Brandon Ambrosino | Ezra Klein | News

Anger Grows at Ezra Klein for Hiring Gay Writer Who Fuels the Animus of Anti-Gay Conservatives

Yesterday, we reported that Ezra Klein had hired writer Brandon Ambrosino, described by Americablog as a "Falwell-loving, gay-bashing gay" to write for his news and policy site Vox.com. You may recall that back in January we reported on Ambrosino's article, “I Wasn't Born This Way. I Choose to Be Gay”:

B_ambrosinoIn the article, Ambrosino never actually says that he chose to be gay. Rather, he conflates sexual activity with sexual identity, saying that “ I’ve convinced a few men to try out my sexuality." By this thinking, people “choose to be gay” only when they engage in gay sex. He later applies this thinking to transgender people too, suggesting that trans people exercise “sexual autonomy” when they follow their own modes of gender expression.

Previously Ambrosino has written articles about his experiences being gay at Liberty University (see photo with Jerry Falwell), an article on how opposing gay marriage doesn’t make you a bigot, a piece suggesting that we shouldn’t silence anti-equality celebrities and an MLK-Day column on how gay activists should try listening to and loving their enemies more.

Many LGBT bloggers have refuted Ambrosino’s piece, including a comprehensive take-down by Evan Hurst at Truth Wins Out comparing Ambrosino’s rhetoric to that of anti-gay advocates, a critique by John Aravosis suggesting that Ambrosino needs to get current with Martin Luther King’s legacy, and Noah Michelson's at Gay Voices which says electroconvulsive therapy, exorcisms and “corrective rape" all stem from the idea that people can un-choose their sexual and gender identities.

KleinKlein commented on the hiring today in an interview with Gabriel Arana at The American Prospect, saying he hadn't even read his writing when he hired him:

So the big question: Why has a string of editors, culminating with Klein, given this guy a platform? In an interview on Wednesday evening, Klein told me he hadn't read the pieces that had kicked up so much dust before bringing Ambrosino on but did so once he began facing criticism for the hire. “I don’t want to pretend that I have the context and the background to perfectly or authoritatively judge this debate," Klein said. "But when I read his pieces, I didn’t come away with the impression that he holds an iota of homophobia.”

“Homophobia”—which activists too often use as shorthand to describe anti-gay views that don’t necessarily stem from fear—may be the wrong word for it. But even a cursory read through Ambrosino's writings should raise red flags. Klein, though, seems mystified by the blowback. He acknowledges that he is new to the process of staffing an enterprise like Vox. “I gotta be honest,” he said. “With a lot of this stuff, I’m trying to figure out what success means.”

The pick has media folks scratching their heads and others outraged. Media Matters noted that anti-gay conservatives have chosen Ambrosino as their guy:

Ambrosino's gay contrarianism has won him a loyal base of right-wing fans - including Glenn Beck, Breitbart News, and TownHall.com - all of whom have lauded Ambrosino's work. It's not difficult to discern why. In repeatedly depicting the LGBT community as the real problem, Ambrosino offers the anti-LGBT right the reassuring message that they aren't doing anything wrong. And when they want to defend comparisons of gay people with mass murderers and child molesters, anti-gay conservatives have a gay writer they can hide behind to shield themselves from accusations of bigotry.

Andrew Sullivan comes to Ambrosino's defense:

He’s just got a gig as a writing fellow at Vox, for Pete’s sake. Give him time and some mentoring and editing (which is presumably what such a fellowship is for), and his 23-year-old talent might indeed go on to become more thoughtful and nuanced. And why would these harrumphing lefties want to stop that?

Could it be because they don’t actually want to continue the dialogue with people of faith, but rather seek to leverage the growing majority in favor of gay equality to rhetorically bludgeon the “bigots” into submission, to create a world in which they call the shots the way homophobes used to? Could it be that they enjoy policing the discourse now that they seem in the majority? This latest surge of gay intolerance needs to be beaten back as forcefully as the anti-gay right’s cornered animus. It’s particularly brutal when that intolerance is directed at a young gay writer whose work and life are being trashed as somehow illegitimate. If anything is anti-gay in this kerfuffle, that is.

But Michelangelo Signorile pretty accurately summed up the predominant feeling:

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Comments

  1. Hey Ezra, that's the sound of MSNBC slamming the door in your face for good.

    Posted by: Steve | Mar 13, 2014 9:20:10 PM


  2. This is the bisexual vs gay debate writ large. Bisexual men can choose their sex partners like they choose their gym shorts, but gay men cannot, and so any bi guy going around talking about how he choose to sleep with the mailman instead of the milkmaid will no doubt get conservatives excited, but they shouldn't, because he's the exception, not the rule. As a rule, however, AS is an idiot.

