1994 Letter to Gay Rights Group Hurting Mitt Romney Among Conservatives?

An old letter from the Massachusetts governor to a gay rights group gets the Times overexcited.

A letter thatMassachusetts Governor and possible Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney sent to a gay rights group in 1994 results in an over-caffeinated story from Adam Nagourney and David Kirkpatrick on Saturday ("Romney's Mixed Views on Gay Rights and Marriage Rile Conservatives").

"Gov. Mitt Romney, the Massachusetts Republican who has built a presidential campaign on a broad appeal for conservative support, is drawing sharply increased criticism from conservative activists for his advocacy of gay rights in a 1994 letter.

"Mr. Romney's standing among conservatives is being hurt by a letter he sent to the Log Cabin Club of Massachusetts saying that he would be a stronger advocate for gay rights than Senator Edward M. Kennedy, his opponent in a Senate race, in a position that stands in contrast to his current role as a champion of a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

"'We must make equality for gays and lesbians a mainstream concern,' Mr. Romney wrote in a detailed plea for the support of the club, a gay Republican organization.

"The circulation of the letter by gay rights groups in recent weeks has set off a storm of outrage among social conservatives, and by Friday was looming as a serious complication to Mr. Romney's hopes."

They go on to cite criticism of Romney from Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council and Paul Weyrich, one of the modern conservative movements founding fathers, who the Times has used before when it needed a conservative activist to criticize a Republican politician.

In all, the story has 10 labels of "conservative," not including the headline. Yet Ted Kennedy doesn't get a liberal label (there's one reference to Massachusetts being "one of the most liberal states").

Nagourney follows up in his weekly political update on Tuesday with another label-heavy piece suggesting Romney's letter is perking up prospects for low-profile Republicans mulling a 2008 presidential run. The opening lines:

"The blast of conservative criticism aimed at Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts for backing gay rights in 1994 has shaken his position as the social conservatives' favored challenger to Senator John McCain of Arizona for the Republican presidential nomination. Mr. Romney's problems have come as two high-profile conservative candidates have fallen by the wayside."