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Fred Karger on vying for presidency and the Fox News complaint
by Sarah Toce

This article shared 3118 times since Wed Aug 24, 2011
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Republican Fred Karger is the first openly gay presidential candidate in the United States. Although he met all of the requirements to participate in a recent Fox News debate, he was denied access.

His 185-page complaint letter to the Federal Election Commission (FEC)—hand-delivered to Rupert Murdoch (owner of Fox News) Aug. 18—read: "I am the first openly gay major party candidate to ever run for President of the United States. I have experienced many doors slammed in my face by individuals and outside political organizations during the past eighteen months, but this blatant affront by Fox News executive's smacks of discrimination and I hope the Commission will investigate post-haste."

Before throwing his hat in the presidential ring, Karger worked extensively as a gay-rights activist opposing Proposition 8, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT). Karger was also the driving force behind political campaigns totaling more than 27 years.

Windy City Times spoke with Karger immediately following his delivery of the Murdoch letter to the FEC.

Windy City Times: You are the first openly gay candidate for president of the United States. [Also], you are running on the Republican ticket. Please tell us how this all works cohesively together.

Fred Karger: I've spent my life in Republican politics as first a volunteer and then for 27 years as a professional behind-the-scenes political consultant, government affairs … so I was always involved in political campaigns. I actually used to do a lot of work in Washington State and I've spent a lot of time in the Pacific Northwest. When I retired seven and a half years ago, I became (after two years of goofing off) a political gay activist. Having lived my adult life in the closet, I guess I was ready to come bursting out of the closet. So, I did and when Proposition 8 came along I became very involved with it. That was just a little over three years ago.

WCT: What was your involvement with Proposition 8?

FK: I was an aggressive activist—much more so than we've really ever seen. I boycotted four of the largest businesses that gave the most amount of money to Prop 8. We settled two and negotiated settlements so that they would give money to LGBTQ organizations—some of which are still doing it. We've been very successful at slowing down the big money to these [anti-gay] campaigns because there should be no bragging rights to giving six-figure [salaries] to take away the rights of the minority.

WCT: Why run for president now? Why not back in 2008?

FK: I decided about a year and a half ago to run for president. I tested the waters—traveled all over to New Hampshire, Iowa [and] Maine, and talked to a lot of people and threw my hat in the ring. I didn't run in 2008 because I was immersed in the Prop 8 election, which I just took on with a friend. I worked more than full-time on that tracking all of this money, putting a website together called Californians Against Hate, planning boycotts, and putting demonstrations together. I never even had the thought until it occurred to me that I could now run for political office (which I'd always wanted to do but couldn't since I was in the closet). Now that my secret was out, suddenly there was nothing holding me back. Now, of course, I didn't quite think of running for president right away…I was just thinking of different things. And then I thought, "Why not?"

WCT: How has the support been since throwing your hat in the ring?

FK: I put together a legal defense fund called Five for Fred. I was overwhelmed by the support I received. People have been following what I have been doing and backing me. It's one thing to put in your own money to some extent, but you need to also have core support out there so that was very meaningful to me and also helped in my political decision to consider taking the next step to run [for president].

WCT: You have been very outspoken regarding HIV/AIDS.

FK: I'm 61 years old and was so impacted by HIV/AIDS. I lost so many friends who were close to me. I use my platform to talk about HIV/AIDS in situations when it would normally not come up. I am happy to do that. When I started my campaign in New Orleans, La., (April 2010) I said right then and there that we need a cure and a vaccine. We need to keep awareness and safety front and center and funded. I talk about the issues that people don't always want to talk about. It is interesting to watch reactions from older Republican audiences in Iowa and New Hampshire. There are quite a few surprised looks out there because people have to start thinking about it.

WCT: Why do you feel it is important to lower the voting age to 16 or 17 years old and get younger voters involved in political campaigns?

FK: It is very important because, first off, younger people do not have all the prejudice that their parents and grandparents may have. So, that is one of the reasons I am advocating voting age be lowered to 16 or 17 years old. Younger people voting support marriage equality. Some will be a little more conservative on fiscal issues, but certainly socially mattered.

I think it's important to get kids involved in school on things they are interested in and if they are interested in voting and elections in high school, maybe they will be less likely to drop out. If candidates are talking to them and getting them involved in the campaign, I think it's very important for our movement. The LGBTQ community and all the allies that are younger step forward to help us. It will make life much better for millions of Americans and those around the world for generations.

WCT: Please explain your position regarding federal gay marriage and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

FK: Well, it was passed by Congress so it would have to be undone by Congress and the courts. The courts are obviously our best bet as is traditional with any civil-rights movement an issue. Finally, President Obama came around on that instead of enforcing DOMA cases they are now saying it's unconstitutional. Well, better late than never I guess. DOMA is a PR term—as if we're threatening marriage by joining in. I am completely offended by DOMA and will do anything in my power to overturn that and get rid of that hateful law of discrimination.

WCT: Is America ready for a gay commander-in-chief when we are not allowed to serve the country openly under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell?" Can we overcome the prejudices?

FK: Well, it's going to take awhile. We have religion-based bigotry in this country, which is sanctioned discrimination. It's an embarrassment. When you look at the U.S. Constitution where "all men are created equal" but yet here we practice discrimination. I had lunch with an individual dismissed from the military for being gay and it just pains me. He's been so devastated by DADT and it's despicable. It's discrimination sanctioned by the government.

How hypocritical is it that the commander-in-chief could be openly gay, but no members of the military can? I can't really say that anymore, but I used to all the time. It got people thinking … and it makes no sense.

I've often said in speeches that right after I'm sworn in my hand's going to go right from the Bible down to the pen and the executive order to show no enforcement of the DADT law. Hopefully that will be gone within a matter of weeks and we won't have to worry about it—although it will take a long time in the military. It's not easy being gay. We have a lot to work out there and hopefully we will.

WCT: What is going on with Fox News? Please fill us in on any recent updates regarding your participation in the debates.

FK: This is the third debate. In the last cycle, there are about 18 or 19. So, I am zero for three. The first debate and the second debate I did not qualify for, but the third debate I did. I just filed a complaint today asking for an investigation for this because I should've been in. I met the qualifications for Fox News and should have been in, but I was not. I am not privy to their meetings, but for some reason I was not allowed in. I am not happy about the situation. I personally delivered the package to Rupert Murdoch today who is, of course, the owner of Fox News. I am considering a civil lawsuit for damages. No more Mr. Nice Gay.

WCT: New Hampshire is your next stop! What's on the agenda for you there?

FK: Coming home! Well, a little bit of catch-up at home on Saturday and then I have a precinct block in Dover and the Young Republicans call. Sunday is another big Republican gathering of all-ages. Then next week I will be all over the state!

Fred Karger's 158-page complaint letter to the FEC has been delivered and the investigation is currently underway.

This article shared 3118 times since Wed Aug 24, 2011
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