    Posted by: anon | Mar 13, 2014 9:23:45 PM


  3. Andrew Sullivan is mentally ill.

    Posted by: MARCUS BACHMANN | Mar 13, 2014 9:25:54 PM


  4. Just wow. Go ahead and fuel the neocon victim mentality. Look how horribly we're treating a member of our own community just because he has vocal opinions that are at odds with the prevailing politically correct talking points.

    Most of the vilification I see directed at Mr. Ambrosino comes from a constituency that has already lost its legitimacy to represent the full spectrum of queer identity. Consider that many of us Millenials either agree or are sympathetic to his views.

    Quashing dissent and smearing the character of those with whom we disagree is an awful choice, and vindicates those who would paint us as bullies bent on conformity.

    Posted by: Daniel` | Mar 13, 2014 9:26:53 PM


  5. Ezra Klein is a tool. I've said it before and I'll say it again. It should surprise no one that he hired a tool just like him.

    Klein's job is to try to use psuedo-intellectualism to justify "third way" neo liberal BS policy, so it's par for the course that he'd hire the guy who's doing the same thing for the right wing on gay rights.

    What "contrarian" will Klein hire next? A pretend socialist who thinks Goldman Sachs is taxed too high?

    Posted by: Ryan | Mar 13, 2014 9:27:33 PM


  6. I've always thought Klein was an idiot and never once understood his appeal. That he would hire an idiot is no surprise to me at all.

    I was never going to have anything to do with this new enterprise, anyway, so I can't say they've lost a reader -- but I sure hope he loses a great deal of the ones he might have had, otherwise.

    Posted by: oncemorewithfeeling | Mar 13, 2014 9:40:03 PM


  7. How about a White Supremacist?

    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Mar 13, 2014 9:40:15 PM


  8. Why hire Ambrosino when Rush Limbaugh, Ted Cruz, Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck are already filling the anti-gay, bigot position so well??

    Posted by: merci2 | Mar 13, 2014 9:40:47 PM


  9. Give the kid a break. Maybe he gives good blowjobs.

    Posted by: Cunty McCunterson | Mar 13, 2014 9:45:37 PM


  10. I'm usually delighted by polemic bad-asses but given the nature, or should I say struggle, of the global struggle for LGBT equality, this seems rather self-serving. Great publicity though.

    Posted by: Martin | Mar 13, 2014 9:48:30 PM


  11. Daniel - Truth is a legal defense against libel - no one is smearing Ambrosino - his inexplicable narcissistic self-loathing is not a gay character trait - it is his -- and definitely Andrew Sullivan's - and has nothing to do with their sexuality though everything to do wit the fact that they will never be as attractive, as desired, as wanted as their inexhaustible vanity desperately cries out for.

    Ambrosino is not qualified to write a grocery list -- anymore than the sad bear that is Sullivan is qualified to speak to any gay man about equality, dignity, or decency - since he knows nothing of the three.

    Here is a clue that you and Sullivan seem too dim-witted to see - Klein did not even bother to read Ambrosino before hiring him - which tells you all you need to know about how Klein really feels about LGBT issues.

    Posted by: Ricky | Mar 13, 2014 9:49:13 PM


  12. While I agree nobody pontificates as well as a 23 year old, and we hope his ego forms around a sense of inclusion eventually, who the hell is Andrew Sullivan - this kid's archetype if ever there was one - to point that out? He's no longer that blowhard and yet he hasn't improved so who will temper and educate this young prick? Ezra Klein is the metrosexual version of this overhyped kid, so where's the surprise? Nobody thought E was hiring Barney Frank, did they? Being oversure of your own popularity isn't limited to straights.

    Posted by: chevytexas | Mar 13, 2014 9:49:58 PM


  13. Klein's statement of his desire for "diversity" would logically also mean he should hire KKK members and neo-nazis

    all for "diversity"

    If he was smart klein would have said it was an underlings hiring mistake and nix the guy, but that route is now closed with klein defending the choice

    Posted by: moz's | Mar 13, 2014 9:54:54 PM


  14. It's long seemed to me that Sullivan's weakest spot is he cannot wrap his brain around the idea that conservatives don't think gays are people. Period.

    Posted by: Ben | Mar 13, 2014 9:56:53 PM


  15. Instead of hiring a rational right-wing counter to liberal gay clones, they hire a flaming stereotype of all they oppose, a repellant to corral liberals, a strawman to tear down, a clown to laugh at.

    Posted by: Kev C | Mar 13, 2014 10:26:18 PM


  16. I'd have been more inclined to cut Klein a break if he'd said he made a conscious decision to include Ambrosino's voice, but to say he hadn't even read the kid's stuff seems more than a little lazy, to say nothing of odd and insulting. Big fail.

