Following the final presidential debate on October 13, conservatives have been quick to accuse Senator John Kerry of "outing" Vice President Dick Cheney's daughter, Mary Cheney, when he stated: "We're all God's children, Bob [Schieffer, debate moderator]. And I think if you were to talk to Dick Cheney's daughter, who is a lesbian, she would tell you that she's being who she was, she's being who she was born as."
But far from constituting a disclosure of a previously non-public fact, Kerry's reference to Mary Cheney as a lesbian during the third debate in response to a question about homosexuality was merely a restatement of something that the Cheney family -- Dick, Lynne and Mary -- have been very open about. The vice president himself mentioned his "gay daughter" in an Iowa town hall meeting in August, and he thanked Senator John Edwards during the vice presidential debate on October 5 after Edwards remarked: "And you can't have anything but respect for the fact that they're [the Cheneys] willing to talk about the fact that they have a gay daughter, the fact that they embrace her. It's a wonderful thing."
Mary Cheney was responsible for gay community outreach as lesbian/gay corporate relations manager for Coors Brewing Company and served as a member of the advisory board of the Republican Unity Coalition, a gay-straight alliance formed within the Republican party. According to an Associated Press article, Mary Cheney helped the GOP recruit gay voters during the 2002 midterm elections. As Margaret Carlson noted in the Los Angeles Times, "Mary Cheney is happily in the public eye."
Nonetheless, conservatives have claimed Kerry "outed" Mary Cheney:
Morton M. Kondracke (Roll Call executive editor): I want to say something that I forgot to mention in the vice presidential debate because Kerry repeated it tonight, which I think is totally underhanded, and that is the outing of Dick Cheney's lesbian daughter. [FOX News Channel, post-debate analysis, October 13]
Rush Limbaugh: Now, John Kerry wants to say, Bob, I firmly believe that homosexuality is not a choice. That's fine. Let him say what he - what he - what he thinks. To bring Vice President Cheney's daughter into it. To violate her privacy. He talked about privacy a lot in this debate last night but he doesn't give a whit about Mary Cheney's privacy. He [Kerry] saw fit to out her to people who don't know. [Rush Limbaugh Show, October 14]
Dr. James Dobson (radio host, and founder and chairman of the board of Focus on the Family): Right. There was something that Senator Kerry said that bothers me even more than outing Vice President Cheney's daughter, which I thought was terrible. It wasn't fair. It was an invasion of her privacy. I don't even know if she's outed herself. But what bothered me more was the assertion, which nobody challenged, that she was born that way. [FOX News Channel, Hannity & Colmes, October 14]
Wall Street Journal: Mr. and Mrs. Cheney have not kept their daughter's lesbianism a secret but neither have they shouted it to the sky. (In the days before the GOP Convention the Vice President mentioned it briefly at a campaign rally in Davenport, Iowa.) By outing Mary Cheney before millions of viewers on prime-time television, Messrs. Kerry and Edwards may hope to score points with their base of gay activists. [Wall Street Journal, Review & Outlook, October 15
NewsMax.com: The White House blasted John Kerry Wednesday night for outing Vice President Dick Cheney's daughter as a "lesbian" during the third and final presidential debate. ... FOX [News Channel] debate panelist Mort Kondracke said Kerry's "outing" of Mary Cheney was a calculated effort to damage the Bush-Cheney ticket in the eyes of conservative voters. ["Firestorm Erupts Over Kerry's 'Lesbian' Attack," October 14]
Salon.com's Eric Boehlert reminded readers of another instance in which Mary Cheney's lesbianism was publicly discussed. "[T]he Cheneys themselves remained relatively quiet last month when the Republican candidate for the Senate in Illinois, Alan Keyes, called homosexuals, and specifically Cheney's daughter, 'selfish hedonists,'" Boehlert noted, adding that the Cheneys' relative lack of public outrage over Keyes' comments "raises suspicion that the current outrage is politically driven."