Come of a Preacher Man
posted by June 29 at 15:09 PMon
If the fundy God existed Re-bar would have been hit by lightning last night as I interviewed Mike Jones, the former male escort who outed Ted Haggard right before the ‘06 election. I mean, Mike Jones and Dan Savage on a stage together? With just one lightning bolt God could avenge his servants Ted Haggard and Rick Santorum! What an opportunity! Hell, He could have taken out just me and Jones when we ducked into the photo booth, sparing everyone else in the bar.
But there were no lightning bolts, just a large, upbeat crowd anxious to hear from Jones, who was in town to read from his new book, I Had to Say Something.
Jones’ book is about his experience with Haggard, and his decision to out Haggard, of course, but it’s also about Jones’ life and his thoughtful take on sex work. It’s a good read, and I enjoyed it. I’ve known lots of sex workers over the years (hey there, Ecce Homo!), and Jones and his co-author, Sam Gallegos, do a great job of portraying the less sensational aspects of sex work. Closeted gay men don’t just get sex from escorts, they also get intimacy and a chance to be completely honest with someone about who they really are.
I asked Mike some questions—Haggard dribbles, he’s cut, and he was high on meth most of the times he saw Jones in the final six months of their four-year professional relationship—and then we took questions from the audience. Most of the questions were interesting and relevant, and Jones was every bit as articulate and charming in person as he had been on ABC, NBC, CNN, etc., when the scandal first broke.
There were just one weird question. First, someone hinted that perhaps there was something untoward about the timing of Jones’ outing of Haggard—so close to an election, and hadn’t he worked with plenty of other closeted men before, men who weren’t as high-profile as Haggard? Why not out them? Was it all about getting a book deal?
Jones, in his own defense, explained that he was conflicted about outing Haggard. And that it wasn’t an easy decision, and that far from representing some sort of ticket to fame and fortune, it cost him all of his clients—his massage clients, his escorting clients, and his personal training clients—and he was fired as an art model from a school where he had worked at for years. He spoke up because he felt he had to—hence the title of the book—and it was a personal and professional sacrifice.
Before Jones outed Haggard, let’s not forget, Pastor Ted wasn’t the punch line he is today. He was the head of the 30 million-member American Association of Evangelicals, the founder of a Colorado Springs megachurch, and an unofficial advisor to President George W. Bush. (Ted and George spoke on the phone once a week). Haggard was also actively campaigning for an anti-gay marriage amendment in teh state of Colorado, which voters approved after Haggard was outed, at the same time that he was snortin’ meth and enjoyin’ man ass.
Jones’ low-profile clients—many of them closeted, some of them preachers—were harmless compared to Haggard. It was the scale of Haggard’s hypocrisy combined with the magnitude of the damage he was doing to his fellow gays that made him a justifiable target for an outing. Jones did the right thing.
Did Jones have political motivatation? Of course he did—and he admitted to being politically motivated at the time he outed Haggard, and he admitted to it last night. People seem to think that accusing Jones of being politically motivated—because of the timing of the outing—somehow undermines his credibility. Uh, no. Haggard’s attacks on his fellow gays were politically motivated; Karl Rove’s attacks on gays and lesbians are politically motivated; anti-gay marriage amendments, like the one on the ballot in Colorado at the time Haggard was paying Jones for sex, are politically motivated.
Was Jones supposed to wait until after the vote in Colorado to out Haggard? Look, their attacks on us are politically motivated and timing, they say, is everything in politics. Jones outed Haggard at just the right time for legitimate political reasons, and with pure political motives. (That’s pure political motives, not purely political motives.)
I don’t want to give the impression, by responding at length to that one question, that the crowd was hostile to Jones. The crowd wasn’t. When I called on someone to ask the final question during the Q&A, the man said he didn’t have a question. He just wanted to thank Jones for what he did—for all of us. Then everyone in Re-bar leapt to their feet and gave Jones a standing ovation.
“Standing ovations are nice,” I told the crowd, “but the best way to thank Mike is by buying his book.” An hour later when I left Re-bar people were still lined up waiting for Jones to sign their books. If you weren’t at Re-bar last night and you admire what Jones did, you can thank him by buying his book. Click here to order a copy.