    Posted by: James | Mar 13, 2014 10:28:30 PM


  17. How do I get a job where I'm hired with no review of my work? No cursory Internet check? No vetting?

    How clueless is Ezra Klein, and how did he get where he is with so little common sense? How did he get this possibly high-profile project funded with nobody looking over his shoulder?

    It seems that the press--especially what passes for Internet press--will hire anyone these days.

    Posted by: Tatts | Mar 13, 2014 10:31:51 PM


  18. "Bisexual men can choose their sex partners like they choose their gym shorts"

    "As a rule, however, AS is an idiot."

    "Andrew Sullivan is mentally ill."

    "Ezra Klein is a tool. I've said it before and I'll say it again. It should surprise no one that he hired a tool just like him."

    "I've always thought Klein was an idiot"

    "Why hire Ambrosino when Rush Limbaugh, Ted Cruz, Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck are already filling the anti-gay, bigot position so well??"

    "Give the kid a break. Maybe he gives good blowjobs."

    "his inexplicable narcissistic self-loathing is not a gay character trait - it is his -- and definitely Andrew Sullivan's - and has nothing to do with their sexuality though everything to do wit the fact that they will never be as attractive, as desired, as wanted as their inexhaustible vanity desperately cries out for."

    "Ambrosino is not qualified to write a grocery list -- anymore than the sad bear that is Sullivan is qualified to speak to any gay man about equality, dignity, or decency - since he knows nothing of the three.

    Here is a clue that you and Sullivan seem too dim-witted to see"

    "Klein's statement of his desire for "diversity" would logically also mean he should hire KKK members and neo-nazis"

    "a flaming stereotype of all they oppose, a repellant to corral liberals, a strawman to tear down, a clown to laugh at."

    Posted by: Daniel` | Mar 13, 2014 10:33:17 PM


  19. @Ricky
    Nailed it. Unread. Hired for clicks.

    @Martin
    Neither AS or BA are capable of taking off the blinders. It's the primary conservative hindrance. They can't see beyond selves to realize that their words resonate today to a global community. AS will always be an apologist for those that do him harm. Lately he's become vindictive for being called out for it.

    Controversy sells. Ezra Klein want to be the next Roger Ailes. Or at the very least Briebart. He doesn't even pretend that it's about ethics in politics or quality of journalism.

    Posted by: BOOM! | Mar 13, 2014 10:33:29 PM


  20. Leave it to the confused but arrogant Andrew Sullivan to defend this little creep.

    Posted by: Richard | Mar 13, 2014 10:35:35 PM


  21. ^^My exact point. Not one valid data point, not one rationally reasoned rebuttal, absolutely no open debate.

    In under 20 comments, I identified over fifteen specific insults, ranging from implying Klein's homophobia or at least apathy towards queer issues to insisting that Sullivan's and Ambrosino's moderately conservative point of views prove their "self-loathing". One comment even feels the need to demean me personally - without a single rebuttal to my "dim-witted" point.

    Vitriol and hate are not exclusive to the homophobes.

    Posted by: Daniel` | Mar 13, 2014 10:39:07 PM


  22. Sounds like a lot of people just want MSNBC to be as bad as FOX news, and just have a bunch of panelists sitting around agreeing with each other.

    Posted by: Hrm | Mar 13, 2014 10:42:48 PM


  23. I know it's fashionable to feign ignorance of something one would only know from the interwebs, but I've really never heard of vox.com and if this is an indication of how they staff whatever-it-is then I guess I'll remain ignorant. Maybe they should call it pox.com instead.

    Posted by: Hansel Currywurst | Mar 13, 2014 10:47:19 PM


  24. @Daniel

    Some things should be hated. And homophobia - internalized or not - is among them. Calling it "moderately conservative" only demonstrates your true attitude. Ambrosino's views have been discussed before so there's no need to do it again.

    Posted by: Eugene | Mar 13, 2014 10:58:51 PM


  25. Again, Eugene, I am calling for rational discourse. Sullivan is indeed a moderate conservative, by any measure of the word. He's hardly Breitbart or Limbaugh, and is to the left of Douthat - if you're using pundits as a guide. I take exception to your view that my objective view of the alleged self-loathing homophobes somehow provides a window on my personal attitudes.

    Have any of you read the articles in question? Even Sullivan criticized the article that did indeed conflate sexual choice with sexual identity. I've read all of the articles and I disagree with many, if not most of Ambrosino's points. However, how many of us could write detailed, nuanced explorations of human sexuality at 23?

    I think that this conformist, Us vs. Them attitude only hinders us. Yes, the queer community has been subjected to millenia of hatred and violence, but maybe we COULD indeed learn from the man who never said a single word about queer people, and turn the other cheek.

    Posted by: Daniel` | Mar 13, 2014 11:07:01 PM


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