The GOP's attempt to co-opt the LGBTQ movement for political gain is finding its feet at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland this week. Both Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and the party itself have asserted that their policies are in fact better for the LGBTQ community than Democratic ones. During the RNC, Bustle spoke with one such advocate: Tom Mountain, an alternate delegate from Massachusetts and head of the Newton Republican Party. Mountain tells Bustle that he believes Trump is the best candidate for the LGBTQ community, and pointed to the recent massacre in Orlando as evidence of this.
Mountain is quick to emphasize that he is a straight man, but also describes himself as an ally to the LGBTQ community. He can be seen holding a LGBTQ pride flag (below) emblazoned with the "Don't Tread On Me" snake and the words "Shoot Back." When asked about the meaning of the image, Mountain says it's simple.
"Our message, frankly, is to the gay community: Stand up, get on, shoot back. Don't go down like sheep. Fight back."
Mountain was speaking of the 49 people who were murdered at a gay nightclub in Orlando last month, in the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
It's a repulsive position, to be sure, but not a surprising one. Trump also seized upon the Orlando shooting to attack Muslims and Hillary Clinton. In addition, after the massacre, Republicans pushed back against common-sense gun safety legislation proposed by Senate Democrats. The bills would have made it more difficult for those suspected of terrorist ties to obtain firearms, and would have sought to improve the nation's flawed background check system. But all four bills were defeated, revealing many Republicans' staunch opposition to gun legislation even in the wake of one mass shooting after another.
Despite the fact that a large portion of the LGBTQ community saw the defeat of these gun bills as a failure, Mountain insists that it was LGBTQ members of his own organization who asked him to bring the flag to the RNC. He said that the Newton Republican Party was "one of the first organizations to host and actively recruit gays." (For what it's worth, Mountain almost always referred to the entire LGBTQ community as "the gays.")
Mountain, who says he's Jewish, says he hoped the sight of the flag would inspire LGBTQ people to join the party. He notes that a top priority of the party was to bring in more Jewish and LGBTQ members: "Gays, like Jews, are very rare — well, we're not rare, but a minority in the Republican party. I want to bring Jews into the party, I want to bring gays into the party. And my message is, this is the party for gays."
He then spoke at length about how presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton is a "phony," citing the debunked claim that she and her organization, the Clinton Foundation, took funds from countries which oppress LGBTQ people. According to a report by Politifact, the donations cannot be attributed to Clinton herself, and these claims are hyperbolic.
Nevertheless, Mountain pressed on. His reasoning for Trump being the best candidate for the LGBTQ community was also painfully simplistic: "Well, he's from New York. How can you be from New York and not be in favor of gays?"
These comments aside, Mountain and much of the GOP's attempts to paint themselves as allies to the LGBTQ community is not only wrong, but disturbing. To suggest that the Orlando massacre victims went "down like sheep" because they didn't "shoot back" is a clear insult to both LGBTQ individuals and the community, and shows that the GOP's supposed support of them is misguided at best and incredibly dangerous at worst.
Image and additional reporting: Emily Shire