Ken Mehlman: ‘I am Sorry’ for Harming Gay People During 2004 Bush Campaign

In an article in Salon, former RNC Chair Ken Mehlman apologizes for the first time for harm done to gays in his 2004 position as campaign manager for President Bush, in which conservative voters were strategically driven to the polls by anti-gay ballot measures. While Mehlman has previously expressed regret that he hadn't come out earlier and been able to influence his party in ways beneficial to it and the gay community, this is the first time he has directly apologized for his efforts in 2004.

Says Mehlman: Mehlman

“At a personal level, I wish I had spoken out against the effort,” he says. “As I’ve been involved in the fight for marriage equality, one of the things I’ve learned is how many people were harmed by the campaigns in which I was involved. I apologize to them and tell them I am sorry. While there have been recent victories, this could still be a long struggle in which there will be setbacks, and I’ll do my part to be helpful.”

Salon adds:

In 2011, Mehlman personally lobbied 13 New York state Republican legislators to help pass the state’s same-sex marriage law, and did the same with 10 Republican U.S. senators during the congressional battle to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Although he is still a loyal Republican — he recently contributed to a fundraiser for House Speaker John Boehner, a gay marriage opponent — a month ago Mehlman published an Op-Ed in the conservative Manchester Union-Leader in which he explained to conservatives and Republicans why supporting same-sex marriage venerates their beliefs not only in individual and economic freedoms, but personal responsibility and family values.

Mehlman was also reportedly lobbying behind-the-scenes on marriage equality measures in New Hampshire and Maryland.


  1. Don says

    I live on Ohio and because of you and other arrogant dicks like you we are stuck with a constiutional admendment banning not only same sex marriage but civil unions. Apology NOT accepted !!

  2. Chris in Irvine says

    Melhman should organize public (televised) debates with people from NOM and organizations alike. He started this, he can take one for the team and be the face of marriage equality to those close-minded, conservative people. Plus, I am sure he still has powerful connections that can help us with marriage equality

  3. Ken says

    “I’m sorry” is what you say when you accidentally step on someone’s foot, not when you are a main character in the proliferation of hate nationwide for years.

    Rather than do his part to be helpful in the struggle for marriage equality, this should be his life’s purpose from the day he left the RNC. That would be doing his part.

    As one of the millions who were personally “harmed” by his actions, I’m not seeing the contrition I think deserving of what he did.

  4. Paul in Charleston says

    If he truly wants to wipe that stain clean he should be as visible as he can, not just lobbying behind the scenes. He needs to help those republicans who defied party policy and voted for marriage equality, using his influence to make sure they do not lose their seats.He needs to distance himself from people like the weeper of the house, he can and should continue to try and educate republicans who are on the fence but, no money, no support, no endorsements for those who are rabidly anti-equality. Call it atonement, call it making amends, call it reparations, if he desires to lose the label of the gay Quisling he better get to work. Fast.

  5. Joey Y says

    Um…. “As I’ve been involved in the fight for marriage equality, one of the things I’ve learned is how many people were harmed by the campaigns in which I was involved.”? Really? His JOB was to know exactly how many people he was harming. Sorry, but he doesn’t get a pass from me. I hope, ultimately, he ends up alone as a just reward for his actions. You reap what you sow, and anyone who partners up with someone like this pig is a loser.

  6. RyanInSacto says

    I don’t think he even realizes how much damage he did. It’s actually probably incalculable. It’s not just about a set of terrible laws that got enacted. It’s about a whole anti-gay culture and mindset that he helped encourage. We – and he – can probably never know the actual extent of the injuries that were inflicted. With that in mind, an apology and some lobbying will never be enough.

    Also, he’s a smart guy and I don’t buy that he could not have known what he was doing. He knew. He just didn’t care. And now he’s “sorry.” I’ll say he’s sorry. Sorry and pathetic.

  7. jomicur says

    To date, Fox News has never mentioned that Mehlman is gay. Why doesn’t he go on one of their programs (I have a feeling he just might know someone there) and work to dispel all the antigay myths they spread? Why doesn’t he do something, anything that doesn’t make more money for him and his “conservative” pals? But that’ll be the day. If he doesn’t want to do something constructive, why doesn’t he at least have the good grace to shut up and go away?

