Thursday, August 9, 2007

Q &A with Jonathan Capehart, Panelist for tonight's Logo Presidential Forum

Tonight's Presidential Forum hosted by Logo Network and sponsored by the Human Rights Campaign features Margaret Carlson as the moderator and panelists Joe Solmonese, Melissa Etheridge, and Jonathan Capehart.

I had the opportunity to pose questions to Jonathan Capehart in advance of tonight's event. Mr. Capehart is an editorial page writer for the Washington Post.

if you would like to view tonight's debate, but you don't get Logo Network, you can view live streaming video here. Otherwise, please join us at Huffington Post for liveblogging by myself and News Editor Katharine Zaleski.

Interview with Jonathan Capehart of the Washington Post
Q. What is your background and how did you come to be involved in tonight's Presidential Forum?

A. I've been an editorial writer for about 10 years now. First at the New York Daily News and now at the Washington Post. As a result, I've had to be on top of major issues, including gay and lesbian issues. I'd like to think that because of my past work the organizers sought me out to serve as a panelist.

Q What was the process by which the questions were selected for tonight? Will you have the liberty to answer your own tough questions?

A. There were several brainstorming sessions. We culled thousands of questions that came in via the Internet. I've gotten more than a few questions directly from friends and from folks who heard I was going to be a part of this and just wanted an outlet to make sure their question got a hearing.

Q. Will each candidate receive equal time or will the 'top-tier' candidates receive a greater share of the time?

A. It's all about equal time. This being live television with a hard-and-fast two-hour window, we have to be prepared for anything.

Q. What is the format for the forum?

A. The candidates will come out one by one over the two hours. They'll sit with us for about 15 minutes and then make way for the next candidate. Other than a 2.5 minute break somewhere in the forum, there are no commercial breaks. And everytime they remind us of that I think of that scene from "Valley of the Dolls" when Nellie O'Hara is drunk in the ally screaming about always having to be on: "Sparkle, Nellie! Sparkle!"

Q. In the Washington Blade, you had a comment that said this Forum did not intend to provide any 'gotcha' moments. Some people, including myself are apprehensive that tough questions will be asked. Can you assure us that tonight will challenge candidates to account for their lack of support for full equality for LGBT Americans?

A. Without question, the Democratic Party candidates will be challenged on their views. Unfortunately, the Republican candidates, notably Mitt Romney, John McCain and Rudy Giuliani, didn't accept the invitation to participate.


Q. Trangender Americans are often left out of discourse when discussing LGBT issues. In fact, I'm not sure that a Trangender oriented question has ever been asked in a nationally televised forum. Can we expect them to be represented in tonight's discussion?

A. Absolutely!

Q. Do you have any idea why Joe Biden never committed to attending the Forum or why Chris Dodd cancelled his participation?

A. We were told scheduling conflicts. I suspect Sen. Biden's has to do with his book tour. I'm not sure why Sen. Dodd cancelled exactly.

Q. What do you hope to accomplish tonight with your presence on the panel?

A. This will be one of the first times the candidates will be at a televised forum devoted soley to gay and lesbian issues. My hope is to get them to talk from the heart instead of their talking points, which might be impossible in these highly scripted times. But we'll try.

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