How long does it take to write a tweet? Sixty seconds? Maybe a few minutes? Apparently, that was more time than a handful of presidential candidates had to spare on June 12, 2019.
Seven of the 2020 hopefuls did not tweet on Wednesday to recognize the third anniversary of the Pulse Nightclub shooting, in which 49 people were gunned down during Latin night at an Orlando gay bar. At the time, it was the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.
Those candidates number five Democrats and two Republicans.
Among the Democrats, Tulsi Gabbard, Wayne Messam, Mike Gravel, Andrew Yang, and Marianne Williamson did not post about Pulse on Twitter. Adding to that list, neither conservative in the 2020 race—Donald Trump or his lone primary challenger, William Weld—offered their own remembrance of the tragedy.
According to GLAAD, the president’s decision not to tweet about the shooting is “appalling, but not surprising.” The day before Pride month, Trump recognized the “outstanding contributions LGBTQ people have made to our great nation” in a widely-criticized tweet. He also took the opportunity to plug his “global campaign to decriminalize homosexuality.”
“Let us also stand in solidarity with the many LGBTQ people who live in dozens of countries worldwide that punish, imprison, or even execute individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation,” the POTUS wrote on May 31.
Notably, that tweet does not mention gender identity. It was also posted just days after the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced a proposal to rollback Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, which prevents federally funded health centers from denying care to trans people because of who they are.
“The further the calendar stretches into Pride month, the more LGBTQ voters find President Donald Trump’s ‘supportive’ tweet laughable,” claimed GLAAD Chief Programs Officer Zeke Stokes in a statement.
But what may come as more of a surprise to voters is the lack of comment in a Democratic field in which every candidate has expressed support for LGBTQ rights.
As NewNowNext previously reported, both Andrew Yang and Marianne Williamson have pages on their campaign website devoted to spelling out their platforms on LGBTQ equality. On his website, Yang states that he’s “always been pro-gay marriage,” while expressing support for recognizing sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes under federal law.
In addition to calling for the passage of the Equality Act, a nationwide nondiscrimination bill, on her website, Williamson recently discussed her history of HIV/AIDS activism with the LGBTQ publication Plus magazine.
While Tulsi Gabbard’s official 2020 page does not mention LGBTQ issues, a separate website devoted to her campaign platform calls her a “vocal advocate of equality for our LGBTQ community” and touts her 100 percent rating from HRC’s Congressional Equality Index. (In fact, her perfect HRC score is actually mentioned two separate times.)
Gabbard’s campaign also highlights her support for legislation like the Equality Act, LGBT Data Inclusion Act, and Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act. The latter two bills, respectively, call for the inclusion of questions about LGBTQ identity in federal data collection and banning conversion therapy.
However, the Hawaii Congresswoman has also come under fire for her past anti-LGBTQ views. Prior to running for office, she worked for the Alliance for Traditional Marriage, a pro-conversion therapy group run by her father, Mike Gabbard.
In a video posted in January, Gabbard apologized for her history of anti-LGBTQ advocacy.
“In my past, I said and believed things that were wrong, and worse, they were very hurtful to people in the LGBTQ community and their loved ones,” she said, adding that she “grew up in a socially conservative household where I was raised to believe that marriage should only be between a man and a woman.”
But when given the opportunity to offer words of support to survivors of the Pulse shooting and the families of victims on Wednesday, Gabbard tweeted out a campaign video instead.
While Messam does not appear to have addressed LGBTQ issues at this point in his campaign, the outsider candidate also serves as the mayor of Miramar, a South Florida city just over a three-hour drive from the Pulse memorial site. He has only ever tweeted about Pulse once. That tweet, which was posted the day of the tragedy, doesn’t mention that the vast majority of the victims were LGBTQ. It doesn’t even say the name of bar.
What’s more, Messam doesn’t seem to have ever tweeted about LGBTQ issues. Searching his Twitter account for terms like “LGBTQ,” “sexual orientation,” “gender identity,” and “transgender” turned up nothing, while “gay” uncovered a 2012 tweet about Ben Gay.
Brandon Wolf (pictured above), a survivor of the Pulse Nightclub shooting, called the silence among several 2020 candidates “disrespectful and embarrassing.”
“After being under attack from the Trump Administration for years, the LGBTQ community deserves to know that the next leader of the free world hears them, sees them, and understands their pain,” he tells NewNowNext. “Yesterday was a moment to show solidarity with people grieving the deadliest attack on their community in this nation’s history.”
Sara Grossman believes that there’s little excuse for not posting on Twitter about the Pulse Shooting. She serves as communications director of The Dru Project, a scholarship fund she and Wolf founded in memory of their friend Drew Leinonen, who was killed during the shooting.
“Not only do candidates have Twitter at their fingertips, they have staff that also help run their social media presence,” Grossman tells NewNowNext. “It’s hurtful. More than that, it’s disappointing.”
GLAAD, however, points out that 18 of the 25 candidates did tweet in remembrance of the Pulse anniversary.
Today we honor those lost at #Pulse. It wasn’t an attack on just one community–it was an attack on LGBTQ Americans, Latinx Americans, and Black Americans. It was an attack on people who look like me, and an attack on people who look nothing like me. It was an attack on all of us.
— Pete Buttigieg (@PeteButtigieg) June 12, 2019
Senators Kirsten Gillibrand, Cory Booker, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren called to #HonorThemWithAction by passing comprehensive gun reform legislation, while Congressman Seth Moulton noted that there have been “1,342 mass shootings in the United States in the 3 years since Pulse.”
“Change will not just happen,” wrote South Bend, Ind. mayor Pete Buttgieg, who is openly gay. We need Congress to deliver on common-sense gun laws supported by an American majority, like universal background checks and a ban on military-style assault weapons. And we need every state to pass a hate crimes law.”