  8. kit says

    Ah, working for Boehner — that’s all I needed to know. If this scumbag wanted to make reparations for the incredible harm he has done, why would he still be working to continue the harm?

  9. Johnson says

    This human excrement is now working with Boehner to get a FEDERAL MARRIAGE AMENDMENT passed that would BAN MARRIAGE EQUALITY in the US CONSTITUTION. He’s a two-faced piece of human garbage who says one things while doing the complete opposite. God knows how many STATE constitutional bans were enacted because of this man and the number of lives, like mine, who were affected in as much as we will NEVER be able to be married or have our marriages recognized on our home states. This man is SATANIC in his capacity and willingness to throw his own kind under the bus for personal gain. He’s an American Hitler.

  10. says

    My feeling on Mehlman has always been, well, if he wants to work for marriage equality now, from within the Republican party, more power to him. Doesn’t erase his history and does make me glad I’m not friends with the d**chebag. Whether he’s sorry or not is irrelevant to me.

    But, whatever reparations he’s trying to do are overshadowed by his financial support of Boehner!!!! Boehner, who’s leading the charge to defend DOMA since the Obama DOJ has stopped defending it. Anyone who supports the head DOMA cheerleader hasn’t learned from his past mistakes, he’s repeating them!

    Stop apologizing, Ken, and start keeping your wallet in your pants around bigots.

  11. ratbastard says

    He’s a typical sociopathic high level political operative, lobbyist, executive, etc.

    And many hardcore ideologs are malignant narcissists-sociopaths-psychopaths who use an ideology or ’cause’ to feed their personality disorder/illness.

  12. Michaelandfred says

    Work for another ten lifetimes and maybe you’ll have made up for the damage you helped cause, the lives you helped destroy, the culture of anti gay hatred and laws and amendments you set into motion. You still won’t have my forgiveness. Ever. And since your campaigning for Boehner, …… Sorry, just writing and thinking about this makes me shake and see red. Go to hell Ken.

  13. Rick says

    Despite his past, he has done far more in the last few years to actually pass legislation than any of you blowhards have in your entire lives. Without him and other gay Republicans having lobbied hard behind the scenes, DADT would still be in place–probably for at least another decade–and same-sex marriage would still be illegal in New York.

    The problem with so many of you people is that you just don’t understand how politics works; it is about making connections, getting people in the mainstream to respect you, and using the position and influence you acquire to make change happen…..and yes, bipartisanship is critical in that regard.

    You get absolutely nowhere by glitter-bombing, prancing around in public in leather jockstraps, calling people names and insulting them, insisting on absolute ideological purity, pushing ridiculous ideas like “gender-non-conformity” that will never have a place in the mainstream, rallying behind clowns like Lady Gaga……and generally, doing everything you can to alienate most of the population…..and making yourselves into automatons of the Far Left and slaves to one political party (which leads to being taken for granted and powerlessness).

    Earth to Blowhards: America and the world does not and never will buy into your radical agenda, so if you want to see any real progress at all, you would do well to shut up and stay home and let people like Mehlman, who are actually respected in the world by people who actually matter, do what they need to do to bring about change…..

  14. Ryaninsacto says

    Of course Rick would login to his AOL dial-up account from his bedroom in his mom’s basement to make his standard contrarian statement. Hi Rick! We’ve noticed you. Now go upstairs and ask your mom for a snack.

  15. Rick says

    “God knows how many STATE constitutional bans were enacted because of this man and the number of lives, like mine, who were affected in as much as we will NEVER be able to be married or have our marriages recognized on our home states”

    Right, it was all the doing of one man. One single man. And if that man had not existed, Ohioans and others would have voted entirely differently and would have demonstrated their unambigous and deeply-felt passion in favor of same-sex marriage.


    And if passage of same-sex marriage in the New York Legislature and repeal of DADT had just been left to the loud-mouthed, rainbow-flag-waving blowhards, we would have won by huge margins rather than the narrow margins we did.

