White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki is being roasted by conservatives for a tweet in which she referred to Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) as “Lady G,” a reference to allegations made by a gay adult film actor against Graham.
In June 2020, gay porn star Sean Harding made allegations on his Twitter account that there was “a homophobic Republican senator who is no better than Trump who keeps passing legislation that is damaging to the LGBT and minority communities.” Harding claimed that that many male escorts had been hired by the senator, whom he referred to as “LG.”
Following Harding’s accusations, detractors of Graham assumed he was talking about the 65-year-old South Carolina senator, who has never married and has no children, and began referring to Graham on social media with the hashtags #LadyGraham and #LadyG.
Another male sex worker then posted an article on Medium.com — which has since been removed — detailing an alleged encounter with “Lady G,” whom he named as Graham and included humiliating and demeaning details about Graham’s body. Harding’s were later reported in an article in The Washington Post on the — very American — historical trend of rumors about single politicians’ sex lives.
Psaki was one of millions of Twitter users to employ the hashtag, using it to criticize him for pushing “debunked conspiracy theories” during his questioning of Sally Yates, the former Deputy Attorney General, about her actions and those of the Justice Department in response to accusations of Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether President Trump and people in the incoming administration had sought help from foreign powers.
“Only in 2020 does #LadyG get to push a bunch of debunked conspiracy theories while questioning @SallyQYates (aka an American hero),” Psaki tweeted on her personal Twitter account on Aug. 5, 2020, as Yates was being questioned by the Senate Judiciary Committee, which Graham chaired.
— Jen Psaki (@jrpsaki) August 5, 2020
The tweet — made during a nasty presidential campaign when supporters of Biden and Trump engaged in back-and-forth arguments or “clapbacks” on social media — has not been deleted.
But conservatives are outraged, seeing a “double standard” in the way that liberals like Psaki, who was a CNN analyst at the time, are treated for engaging in homophobic tropes.
Many also took exception to Twitter’s failure to delete Psaki’s personal Twitter account, temporarily block her from the platform, or flag the tweet as a violation of its policy against language that is discriminatory or incites hatred against protected groups.
“If you want to know what a media double standard looks like, Jen Psaki, as a CNN employee, can tweet this, get hired to be a White House Press Secretary, and not even feel compelled to delete it after it was unsurfaced a few days ago. She doesn’t care. She’s on the same team,” Fourth Watch editor Steve Krakauer tweeted.
If you want to know what a media double standard looks like, Jen Psaki, as a CNN employee, can tweet this, get hired to be a White House Press Secretary, and not even feel compelled to delete it after it was unsurfaced a few days ago. She doesn’t care. She’s on the same team. https://t.co/MDpadFLSSk
— Steve Krakauer (@SteveKrak) February 3, 2021
Richard Grenell, the former U.S. ambassador to Germany and the first out LGBTQ cabinet-level appointee, who served as the Acting Director of National Intelligence from February to May 2020, demanded that Psaki be condemned for her tweet.
“Homophobia and intolerance from the Left is growing. This should be widely condemned,” Grenell tweeted.
Homophobia and intolerance from the Left is growing.
— Richard Grenell (@RichardGrenell) February 3, 2021
Grenell also shared a tweet from OutSpoken, a project of the Log Cabin Republicans intended to represent the views of LGBTQ conservatives.
“[Psaki’s] tweet raises serious questions about how heterosexual liberals feel emboldened to demean, harass, and mock LGBT conservatives specifically for their sexuality — behavior they would never consider exhibiting toward other LGBTs,” OutSpoken tweeted.
Grenell then responded with a demand for an apology, writing: “@PressSec should apologize to the gay community. This is the type of demeaning language we should all be against. This isn’t partisan.”
— Richard Grenell (@RichardGrenell) February 2, 2021
Graham’s office was less than amused when asked to comment by Fox News on Psaki’s tweet.
“Very disappointed someone in her position would embrace this style politics,” Kevin Bishop, a spokesman for Graham’s office, told Fox News. “It says more about her than it does about Senator Graham.”
Other conservatives pointed out Psaki’s — and by extension, the Biden administration’s — double standard for homophobic attacks on social media.
“So let’s circle back to this homophobic tweet from @PressSec, who used a gay slur to trash Lindsey Graham,” tweeted one user. “Try not to be a bigot at your next job Jen.”
So let's circle back to this homophobic tweet from @PressSec, who used a gay slur to trash Lindsey Graham.
Try not to be a bigot at your next job Jen.https://t.co/mydsEBZZyY
— Cassandra (@CassyWearsHeels) February 3, 2021
T.W. Arrighi, the national press secretary for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, who previously worked for Graham, piled on.
“Wait, are you really leaving this tweet up, @PressSec? Hard to believe you could be so oblivious to the false, scurrilous, and offensive nature of that hashtag. Or, then again, maybe you’re not. So much for a “new tone” in the White House… #DeleteIt.”
Wait, are you really leaving this tweet up, @PressSec?
Hard to believe you could be so oblivious to the false, scurrilous, and offensive nature of that hashtag. Or, then again, maybe you’re not.
— T.W. Arrighi (@twarrighi) February 3, 2021
Some liberal or Left-leaning Twitter users also condemned the remarks, while claiming that Republicans were attempting to manufacture outrage over the tweet.
“There’s a lot of bad-faith Republicans faking outrage at this but I think this tweet is garbage and you should take it down,” one tweeted.
There's a lot of bad-faith Republicans faking outrage at this but I think this tweet is garbage and you should take it down.
— 🎄 Stephie Jay 🇲🇽 🇱🇧 (@StephieTheLefty) February 3, 2021
“lol, seeing lots of homophobic conservatives pretending to be outraged about this (honestly, some backlash is probably deserved for this tho),” wrote another user.
lol, seeing lots of homophobic conservatives pretending to be outraged about this (honestly, some backlash is probably deserved for this tho)
— KnowNothing (@KnowNothingTV) February 3, 2021
“Homophobia isn’t good no matter who does it. If Lindsey Graham came out as gay tomorrow, I literally couldn’t care less at this point. Would he be a hypocrite? Sure. But policy >>>> hypocrisy. Focus on that and please stop this nonsense,” a third tweeted.
Homophobia isn’t good no matter who does it. If Lindsey Graham came out as gay tomorrow, I literally couldn’t care less at this point. Would he be a hypocrite? Sure. But policy >>>> hypocrisy. Focus on that and please stop this nonsense 🏳️🌈
— The Boy from Wilmy (@mrjonasbryson) February 3, 2021
Psaki has yet to respond to requests for comment.
These are challenging times for news organizations. And yet it’s crucial we stay active and provide vital resources and information to both our local readers and the world. So won’t you please take a moment and consider supporting Metro Weekly with a membership? For as little as $5 a month, you can help ensure Metro Weekly magazine and MetroWeekly.com remain free, viable resources as we provide the best, most diverse, culturally-resonant LGBTQ coverage in both the D.C. region and around the world. Memberships come with exclusive perks and discounts, your own personal digital delivery of each week’s magazine (and an archive), access to our Member's Lounge when it launches this fall, and exclusive members-only items like Metro Weekly Membership Mugs and Tote Bags! Check out all our membership levels here and please join us today!