Backlash hits Kelly Clarkson over Paul endorsement
On Wednesday night American Idol winner Kelly Clarkson tweeted her support for Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul.
"I love Ron Paul. I liked him a lot during the last republican nomination and no one gave him a chance," the singer tweeted Wednesday. "If he wins the nomination for the Republican party in 2012 he’s got my vote. Too bad he probably won’t."
Negative reaction to Clarkson’s endorsement was immediate. The Washington Post reported this morning: "This informal endorsement of Republican presidential hopeful Ron Paul set off a firestorm of angry tweets, with people accusing Clarkson of supporting racism and the death penalty, and of not supporting equal rights for same-sex couples. One Twitter user called her ’stupid,’ while another tweeted, ’Now THAT is how you get someone to unfollow you on Twitter ... and in your career. Good luck - you’ll need it.’"
Paul, long a controversial candidate, came under fire in the past weeks when incendiary comments associated with newsletters he authorized in the 1980s and 1990s came to light, most recently in a story in the conservative Weekly Standard in a story called The Company Ron Paul Keeps.
In these newsletters - published under various titles (Ron Paul’s Freedom Report, the Ron Paul Political Report, the Ron Paul Survival Report, and the Ron Paul Investment Letter) - racist, sexist and homophobic statements abound.
One newsletter warned that "AIDS patients" should not be allowed to eat in restaurants because "AIDS can be transmitted by saliva."
Paul has disavowed the statements, claiming they were written by others without his expressed approval.
For her part, Clarkson is surprised and contrite by the response.
"I am really sorry if I have offended anyone. Obviously that was not my intent," Clarkson later tweeted, after personally responding to a number of messages from angry Twitter users. "I do not support racism. I support gay rights, straight rights, women’s rights, men’s rights, white/black/purple/orange rights. I like Ron Paul because he believes in less government and letting the people (all of us) make the decisions and mold our country. That is all. Out of all of the Republican nominees, he’s my favorite."
That, though, was not enough to keep the angry tweeters at bay. The embattled singer finally tweeted, "If you don’t like what I’m saying, don’t listen."
"Man my eyes have been opened to so much hate tonight. If y’all ever disagree with something I say please don’t feel the need to attack me. I will listen to what you say and any articles or viewpoints you have when you say it with respect. Being hateful is not a healthy way to get people to see or hear you. I was raised to respect people and their decisions and beliefs and I hope you will grant me the same decency. If you don’t agree with me simply unfollow me. It’s really that easy. I hope you don’t because I would love the chance to hear what you have to say but if you’re so blinded by hate you can’t seek peace and progress then that is your unfortunate prerogative."
With her endorsement, Clarkson is the biggest name of her generation to endorse Paul, but she’s turning out to be one of many.
As reported in the New Yorker, Des Moines Register reporter Mary Stegmeir, who has been covering the Paul campaign, interviewed some of them:
Patrick Batey, a twenty-seven-year-old from Mount Pleasant: "He doesn’t have that glossy sheen that all the other candidates do. I guess I don’t feel like he’s trying to deceive me."
Micah Stolba, a thirty-two-year-old from Cedar Rapids who recently completed three years in the Army: "What he says makes sense. People in the military, especially, they have to think about our foreign relations with countries."
Danijel Pejkanovic, an eighteen-year-old student from Kalona: "He’s real. That’s what makes the difference for me."
What of Paul’s feelings towards gay people?
A former staffer, Eric Dondero released a statement to Right Wing News addressing Paul’s attitudes towards the gay community. "He is not all bigoted towards homosexuals." wrote Dondero. "He supports their rights to do whatever they please in their private lives. He is however, personally uncomfortable around homosexuals, no different from a lot of older folks of his era."
Dondero went on to report how Paul spent the day with a gay supporter and his partner in their home, which was fine until the candidate needed to go to the bathroom.
"Ron pulled me aside the first time we went there," reported Dondero, "and specifically instructed me to find an excuse to excuse him to a local fast food restaurant so that he could use the bathroom. He told me very clearly, that although he liked Jim, he did not wish to use his bathroom facilities. I chided him a bit, but he sternly reacted, as he often did to me, Eric, just do what I say. Perhaps ’sternly’ is an understatement. Ron looked at me directly, with a very angry look in his eye, and shouted under his breath: ’Just do what I say NOW.’"
Another incident involved Paul refusing to shake the hand of an avid gay supporter at a campaign event.
Paul made headlines in 2009 when he was ’punked’ by actor Sacha Baron Cohen in his film "Bruno." In the satiric film, Cohen plays a gay Austrian journalist who sets out to trap Paul in a hotel room with hopes of making a sex tape with the candidate. When Paul realizes the ruse, he becomes angry, storms out and is repeatedly heard calling Cohen a "queer" on the soundtrack.