  16. Robert in NYC says

    Sorry, Ken, apology NOT accepted. You’re still supporting John Boehner, one of the most virulent homophobes who wants DOMA defended. Have you no shame or decency?

    People seem to think he alone managed to get 4 republicans to vote for marriage equality in our state. He wasn’t the only one, in fact two people far more influential and powerful, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Gov. Cuomo who did far more.

  17. Dan CobbD says

    My experience with people without a moral compass is that their apologies are hollow and EVERYTHING is done as a strategic move. There is no moral compass inside them. They are incapable of having any sense whatsoever of wether something is right or wrong. They only interests they can possibly conceive of in the world is their own personal immediate selfish interests. This is my impression of Mr. Mehlman. The likelihood that a person who has been so intentionally destructive of the lives of gay people in the past will suddenly (or ever!) develop a conscience is nil.

  18. Caliban says

    Don’t even get me started.

    He may have come out publicly after 2004 but you can’t tell me he didn’t know he was gay then and it didn’t do a da*n thing to keep him from promoting homophobia as a political weapon. And now he’s supporting Boehner?

    Eff off and die, Ken, your “apology” is just more of the self-serving BS we’ve come to expect from you and every other GOP gay sociopath.

  19. Jeff says

    What exactly is wrong with rainbow flags, and what’s wrong with not conforming to 1950’s gender roles? And I’m no scholar, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t closeted conservative choirboys who got the gay rights movement up and running.

    What’s with all these self-loathing worms who preach “traditional family values” when the camera’s turned on, and then go to their hotel room to suck off a rent boy?

  20. Michael says

    Take a good look, gay men and boys around the world. Sear it into your memory. That is the face of a man who should never be able to get laid in the U.S. ever again. Let him go to his grave celibate for what he’s done and continues to do.

  21. TJ says

    RYAN IN SACTO – oh no, all thanks go to you. I treasure a good guffaw. Fortunately, I had swallowed my sip of coffee; otherwise, I’d have done a major spew-take!

  22. GeorgeM says

    I appreciate his apology and welcome any help he may give. However He’s still not someone I would be friends with. I understand people’s anger and I think you have a right to feel that.

    Rick its typical you would want people to sit home and do nothing to make things better, no one does that better then you.
    Reminder: republicans (aka you) filibustered DADT repeal, had anti gay republicans not done that we could have done it with 51 votes (all dems) but O well it’s done until a republican president puts it back in.
    I do however agree that glitter bombs are Dumb and need to STOP. But hell Rick what do you do constructive besides sit home and let other do the work?

  23. Andrew says

    I’m totally conflicted about this guy.

    On the one hand, I strongly believe in forgiveness (Nelson Mandela’s example has been instructive). And Ken’s work behind the scenes was instrumental in passing marriage equalit in NY.

    On the other hand, how can he CONTINUE supporting the Speaker of the House?? Astounding cognitive dissonance.

  24. Will says

    The homophobia this guy whipped up drove people to the polls to vote republican, probably resulting in the election of George Bush. Think of all the conservative judges Bush appointed – the damage from that campaign will be felt for decades. This guy was, and will always be Gay Public Enemy. He was silent when it was to his benefit. Coming out after the fact was easy and weak.

  25. RyanInSacto says

    I have a to-do list for Mr. Mehlman. Undo the same-sex marriage bans that passed as a result of the RNC’s targeted campaigns in 2004 in the following 11 STATES:
    North Dakota

    I mean, New York was great and all, but it was *New York* which means that getting same-sex marriage passed – while wonderful and exhilarating – was not exactly pulling the sword from the stone. Let’s see him lobby successfully to overturn the bans in Utah or Kentucky or Oklahoma and then we’ll talk about redemption.

  26. Akira says

    He is one of the most despicable person ever. You apology is way to late, way to shallow and you should shove it up your A**hole. Apology not accepted.

  27. says

    hey RICK, got proof of the work YOU’VE done for LGBT Equality?

    as far as i can see, all you’ve done, RICK, is come on here every day, complain about “femmes”, say something about Lady Gaga, then run back away into the Closet you’re destined to die in when asked for any proof at all, via URL or your own youtube video, where you show us all the EXAMPLE YOU CLAIM TO LIVE BY.

    ugh you’re such a coward. no wonder your dad wished you’d just die and spare him the embarrassment of having to admit to fathering you.

    anyway, Mehlman has done some good in the last few years. But he’s still Boehner-suck up, which does indeed negate a lot of that work.

