why we do events like today’s show – to show that civility and bipartisanship still work and should still be valued,” Upton said.
Dingell agreed and said that name-calling, punching back and personal attacks and threats are dividing the nation. She’d challenged viewers to remember there’s more that unites us than divides us. So, Between The Lines Newspaper contacted Dingell about the recent mailings and TV ads attacking Hoadley.
“I just talked to Fred and he swore he didn’t have anything to do with this,” she said. “Fred says his campaign has only aired two TV ads and neither are the ones we’re talking about. The NRCC [National Republican Congressional Committee] is an independent entity — but I hold Fred accountable for messaging and I have complained about the NRCC many times, although the NRCC doesn’t listen to me at all.”
The LGBTQ Victory Fund, a national organization dedicated to electing LGBTQ leaders to public office, issued a scathing press release today condemning Upton for the attack ads and calling on him to apologize.
“Fred Upton is resorting to digging up Jon’s puerile college blog posts and pulling together out-of-context words and phrases because he can find nothing else to criticize about Jon’s public service record,” said Annise Parker, president and CEO of LGBTQ Victory Fund.
The release went on to say that for weeks, the NRCC has repeatedly referred to Hoadley as a “pedo sex poet” – a startling and defamatory use of homophobic tropes about gay men as pedophiles and sexual deviants. It also successfully pitched a political hit piece to the New York Post that purposely took phrases out of context from a 15-year-old LiveJournal Hoadley wrote while an undergraduate student. The NRCC then used those phrases to make outrageous claims about Hoadley – all of them aimed at perpetuating homophobic stereotypes about gay men. Campaign mailers sent to voters’ homes used the same phrases to attack Hoadley.
Sean Meloy is a senior political director at the LGBTQ Victory Fund. He said that Fred Upton “wants it both ways.”
“[Upton]’s trying to talk about civility while calling his opponent a pedophile and drug user,” Meloy said. “Upton could call an end to this immediately, but he’s let it go. He’s continued to let his staff and his lackeys continue spreading these lies about Jon Hoadley.”
The LGBTQ Victory Fund has endorsed Jon Hoadley for Congress.
Mark LaChey, the openly LGBTQ vice chair of the Michigan Democratic Party, said he was incensed by the homophobic attacks on Hoadley and tied the congressman’s actions to his allegiance to President Donald Trump.
“Given their lock-step allegiance to Donald Trump and his history of truth-be-damned campaign tactics, I am incredibly disappointed but not surprised that Fred Upton and the NRCC are using outright lies and out-of-context comments made decades ago in their attempt to discredit State Representative Jon Hoadley,” LaChey said. “If any voter in southwestern Michigan doubted that our Congressman is a Trump lackey, these vile accusations by the NRCC and the failure of Upton to condemn them proves exactly who he has been and continues to be … out-of-date, desperate and ultimately homophobic.”
Some of the attack ads and mailings have attempted to depict Hoadley as demeaning of women. But female leaders in Michigan were quick to speak out in support of Hoadley.
“The attacks against Jon are nothing more than a despicable attempt to make something out of nothing. Jon’s record is clear: he has been a voice for women and children throughout his career and will continue to be our champion when elected to Congress,” said Michigan State Rep. Kristy Pagan (D-Canton) and legislative leader on women’s rights.
Hoadley, 37, is a three-term member of the Michigan House of Representatives. He has distinguished himself as a principled, progressive voice for equality — especially in the fight against violence against women — and as a strong supporter of workers’ rights to organize. His campaign is endorsed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist, Attorney General Dana Nessel, U.S. Sen. and candidate for U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker and scores of other elected officials at all levels of government. He is also strongly endorsed by the UAW and the Michigan AFL-CIO as well as dozens of other unions, environmental groups, women’s organizations, gun control advocates, LGBTQ groups and BTL.
Hoadley’s campaign was recently elevated to national prominence as the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee moved the Michigan 6th race to a potential “Red to Blue” pick up. This means that based on fundraising, polling and other factors, the DCCC leadership believes Hoadley has a chance to upset Upton this fall. Perhaps that threat is why Upton’s campaign and supporters are targeting Hoadley with sexually charged lies and innuendo.
“Shame on Fred Upton for utilizing this as a campaign strategy,” said Michigan State Sen. Jeremy Moss (D-Southfield). “Starting in 2016-18 voters started to punish anti-gay campaigning. Voters didn’t have the appetite for homophobia in politics. So anti-LGBTQ politicians have had to shift their message to reach their anti-LGBTQ audience.”
Moss himself is openly gay.
“Pedophile is the dirtiest charge against gay men. This is nasty, dirty, sick homophobia,” Moss said. “Accusing any candidate of perverse behavior, especially when it is blatantly untrue as it is in Jon’s case, is no less homophobic than the overt gay-bashing of campaigns past. It’s a lie — based on a foundation of lies.”
Efforts to reach Fred Upton’s campaign were unsuccessful by press time.