The Corner

On Ian Reisner’s Craven ‘Apology’

The New York Times reports that one of the two gay businessmen who had a meeting with Ted Cruz has apologized:

Ian Reisner, one of the two gay hoteliers facing boycott calls for hosting an event for Senator Ted Cruz, who is adamantly opposed to same-sex marriage, apologized to the gay community for showing “poor judgment.” 

Mr. Reisner put the apology on Facebook, where a page calling for a boycott of his properties, the gay-friendly Out NYC hotel and his Fire Island Pines holdings, had gotten more than 8,200 “likes” by Sunday evening. 

“I am shaken to my bones by the emails, texts, postings and phone calls of the past few days. I made a terrible mistake,” wrote Mr. Reisner. 

The New York Times first reported on the event, a dinner and on April 20, at the duplex Mr. Reisner and his business partner Mati Weiderpass co-own on Central Park South in Manhattan. The event was a “fireside chat” for about a dozen people, but was not a fund-raiser.

The two men are prominent figures in the gay rights community, and Mr. Reisner has been especially vocal about same-sex marriage. He’s also a staunch supporter of Israel, as is Mr. Cruz.

How predictable. How craven. How unspeakably ugly is this apology. It may well be the case that “Mr. Reisner has been especially vocal about same-sex marriage.” Good for him. But, that being so, are we really expected to believe that he did not know Ted Cruz’s position on the matter? The Times has Reisner claiming that he has spent “the past 24 hours reviewing videos of Cruz’s statements on gay marriage and I am shocked and angry.” This is nonsense. This debate has been raging for years now, and the various players are pretty well established. Everybody in the country knows what Ted Cruz thinks about gay marriage — especially those people who care so much about the issue that they become ”especially vocal.” Let’s be honest with ourselves: Reisner reviewed nothing. Instead, he recognized that his business model relies upon the patronage of people who are apparently incapable of tolerating anybody who disagrees with them, and he acted accordingly. In commercial terms, that was probably sensible. He has a market, and he has to feed it. Recognizing this, however, does not require us to acquiesce in the pretense that he was caught unaware.

Nor, for that matter, does it require us to pretend that the outrage is worthwhile. Indeed to delve into the complaints that supposedly shook Reisner to his “bones” is to uncover what is little more than a pathetic and self-indulgent hissy fit. As is customary now, the outfit that began the backlash attempted to cover up its rank intolerance by offering up a contrary assertion: We “accept fundraising support from a variety of people across a wide spectrum of political and religious affiliations,” Broadway Care’s press release said. And then it explained why this time it was different. In so doing, the outfit attempted to convince the world that it is so extraordinarily welcoming that it cannot welcome those who disagree with its members; that it is so remarkably diverse that it cannot permit any differences of opinion; that it is so extremely pluralist that it cannot admit a dissenter or his friends. How cheap words are today.

Had Ian Reisner felt like being brave he would have explained that most people have a range of friends, and that it is unrealistic to expect people to socialize and work only with one’s political clones. Instead, he bought heavily into the deeply silly conceit that private events can be “hurtful” to third parties, and thereby loaned some credibility to the mob. ”I sincerely apologize for hurting the gay community and so many of our friends, family, allies, customers and employees,” he said. “I will try my best to make up for my poor judgment.” Again: If this is what Reisner felt that he had to say, so be it. But the rest of us should be clear: Nobody at all was “hurt” by Ted Cruz talking to a couple of gay guys in Manhattan. Not Ted Cruz. Not the couple of gay guys. Not those who read about it in the New York Times. Not anybody.

Coming from England, I have a good number of friends who disagree with me on questions of enormous political and social import: on speech, on guns, on conscience, on the nature of government. If this is to be our standard, should I disown them because we disagree about privacy — a basic individual right, in my view? How about here in America? Should I expect to be ostracized by advocates of free expression if I talk to a censor about cricket or buy clothes from a store whose owners believe in “hate speech” legislation? Should National Review disown me if I find areas of agreement on MSNBC or on Bill Maher’s show? I think not, no. 

America is a divided country — sometimes distressingly so. That Ted Cruz could sit down with two people with whom he often disagrees and have a meaningful discussion about a mutual interest should be celebrated, not condemned. That — right there — is the “common ground” that we all say that we so desperately want to find. That his attempt to do so provoked a national backlash should scare us, for there will be no future for America if we all retreat into our cliques. Ten years ago it would have been downright absurd for a charity to refuse to raise money for a deadly disease because one of its benefactors had unpopular friends. Now? It is par for the course. Ian Reisner should meditate upon his role, and he should ask himself a blunt question: Is this really the country he wants to live in?

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