    So he’s still got a lot to learn about being a Big Boy with Real Man Balls

    *le sigh*

    but seriously, to the RICK’s and his aliases and any other gay republican cowards who come on here complaining every day about liberals and “Stereotypical Gays”….

    show us what bloody work you claim to be doing.

    it’s oh so easy. provide the URL. your own page. your own youtube video.

    for once, may you little conservative white boys actually grown some balls and put your money where you mouth is.

    don’t just come on here and complain about all the Out gays who you resent for being braver than you, actually SHOW US what you’re doing to make a difference in this country for LGBT Equality.

    truly. Show it. It’s so easy even a stereotypical homo like ME can do it.

  28. says

    Another back pedaling republican who says they are sorry AFTER the damage is done. Unfortunately he is one of us, boycott the mf, don’t have anything to do with any business or organization he has anything to do with and if you ever have the opportunity to meet him in person, let him know how you feel about what he did.

  29. Dan says

    My problem with the Gay Republicans, is that they would like their party to remove the scapegoat target status of gay people but they appear to be blind to the fact that their beloved party is addicted to scapegoating and discrimination, and will simply transfer their attacks to the GOP target of the moment. In 2008 and 2012 Hispanics bore the brunt of their demagoguery, though they seem to be gearing up for a full attack on women’s access to contraception. It’s not just this one thing – the homophobic thing – that is wrong with the GOP, it is the mindset of greed, and fear mongering and hatefulness that leads them there.

  30. noteasilyoffended says

    Can’t we just send this ass to one of Michelle Bachmann’s husband’s re-assignment camps so that he can go “straight” and we can at least have an honesty enemy?

  31. mini says

    While it would be great if Mehlman was consistently on the right side of civil rights, I wouldn’t count on it. Whatever “reparations” he thinks he’s done, he has a long, long way to go.

    We have much better political actors, gay, straight and otherwise, on a broader scale. Where Mehlman is important is in that small, but growing, niche of the political right that is aware that this is a losing issue for them message-wise and, therefore, politically.

    That’s not half bad.

  32. says

    He also helped get W. elected, who then caused millions to loose their jobs, wasted billions on a fake war, and destroyed the national economy.
    I know we can’t put Mehlman on a no dating list because there’ll always be skank rubes who’ll drop to their knees in three seconds. But can’t we at least cancel his membership card?

  33. says

    Mehlman walks into the World of Gays and asks if we like his pretty red dress. “No”, we reply, ‘because we know what you had to do to get it that deep red color.”

    it goes far beyond just “gays” – this man contributed to a massive downward spiral for millions of Americans.

    now, i DO believe that everyone is capable of redeeming themselves. but that takes years and years of direct action to undo what they helped create.

    i truly hope, for his own sake, that he works damned hard for the rest of his life.

  34. ShawntheSheep says

    Sorry Rick. When 90% of democrats support gay rights and 1% of republicans do, you don’t get to claim that the repubs are responsible for our advances towards equality. While “apologizing” for his past actions, Mehlman is actively supporting Boehner’s re-election. The guy is a lying, two-faced, hypocritical quisling, like all gay Republicans.

  35. Perry says

    Sorry Ken. You just cannot have it both ways.

    You cannot apologize for your past transgressions against GLBT equality yet STILL be out there fundraising for GOP bigots like John Boehner.

    Get real, man!

  36. George the fifth says

    Have Towleroad readers seen the 2004 RNC flyer for Arkansas that screamed about how “they want to ban the Bible but let homosexuals marry!!”? After seeing that — and his BS at the time about the gay rumors interfering with his (hetero) dating life — it’s hard not to hate this man’s guts.

    His apologizing is appropriate, and is a start, and is vastly better than his being too proud to apologize, or failing to acknowledge the wrongness and harm of what he did.

