As soon as Democrat Joe Biden announced he would nominate South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, media outlets rushed to hail the choice as a historic occasion for LGBT individuals.
Numerous outlets, including Sky News, The New York Times, and The Washington Post, reported that Buttigieg would be the first “openly gay man” to hold a Cabinet post. Except, Buttigieg would not be the first “openly gay” cabinet member, as that honor already belongs to Richard Grenell, who was appointed by President Donald Trump in February to serve as the acting director of national intelligence.
Some of the same outlets touting Buttigieg as the first openly gay cabinet member previously reported that Grenell was the first. The Times in February reported that “Mr. Grenell, who has pushed to advance gay rights in his current post, is also thought to be the first openly gay cabinet member.” The Times on Tuesday reported that “Mr. Buttigieg would bring a younger voice to the cabinet and add to its diversity as its first openly gay member.”
Several LGBT-focused news outlets made the same error. Greg Price noted on Twitter that Queerty and Pink News both reported Buttigieg as the first gay cabinet member after saying the same of Grenell earlier this year.
Lmao you can’t make it up pic.twitter.com/CVROVYKYFR
— Greg Price (@greg_price11) December 16, 2020
On February 20, Queerty tweeted: “Trump makes Richard Grenell first openly gay cabinet secretary in history.” On December 15, the same outlet tweeted: “Pete Buttigieg makes history as first out Cabinet member.”
To be clear, Buttigieg is not a cabinet member. Biden has merely said he would nominate him to be one.
Pink News tweeted on February 20: “Donald Trump just appointed his first openly gay cabinet member.” On November 9, the outlet tweeted: “Joe Biden ‘almost certain’ to make Pete Buttigieg America’s first out gay cabinet official.”
Some outlets at least noted the distinction that, if confirmed, Buttigieg would be the first “senate-confirmed” openly gay cabinet member. Grenell was not confirmed by the senate to be Acting-DNI chief, though he was confirmed by the senate when he was nominated to be the U.S. Ambassador to Germany.
NPR included this distinction when it wrote about Biden’s announcement regarding Buttigieg.
“Buttigieg would become the first openly gay Cabinet member to be confirmed by the Senate. Richard Grenell, who is also openly gay, temporarily served as acting director of national intelligence in the Trump administration but was not confirmed for the post,” the outlet reported.
Neither the Times nor the Post even mentioned Grenell in their articles about Buttigieg, even though they claimed the Indiana mayor would be the first openly gay man in a cabinet position. The Post, for example, simply said Buttigieg would be the first without any caveats about being senate-confirmed.
“Certainly, another “first” — an openly gay man holding a Cabinet post — explains part of the appeal,” the outlet reported.