ABC's David Muir: Could Gay White House Staffer Have Dissuaded Bush on Marriage Amendment?

August 26th, 2010 12:25 PM

Good Morning America's David Muir on Thursday used the announcement that Republican operative Ken Mehlman is gay to push the GOP towards rethinking its stance on marriage.

Talking to former George Bush staffer Ed Gillespie, the ABC host speculated, "...Had Ken come to terms with this...when he was influential in the White House with the President, do you think that he could have influenced the President differently, in looking back?"

(An odd suggestion, considering that Bush's own Vice President disagreed with him.) After reading from the Republican Party's platform on the issue of gay marriage, the GMA guest anchor pressed, "Do you think the Republican Party should take a second look at this?"

During a previous segment, reporter Jake Tapper featured a clip from Mike Rogers, a gay activist who outs closeted Republicans: "[Mehlman] was really the architect of all the homophobia we saw in 2004 out of the Bush re-election campaign, which he was the general manager of."

To be fair, Tapper also quoted from Mehlman's call for tolerance towards those in the Republican Party who oppose gay marriage.

The other two morning shows, unlike GMA, mostly ignored the story. NBC's Today gave it a brief mention at the end of a political round-up segment. Ann Curry responded to the news that Mehlman would now lobby for gay marriage by asserting, "Well it's a pretty brave move on his part."

On CBS's Early Show, Jeff Glor just read a news brief and noted, "It's making news because Mehlman was a key GOP operative at the same time some Republicans were pushing anti-same sex marriage initiatives."

A transcript of the Ed Gillespie interview, which aired at 7:10am EDT on August 26, follows:

DAVID MUIR: And want to bring in Ed Gillespie, the former chairman of the Republican National Committee to talk about the changing face of the Republican Party. And he joins us from Long Beach Island, New Jersey, this morning. Ed, as always, good morning.

ED GILLESPIE: Thanks for having me on, David.

MUIR: I know you're good friends with Ken. You go way back in your work with the Republican Party with him. And he shared this with you a couple of weeks back. I'm just curious what you said back to him.

GILLESPIE: Ken was my friend ten years ago. He's my friend today. And if I'm lucky, he'll be my friend ten years from now. And I accepted his decision. And we agreed to disagree on the issue of same-sex marriage. But, you know, proponents of same-sex marriage in the Republican Party have gained an effective advocate. I don't think the party should abandon its position that marriage remain between one man and one woman. But Ken and I can respectfully disagree on that.

MUIR: So, you'll be one of the friends who agrees to disagree, as he alluded to there. But, I wanted to point out a quote here. One thing he says he regrets is the fact that "I can't change the fact that I wasn't in this place personally when I was in politics. And I genuinely regret that. So, I could have worked against it." And he's talking about the constitutional amendment pushed by President Bush. But, we did check the Republican Party platform. And let's put this up on the screen. It still says, "We call for a constitutional amendment that fully protects marriage as a union of a man and a woman, so that judges cannot make other arrangements equivalent to it." When you take what we've now heard from Ken Mehlman, and even Vice President Dick Cheney, who has changed his view in recent weeks, saying that he still believes it should be up to the states but that gays should have a shot at marriage. Do you think the Republican Party should take a second look at this?

GILLESPIE: Well, as I said, I believe, it's a tenet of my faith, and I believe it, that we're best suited to have in our society, marriage being one man and one woman. But, look, there's advocates inside the party. You mentioned Vice President Cheney, now, Ken, and others who will advocate that it be reconsidered. There are Democrats, obviously, beginning with President Obama, who share my perspective on this issue. So, there is a debate going on in the country, andtates, where states are sanctioning gay marriage. And, you know, inside the party, as well. That debate's ongoing. And people have views. I think Ken's point is a good one. I accept Ken. He's my friend. I accept his point of view on this, you know, very heartfelt issue in a lot of ways. And he accepts mine. And I think that civil discourse is very important.

MUIR: Ed, you know the inner workings better than anyone. And I'm sort of curious, had Ken come to terms with this, as he puts it, at an earlier time, when he was influential in the White House with the President, do you think that he could have influenced the President differently in looking back?

GILLESPIE: Well, there's no doubt, I mean, Ken's an influential person and effective advocate for policies and positions that he believes. But I don't believe that, at that time, or this time, the Republican Party platform would change on the issue. We've had courts injecting themselves into this decision making process, into the political process, in a way I think is generally unhealthy for unelected judges to make decisions about whether or not government should sanction gay marriage or not. I think it's best left to the political and policy debate. And I think the President, in 2004, in response to the Massachusetts Supreme Court decision, made the right decision, to call for constitutional amendment because of the Full Faith and Credit clause of the Constitution. A same-sex couple married in Massachusetts and moves to my home state of Virginia, could conceivably, Virginians could be compelled to recognize that. So, I think there is a constitutional issue here. And I think President Bush was right to adopt that position. I think the Republican Party is right to keep it as part of the platform.

MUIR: All right. Ken Mehlman's friend, Ed Gillespie, who says he plans to continue, obviously, being his friend. Thanks for weighing in honestly on the debate. We sure do appreciate it.