    He now has an opportunity that few people have to influence things in conservative/Republican circles, and he better freakin’ use that opportunity. And if he truly cares about marriage equality as he says he does, then he had better support Obama over Romney, Santorum, Gingrich, or Paul.

    I also hope very much that he makes a special point to interact with the GOP in Arkansas.

  37. Thomas Cardellino says

    I’m incapable of knowing just how ugly his closet was when Ken Mehlman decided years ago, and for a duration of many years, to sell out his community for his personal enrichment by the millions of dollars, but this was not just one moment’s decision that was harmful for a few moments to follow. This was a grand moral sell-out for the chance at being enriched for the rest of his carnally craven life. Let’s see, Ken darling, just how many millions of dollars did the Republicans pay you to play the violin while your fellow gay folks were figuratively (except for the multitude of societally-induced suicides and the uncountable fatalities from gay-bashing right wingers) marched past you into the 21st century gas chambers of politically endorsed homophobia? What’s that worth to you, Mr. Affluence from Republican hate? Let’s make a deal, okay Ken? Why don’t you, instead of grandstanding now as if you’re some kind of hero at the podium before the socially outcast you helped to be outcasts, why don’t you divest and divulge your sorry self of the millions of dollars you made as a political Mata Hari whore to the most hateful politicians of the 21st century’s first decade? You seem to like to make grand financial gestures as long as you are surrounded by sycophants holding cocktails with their gay checkbooks, but why do you want to piecemeal dribble out your own ill-gotten wealth except for the phony glory of holding Upper East Side fund raisers amongst your fellow closeted or “under-the-gaydar” wealth-by-stealth self-fattened pigs? Give it up now, Ken! Give out those multiple millions to LGBT political causes in one fell swoop instead of constantly bemoaning (without commensurate reparations) your sold-out past, the only reason you don’t live in Bayonne with a monthly budget! I’ve seen some dastardly gay guys profit to the tune of 5 million dollars or more in life insurance from their AIDS-stricken “spouses'” deaths while the soon-to-be pitiable widower sexually cheated on the “golden goose” on his deathbed. But your betrayal goes way beyond the personal dereliction of such miscreants! Give it away, Ken! Wear a hair-shirt and see if anyone thinks your “talents” are worthy of redemption, you fraud!

  38. Thomas Cardellino says

    Thanks, TJ, but i must admit that the disembodied spirit of Paul Lynde took control of my hunt-n-peck fingers while I seethed about the “convenience” of Mehlman’s soporific “apology” 8 years after the fact, and equivalent years after the Republican Billionaires could demand back their Mehlman assigned blood money.

  39. aj says

    What “damage” have you done,you ask? well to begin with 37 States have Constitutional Amendments or Laws prohibiting or preventing Same Sex Marriage! Now that means that in 37 States, which have enshrined one of the most damaging challenge to full equal rights since Anti-Miscegenation Laws, and you ask what Damage You’ve? Well I for one say to you if you want full recognition for your transgressions against “Your” Community (sic), then your penance is to work toward the repeal of each and every one of those statutes, amendments, or laws. When you have achieved that penance then you may ask for admittance to “Our” Community and until then you remain “ostracized”! It’s that simple, restitution before forgiveness!!

  40. The Realist says


    Put on a pair of jeans, some good walking shoes, grab a bull horn, and MARCH your sorry ass over to boehner’s residence. Make a public announcement that you will be protesting Boehner’s defense of DOMA, allowing the hate groups enough time to organize. State the case for equality, over the the hate-filled rhetoric of said groups, and announce that you will fight, to the death, to defeat him and the republican establishment, in honor of the thousands of LGBT’s that have been beaten and killed, committed suicide, and suffered inequality due, in large part, by your actions.
    Convince your Log Cabin and “GO PROUD” contacts to join you in this protest and, perhaps, you will gain some credit.

    One day out of your tailored suit, publicly denouncing you actions and those of the establishment you helped build, MIGHT, gain you some respect in the larger LGBT community.

    But, i suspect that’s not the respect you desire.

