No Middle Ground on Hesse's Brian Brown Profile
Sunday’s ombudsman’s column did little to quell the commotion over Style writer Monica Hesse’s recent profile of Brian Brown, whose organization is leading the fight against same-sex marriage. Judging from about 200 e-mails, calls and online comments over the past several days, it’s clear that this is one of those issues where there is little middle ground.
Readers who favor same-sex marriage continued to express outrage over the story. Those opposed to same-sex marriage continued to applaud it. And more than a few took issue with Hesse’s decision to include a bit about her sexual history in her e-mailed responses to readers who were upset by the story.
For those new to the controversy: It centers on Hesse’s August 28 Style section profile of Brown, executive director of the National Organization for Marriage. The thrust of the story is that Brown is unlike some leading opponents of gay marriage who use incendiary language to whip up support. Rather, it said, Brown uses a civil tone and is effective because he is “pleasantly, ruthlessly sane.”
My column found no fault with Hesse’s research. But chief among my criticisms was that the story did not include comments from Brown’s opponents who believe he is intolerant and a bigot.
Hesse’s story “seemed quite fair and also well-reported...and, frankly, refreshing that a fellow (Brown) with such a point of view was getting a fair shake,” wrote a female reader from Washington.
“I want to thank the Washington Post for having the courage to publish anything positive about opponents to same-sex marriage,” wrote another reader. “I am sick and tired of anybody who says anything negative about homosexual behavior being automatically labeled a ‘bigot’.”
But a reader from Milwaukee echoed a common complaint from many others. He said Hesse was “the person who gave voice to the person (Brown) who is attempting to make gays and lesbians second class citizens.”
“It was a shallow piece,” wrote online commenter Gatsby10. “Brian Brown may have good manners and be well-educated, but that does not excuse his dreadful bigotry.”
And this from online commenter ClarkBarr2007: “Hesse wrote a puff piece on a very hateful man. That’s the bottom line.”
My Sunday column ended by quoting from an e-mail Hesse had been sending to critics of her profile. To those who accused her of pursuing a homophobic agenda, she wrote: "My current partner is a man. Before him, my partner of two years was a woman, with whom I discussed health insurance, kids, houses and marriage. You can bet that I found the fact that our marriage wouldn't have been legal to be wrong as hell.
"That doesn't mean that what NOM is trying to do and how they are trying to do it are not important to hear about.”
Too much information, e-mailed a reader from Arlington. “First it was a woman. Her ‘current partner’ is a man,” he wrote. “Do keep us posted on whatever is the next arrangement.”
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