Mike Huckabee did it. Rick Santorum did it (I don't mean having his last name irreversibly associated with a rather disgusting by-product of certain sexual acts). And now Sarah Palin has done it...in Texas.
All three politicians have recently gone out of their way to promote Chick-Fil-A, in what some news organizations have called a not-so-subtle move to speak out against gay rights without actually saying anything.
"These are gentle jabs of hatred, ways of being completely cowardly about offensiveness," writes Rich Juzwiak at Gawker. "Palin's pictures are perfect relics of the modern bigot: the kind of person who bristles at being called a bigot while spouting bigotry, who expresses her shame alongside the outward expression of shamelessness because she knows, deep down, that subjugation of human life is fucked up."
Palin documented her recent visit to a Chick-Fil-A in The Woodlands with the Tweet: "Stopped by Chick-fil-A in The Woodlands to support a great business." The status update linked to her Facebook page, where it was accompanied by a picture of Palin and her husband, Todd. It received more than 2,000 re-Tweets.
But the update also received replies such as: "You check for gays first?" and "You get extra homophobe sauce on your sandwich?" These were some of the more innocuous replies, as most people -- like Gawker -- saw the visit and the Tweet as needless jabs against gay people and responded in kind. Palin has indicated in the past that she believes gay folks "choose" to be gay -- which is not a choice she has made for herself, she was quick to point out in an interview with Katie Couric. (Lesbians across America undoubtedly breathed a collective sigh of relief at Palin's "decision.")
This latest show of support for Chick-Fil-A comes a couple of weeks after the fast-food chicken chain came under a barrage of fire when COO Dan Cathy told the Baptist Press that he supported "the biblical definition of the family unit," as opposed to same-sex unions or marriage rights. This statement led people to decry Chick-Fil-A as being anti-gay, although individual franchise operators have been quick to distance themselves from Cathy's own personal statement on the issue.
Whether Cathy's personal sentiment on gay rights is reflective of the chain's views as a whole, the entire fast-food chain has become a polarizing topic and a synonym for homophobia since Cathy's interview with the Baptist Press. Less than ten days after Cathy's interview went nationwide, Chick-Fil-A had already lost both a tremendous amount of public support as well as its head spokesman, Don Perry, who worked for the chain for 29 years and reportedly died unexpectedly of a heart attack.
For politicians like Palin, aligning themselves with a cause under the auspices of simply enjoying a restaurant's food is perhaps the most insipid way to campaign for or against a cause. And whether you're in Chick-Fil-A's camp or not, this transparent shilling is incredibly insulting to the restaurant, too -- although that's still primarily Cathy's fault for turning his father's business (and the businesses of hundreds of hardworking, independent franchise owners) into an inflammatory political stance in the course of one dumb interview.
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No one can argue that these three politicians -- Huckabee, Santorum and Palin -- aren't firmly anti-gay rights; it's a position that the three of them have well established throughout their careers. So why be a smarmy jerk on top of being a bigot, posing for silly Twitpics at Chick-Fil-A -- especially a Chick-Fil-A in a strongly conservative enclave such as The Woodlands -- and pretending that announcing your visit on Twitter isn't a thinly veiled attack on gay rights? It's this passive-aggressive attitude which adds insult to injury, and which seems to be why everyone was so aggrieved by Palin's Tweet.
There's always the possibility, however, that Todd and Sarah are just enormous fans of waffle fries and carrot salad. But somehow I doubt it.