  41. jamal49 says

    Sorry? Ken, honey, sorry doesn’t cut it. You KNEW what was going on and you let it happen. You ARE responsible, Ken, and no amount of “mea culpa” will EVER undo the damage your cowardice caused. I don’t buy your apology one bit. The only thing you should be sorry about, Ken, is that you exist. THAT is damned sorry.

  42. Rick says

    So many stupid, stupid people.

    The only way our problems will ever be solved is if bridges are built to those whose minds need to be changed…..but instead, you people delude yourself into the idea that you are somehow going to force them to change and that the way to proceed is to be obnoxious towards them.

    As I have observed before, the gay movement started at about the same time as the civil rights movement and the women’s movement, but its achievements have paled besides those of the other two……and it is because of just such stupidity as you see in this thread that it has.

    The movement has become largely populated by a bunch of extremist whackos who live outside the social mainstream and who therefore have little influence and therefore rarely get the results they want…..unless people like Mehlman intervene…..but when they do and try to make amends for mistakes they might have made in the past, they get no thanks or forgiveness, but only hatred and viciousness.

    You people deserve your fates; you really and truly do……and it is no wonder that most gay people do not want anything to do with activists and consider them an embarrassment rather than people who represent them…..

  43. says

    perhaps you could show the rest of us, Rick, the more-effective example of a Gay Man that you claim to be.

    it’s very easy. all you have to do is provide the URL to your own page or youtube video where you show us all the strong manly masculine empowered Gay Male Role Model Example that you keep talking about.

    so, show us. it’s so easy. URL. what’s holding you back?

  44. says

    Rick, our fates?

    The problem with that (along with the rest of your argument, which is too weak to even merit comment) is that most of us who comment here already live fully out, happy lives, surrounded by partners, friends, and family–unlike the coward Ken Mehlman who quivered in the closet until middle-age while working on behalf of a long list of homophobes. Now, he’s trying to repent for his past sins and failing at that, too, since he’s still kissing the a$$ of the head cheerleader for DOMA. He’s a sad creature trying to find some dignity after squandering his integrity for years.

    Those of us who live in marriage equality states don’t owe Ken a thing. He, on the other hand, owes us a ton of gratitude for paving the way for closet cases like him to have a second act. We’ve made huge progress but it was in spite of not because of people like him.

  45. says

    frankly, i’m rather tired of Closeted guys complaining about what Out guys are doing, or not Doing

    don’t like how “gays are represented”? step out of the anonymous online closet and REPRESENT YOURSELF.

    truly. we Out gays aren’t going anywhere, if you think you can do a better job, then Come Out.

    and better yet, rather than complain on here that we’re all doing it “wrong”, prove that you’re a real man and provide the URL where you show us all the specific work you’re doing, in the specific way you’re doing it.

    you can’t blame others for “misrepresenting you” when you don’t have the balls to stand up to be counted and represent yourself with the same courage, openness and integrity.

  46. says

    HAHAHAH. indeed 😉

    it’s just one of the most telling things – those with the unending litany of complaints are also those who aren’t man enough to do the Work themselves.

    don’t tell us what “we’re” doing wrong, SHOW US what YOU are doing right.

    but they can’t. because they’re not doing anything.

  47. GeorgeM says

    We are stronger as a community without people who harm and divide us.

    Not all of us would turn his help away, we just wish you’d give some to.
    Changing minds is great, but at times forcing is the only way. Tell me are you against state legislatures or courts creating equality? I not going to continue to ask people for permission to be me or have what they have, that may work for you rick but not me. I don’t give a S-it if people ever agree with my marriage, they shouldnt have a say in MY relationship. Only republicans want us voted on, you to??

  48. Rob says

    How fun to watch gay Republicans twist in the rhetorical breeze. As soon as they open their mouths they are at cross purposes with all that we as gay people need. Pray tell what Republicans will he support, then? Romney? Santorum? Boehner is a reactionary to the tune of David Duke- being associated with him in any way is inherently shameful.

    He can flex his muscles all he wants “behind the scenes” but personally I wish he would just shut the hell up. We don’t need morally bankrupt weirdos like him on our side. He doesn’t fit in gay or straight circles now and is sliding into irrelevance because of his outrageously poor choices.

    As my classmate Nancy said, he buttered his bread, now he can just lie in it.

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