This past Monday, The New York Times profiled Bill White and Bryan Eure, a couple whom the paper called two of New York’s “biggest Trump supporters.” The Times article, in which the men proudly display their support for the president — and their access to his family — was met with righteous outrage on social media. The hypocrisy of gay men backing a candidate who has harmed the rights of LGBTQ people and many others was clear as day.
What’s particularly stunning, however, is that these wealthy white gay men were supporters of Democratic candidates for years. Rich Manahattanites who moved in liberal New York circles, they’d hired Aretha Franklin to sing at their wedding at which David Boies — Al Gore’s lawyer who led efforts to overturn California’s Proposition 8 — officiated and Barbara Walters attended.
The Chelsea townhouse they sold in 2014 for $16 million was the site of a $25,000 per plate fundraiser they held in 2012 for Barack Obama. The two raised millions for Hillary Clinton as well, including for her 2016 race against Trump. Now they’re raising 5 million dollars for Trump this winter.
We’ve seen the spectacle of gay Republicans bowing to GOP politicians over and over again. A minority within a minority (14 percent of lesbian gay or bisexual voters backed Trump in 2016 while 23 percent backed Mitt Romney in 2012, according to exit polls), there have always been gay GOPers who are in complete denial about the harms done by candidates they support.
Indeed, the most well known gay GOP group, the Log Cabin Republicans, played a bizarre game during the 2016 election. They often criticized candidate Donald Trump, who was and is opposed to marriage equality, and even refused to endorse him — despite their president, Gregory T. Angelo, mind-bogglingly claiming that Trump was “a leader on LGBT rights.” After the election, Angelo even claimed Trump is a “pro-LGBT president” — when Trump, by any measure, has done more damage to LGBTQ rights than any president in history.
The shocking twist in the profile of White and Eure though, buried far down, is the men’s conversion, which happened on election night, sometime between Trump winning North Carolina and the calling of Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, both by razor-thin margins, securing the Electoral College and the presidency:
The genesis of the couple’s reversal can be timed to about midnight on Nov. 8, 2016. Inside the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in Manhattan, at Ms. Clinton’s election night event, Mr. White stood watching the returns in an increasingly funereal atmosphere.
He got in his Chevrolet Suburban and drove to the New York Hilton in Midtown, where Mr. Trump was celebrating his win.
“I didn’t want to be part of that misery pie; I’m not a wallower in self-pity,” said Mr. White, who now runs Constellations Group, a strategic consultancy firm. “I really believe that once that decision is made, you have to get behind your president.”
That White and Eure can be so morally vacuous as to simply decide they wanted to go with the winner — whoever that may be — and race to the other side of Manhattan to join him at his victory party is almost as jarring as the fact that these men aren’t at all embarrassed to reveal this shallow opportunism to the world.
There are surely many other crude status seekers of every gender, race and sexual orientation who are as vile and pathetic as these two, but the fact that they are gay — and wealthy, white and male — does deserve some attention.
Trump has attempted to eviscerate the rights and even the existence of transgender people, and has shown himself over and over again to be a misogynist. His racist policies include separating children from their parents at the border and, now, tear-gassing mothers and children. White and Eure, however, are insulated from those policies and actions by their gender, their wealth and their whiteness, despite the fact they are members of a demonized minority without federal civil rights protections.
Too many progressives assume that all queer people connect with other marginalized groups and deeply understand their own minority status. It’s similar to the surprise many progressives had at the fact that many white women still voted for Republicans in the midterms, despite everything Trump and his party have done to harm and insult women.
White women, however, can be just as conservative — and just as racist — as white men. (Interestingly, among white women, class and education were a factor in the midterms, but they broke the other way: Less educated, white working-class women voted Republican, while, in many places, more educated, suburban white women fled the GOP.) Gay men can be just as racist and sexist as straight men. And having a lot of money can help blunt the effects of authoritarianism.
“If White and Eure should be excoriated for selling out their own people — and they should — the New York Times should be slapped, once again, for offering itself up as a public relations tool for Trump.”
Trump’s Supreme Court picks threaten gay marriage, and his Justice Department lent support to allowing employers to fire or turn away workers simply for being gay, lesbian or bisexual. But White and Eure are protected by their wealth from the administration’s brutality against LGBT people. Eure says, in defense of his support of Trump, that he doesn’t like “identity politics.” Yet it’s his identity that gives him the luxury to say so — just as many straight white men do.
White and Eure’s status-seeking is also tied to homophobia and reeks of self-loathing. White expresses contempt for Chelsea Clinton because he had to “call through five people” to reach her on the phone when he was a Clinton supporter, while, as a Trump supporter, Donald Trump Jr. “picks up on the first ring” when he calls. The men express anger about attending the Democratic National Convention in 2016 in Philadelphia — even chartering a helicopter to get there — but being unable to get access to Hillary Clinton for a greeting. Trump, on the other hand, has welcomed them at Mar-a-Lago and poses with them in photos they can use on their Twitter backgrounds.
Again, craven status-seeking comes in all shapes and sizes. But I’ve seen it enough among gay men to know these superficial acts of recognition by powerful people often offer men like this a sugar high because they know, deep down, they’re members of a despised minority even though they’ve made it into (or were born into) an elite echelon in society. Through these empty gestures, they tell themselves and others that they’re not like the rest of them. And con artists like the Trump family know people like this are easy marks.
If White and Eure should be excoriated for selling out their own people — and they should be — The New York Times should be slapped, once again, for offering itself up as a public relations tool for Trump.
This is the paper that, during the 2016 campaign, wrongly and recklessly told us Trump had “more accepting views on gay issues” than other Republicans while providing skimpy evidence — and that never apologized for this dubious, harmful reporting. Now here it is seeming to try to validate that by showing us two wealthy, privileged gay men who agree.
There’s little context offered in the piece about what Trump has done to the LGBTQ community, or even a mention of Trump’s horrendous ban on transgender people serving in the military — a court challenge that he’s trying to rush to the Supreme Court — nor are these men asked about it.
The story is similar the one the Times offered up in 2017 about Neil Gorsuch’s “gay friends” who vouched for him just as his anti-gay record was being questioned ahead of his Supreme Court confirmation hearings. (And Gorsuch turned out to be as hostile to marriage equality as many had warned.)
It’s also similar to the story in which gay backers of Betsy DeVos emerged to tell the Times that the education secretary nominee, who was in peril of not being confirmed by the Senate, was actually pro-gay, contrary to earlier reports. (She, too, turned out to be as bad as LGBTQ advocates said she would be.)
White and Eure made their conversion to Trump from Clinton over two years ago, driving across town and never looking back. But it’s only now, after Trump suffered a blow in the midterms, that they’ve surfaced in the media. An all-new crop of “Never Trump” Republicans — those who jumped ship from Trump — have actually become a decisive force, turning out in the midterms to vote Democratic, including many GOP women.
And yet, all of a sudden two gay men who went the other way have popped up in a high-profile piece in the New York Times, just as Trump is revving up what looks to be a difficult re-election campaign.
It’s all a bit too convenient, with reporting as shallow as White and Eure — and Trump — themselves.
Michelangelo Signorile is a HuffPost editor-at-large. Follow him on Twitter at @msignorile.