The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest gay-left lobby, announced yesterday that it will host a one-hour Democratic presidential debate on August 9 on Logo, the Viacom gay channel and sister network to CBS. (CBS News has its own newscast on Logo with gay anchor Jason Bellini, formerly of CNN.) Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have confirmed their attendance. As a colleague joked yesterday about Democrat refusal to acknowledge Fox as a news network: "Oh, so the Democrats won’t go on networks with an agenda."
The debate won’t be moderated by Bellini or any journalist, but by HRC Chairman Joe Solmonese and rock singer Melissa Etheridge. Actually, it’s not so much a debate as a series of interviews, a lot like the CNN/Sojourners magazine event designed to highlight the Democrats’ religious views – except this pander-to-the-libertine-left event ought to cancel out the impression that these candidates are devoted to their Bibles.
The official HRC press release includes this official welcome:
"We’re honored to give the presidential candidates a historic opportunity to share their views directly with the LGBT audience," said Brian Graden, president, entertainment, MTV Networks Music Group, and president, Logo. "This forum continues MTV Networks’ tradition of engaging vital niche audiences with voting and the electoral process."
The forum will include significant online components at LOGOonline.com and HRC.org, including online question submission. The Human Rights Campaign Foundation and Logo invited the leading Democratic and Republican candidates to participate in the forum.
Does that mean Rudy Giuliani will show up? He would agree with Hillary a lot. Nope. Variety reports:
HRC spokesman Brad Luna said there will be no forum of Republican presidential candidates, even though the Human Rights Campaign did extend invites. Among HRC's criteria for holding the debate was that it would have to secure at least two top-tier contenders to participate. Mitt Romney's campaign said no, and HRC never got a response from the campaigns of John McCain and Rudy Giuliani, Luna said.
The reporter added that it will be interesting where the candidates disagree, "if at all. In a recent Human Rights Campaign survey of the candidates on an array of issues, the entire field was in agreement on such issues as the need to repeal 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' passage of a hate crimes bill and support for civil unions. But only Kucinich and Gravel supported same-sex marriage."
Former ABC News Political Unit member Marc Ambinder poked at Matt Drudge for highlighting the "gay debate" news yesterday on his Atlantic blog:
But the August 9 debate is indeed an accomplishment for the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest gay rights lobby. It suggests that the Democratic presidential candidates either no longer believe gay rights is a real wedge issue, or that they don't care anymore -- gays deserve rights.
This will be the gay network's first live broadcast. HRC hosted a Democrat presidential debate in 2003, but it wasn't televised live.