MSNBC's Roberts: President Obama, 'First Gay President'

MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts loves to use his daily show as a platform to discuss gay issues, usually as an opportunity to play the role of gay-rights activist rather than journalist. Despite Roberts’ frequent promotion of gay stories, his most recent example may prove to be his most bizarre one yet. [See video after jump.]

Appearing on December 16, the MSNBC host proclaimed that, “so many people consider president Obama to be the first gay president.”

Roberts’ comments came during a segment with Shawn Gaylord of Human Rights First to discuss Russia’s anti-gay laws in the lead-up to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. It seems odd that Roberts would suggest that President Obama is the “first gay president” given that he has changed his position multiple times throughout his political career, being opposed to gay marriage as recently as the 2008 presidential election. Roberts' comments came a year after Newsweek ran a cover story declaring President Obama "The First Gay President" prior to the 2012 election.  

So Democrats can now claim to have the first black president in Bill Clinton and now the first gay president in Barack Obama. 


See relevant transcript below.



December 16, 2013

11:53 a.m. Eastern

THOMAS ROBERTS: Alright, so one of the things Sean that we've been covering, certainly in this hour, is what’s happening in Russia, what type of homophobia, what type of violence the LGBT community there is facing. And certainly this propaganda law allowed cover for the type of hostility that certain people have, the homophobia that exists in Russia right now. There's this well-known TV actor in Russia who just last week said this. I would put all the gays alive into an oven. I can't be indifferent about it because it's a real threat to my children. There's the Russian actor right there that made that reprehensible statement. How do you feel about the symbolic act of being at the Olympics, of having openly gay people as part of the delegation and what type of message that that sends not only to Vladimir Putin but a message to the LGBT community in Russia? Because I would imagine without this type of attention, they have to feel very isolated. 

SHAWN GAYLORD: Absolutely. We're very connected with people on the ground with people in Russia pushing for full equality. Human Rights First organized a briefing for several of them last week on the hill. And we talk to them constantly. We're definitely taking our cues from what they think would be most helpful. And I think they agree having LGBT people as part of the delegation would send that type of message that they need to send. They need to be included in Russian society, they need cultural acceptance. And sending a delegation that includes LGBT officials I think can help move that forward. 

ROBERTS: Yeah, it's not about asking for special protection. It's about asking and seeking equal respect. We do know as we look at the larger picture here, Shawn, that LGBT rights is just one of the points of friction between our country and Russia right now as we look at the litany of other things right now. It's Russia's support for Syria, their relationship in Iran, current crisis in Ukraine, protection of asylum that was granted to NSA leader Edward Snowden there in Russia. So how do you think that the president can balance all the delicate foreign policy issues but still take a decisive stand on human rights because so many people consider president Obama to be the first gay president.

GAYLORD: Right, I mean that is something that the president has to struggle with all the time. But I would describe what's happening in Russia as a real crisis for the LGBT community. You’ve seen the stories of young men being lured into situations where they are beaten and assaulted and humiliated on camera. Those perpetrators are known, those videos are shown and everybody knows who is committing those crimes. And yet, the police do absolutely nothing. And you know there's a proposal that's probably going to come back after the Olympics to allow the Russian authorities to take children away from LGBT parents. So I think when things like that are happening, it rises to a whole new level. And even though president Obama does have to balance competing concerns, I think the situation there is getting very frightening. 

Jeffrey Meyer
Jeffrey Meyer
Jeffrey Meyer was a News Analyst at the Media Research Center.