Many on the Right are none too happy with Adam Rippon.
Over the last few days we have seen a concerted, and seemingly coordinated, effort to cast the openly gay Olympic medalist as divisive and downright unAmerican. Their goals? 1) Destroy Rippon’s marketability by making him into a divisive figure so they never have to see his face again; and 2) Rile the base.
That second goal is as easy as Breitbart’s enraged headline Sunday morning: “Gay Olympian who bashed Vice President Pence...” It really doesn’t matter what the rest of the headline said, because you throw those two things on the shoulders of anyone and they become public enemy No. 1 of many in the #MAGA crowd.
Yet it’s the other goal — to destroy Rippon’s marketability by forging him into a symbol of division — that isn’t going to work.
Many on the Right have been out in full force over the last few days to discredit and destroy Rippon and his Olympic-medal-winning accomplishments, often with blatant Fake News. Breitbart has written about Rippon seven times since the Winter Olympics started 10 days ago, none of it positive.
Then you have some of the “thought leaders” on the Right sharing their Rippon scrutiny on Twitter.
If a Democrat were VP nobody would have heard of you https://t.co/OrNw3cr8x9— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) February 18, 2018
You’re right. Pence did mention him once — he tweeted to Rippon saying “we are FOR YOU” and that he was “proud of [Rippon].” But, you know, narratives... https://t.co/T5yltDYUmS— James Hasson (@JamesHasson20) February 14, 2018
Really? Then Perhaps you shouldn’t have spent the past few weeks talking about him. I haven’t heard him mention you once??? https://t.co/8lcCsoyBsq— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) February 14, 2018
So we’re supposed to celebrate an ice skating loser (10th place) because he said things to Mike Pence?— Jay Caruso (@JayCaruso) February 18, 2018
That last guy, Jay Caruso, is a writer at RedState. His tweet was the start of a false-laden string of thoughts that pins America’s love affair with Rippon on a Pence “attack” and Rippon being a gay “loser.”
The Federalist published a story by gay conservative Chad Felix Greene claiming “Adam Rippon’s obsession with his sexuality undermines his achievements.”
Instead, it’s people on the Right who are obsessed with Rippon’s sexuality. America has fallen in love with his personality.
Never mind the Fake News of every single one of these tweets and articles, many on the Right are failing to understand the phenomenon of Adam Rippon, the desperate need of Americans to experience authenticity, and the country’s shifting embrace of the “Yaaaaaassssss Movement.”
The seeds of Rippon’s meteoric rise were planted in 2006. That’s when Johnny Weir splashed onto the scene with Gucci sunglasses and a swan named Camille. We hadn’t quite seen his kind of brash self-expression from an athlete since Dennis Rodman. This time it was from a gay man (“He’s Here, He’s Weir”) who was turning heads with his quips.
The shifting winds grew stronger with RuPaul’s Drag Race. Once ghettoized to “gay” TV network Logo, the show — featuring drag queens spilling tea and sashaying away — built an audience outside of the LGBTQ community that forced the show’s move to VH1.
Rippon is the continuation — and in a lot of ways the culmination — of a society that has forever eventually caught onto the gay cultural trendsetters in fashion, music and entertainment.
While folks on the Right aren’t necessarily targeting Rippon’s flashy sense of style, they’re underestimating its ability to draw in not just political liberals, but independents and even fair-minded, forward-thinking self-described conservatives.
More than anything else, they are underestimating how much straight people have embraced Rippon and his place in the “Yaaaaaassssss Movement.” I had one straight sports editor tell me last week, “I think I’m in love with Adam Rippon.” They’re misjudging this as a connection Rippon is making with the LGBTQ community and political liberals.
Instead, Rippon’s unfiltered sass and sizzle have united a society desperate for authenticity.
Americans crave authenticity. We see so little of it from our national leaders, yet it’s imprinted in our national conscience by the lore of “Honest Abe” and Truman’s “The Buck Stops Here.”
What’s most puzzling about these Right Wing leaders’ failure to understand this dynamic is that, at some level, it put their guy in the White House. Conservatives, along with enough people in the middle, were convinced that Donald Trump was “telling it like it is” and voted for him.
The same dynamic is working for Rippon, except he’s actually telling it like it is. Eschewing centuries of society modeling what a male hero looks like, Rippon is bringing a dance hit to his short program, tweeting about being a “glamazon,” and geeking out over Britney Spears. He’s being his own true self, critics bedamned. And the country is standing in applause.
This isn’t isolated to the LGBTQ community. It isn’t isolated to “liberals.” It’s reaching across lines of gender, sexual orientation and political affiliation.
And the Ben Shapiros of the world are miscalculation the whole thing.
Ultimately what will kill these people’s attempt to destroy Rippon’s reputation is... the truth. Rippon did not “bash” Vice President Pence, he articulated Pence’s anti-LGBTQ legacy. Rippon did not “choke” at the Olympics, he helped Team USA win a bronze. The Right is using a slew of Fake News techniques to sway corporate America and the American people away from Rippon. We already know NBC isn’t buying it. The American people and many corporations will follow suit.
The one accomplishment these people on the Right will be able to notch on their belt is to further drive a wedge between their corner of the political spectrum and everyone else. Yes, the base is energized against Rippon, as witnessed by a long series of vile tweets they used to pollute Twitter this weekend.
Yet these folks will have to see Rippon’s face for a while now, sparkles and all. Because he’s just getting started.