In the wake of Cory Booker’s political opponent publicly questioning his sexuality, MSNBC’s Chris Hayes asked the Democratic Senate hopeful on Thursday: “Why not just come out?”
“From the perspective of the gay rights movement, from the perspective of the progress we have seen for LGBT rights, coming out has been a huge, morally important step to get the kind of acceptance we’ve seen,” Hayes said. “So my question is, if you are gay, why not just come out?”
Booker — who’s facing Republican Steve Lonegan for New Jersey’s Senate seat — didn’t bite.
“The question should not be whether I’m gay or straight. The question should be, ‘Why the heck are you asking the question in the first place?’ Booker responded. “It doesn’t make a bit of difference what kind of Senator I’m going to be.”
In an interview published by the Washington Post earlier this week, Booker said he delights in rumors about his sexuality, and purposely does not confirm or deny them because he wants to “challenge people on their homophobia.”
“I love seeing on Twitter when someone says I’m gay,” Booker said. “And I say, ‘So what does it matter if I am? So be it. I hope you are not voting for me because you are making the presumption that I’m straight.'”
Lonegan proceeded to call his Democratic opponent’s ambiguity “kind of weird” because, “as a guy, I kind of like being a guy.”
Hayes emphasized that he believes Lonegan is “behaving pretty dispicably” and that the conversation “is ridiculous,” but continued to push Booker on the issue “from a left perspective.”
“From a progressive perspective, there is a connection between the political and the personal,” Hayes said. “The connection between the political and the personal is that personally coming out has a very profound political effect. One does connect to the other because it creates a, kind of, seismic change in people’s perceptions.”
Booker didn’t budge on the issue, and continued to push his own point, which is that a candidate’s sexual orientation isn’t remotely relevant in a political race.
“What I’m trying to say to you is that I’ve affirmed my sexual orientation numerous times over the years,” Booker said. “The point I’m getting a chance to make right now — and I really, really want to drive this home — is that we need to stop in America talking about anyone in a public realm besides what is important: the content of their character, the quality of their ideas, and the courage in their hearts to serve others.”
Watch the conversation below: