Campaign filings show Washington gave to Obama
Political operatives are in motion sifting through opponents’ latest financial filings in the presidential race, as The Washington Post reported Tuesday. One point of interest for LGBT voters is that former Grey’s Anatomy star Isaiah Washington, a lightning rod lately for gay criticism, gave $2,300 to Sen. Barack Obama’s campaign.
The donation came on May 4 and is the maximum amount an individual can give to a presidential candidate per election. Washington used a homophobic slur against Grey’s costar T.R. Knight last year, then repeated the word at this year’s Golden Globe Awards in January; he later apologized on Larry King Live, and his contract was not renewed on Grey’s Anatomy.
Obama now faces the classic “Should he or shouldn’t he return the money?” question asked of candidates who receive funds from donors that some observers find objectionable. Kenneth Sherrill, professor of political science at Hunter College, says the Washington case is par for the course.
“Virtually every candidate gets money from people who are controversial. This is an exercise of free speech on Washington’s part,” said Sherrill, noting that Washington should be able to participate in the political process. “Under current American constitutional law, he’s got a right to give his money to a candidate. The difference here is, it’s public; we know who he gave money to.”
All three Democratic front-runners have faced check-rejection dilemmas in the past and likely will again. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Obama’s campaign gave back $37,000 to Wilmette, Ill., businessman Tony Rezko, who is fighting public corruption and business fraud charges.
During Hillary Clinton’s Senate reelection campaign in 2005, the senator returned $5,000 to the political action committee of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., after serving on the company’s board from 1986 to 1992. She believed that the company should provide better worker benefits, according to the Associated Press.
John Edwards returned $10,000 to employees of a Little Rock, Ark., law firm during his 2004 presidential bid after one of the firm’s clerks said she expected her boss to reimburse her for her $2,000 donation, according to the San Jose Mercury News.
Obama campaign officials declined to comment about whether they would return Washington’s donation, instead forwarding the following statement to The Advocate: “Barack Obama strongly disagrees with the statements made by Isaiah Washington last year, but he joins members of the GLBT community in encouraging [Washington’s] efforts to seek counseling and his decision to tape a public service announcement on behalf of GLAAD.”
Washington made the PSA, in which he decried hate speech, as part of his effort to make amends for using the slur against Knight. It began airing in May.
The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation declined to comment on Washington’s contribution to Obama. (Padraic Wheeler, The Advocate)