White House press secretary Jen Psaki disparaged Republican senator Lindsey Graham (S.C.) with a bigoted insult that Democratic officials have condemned as "homophobic."
Psaki ridiculed Graham during a Senate hearing on the FBI's Russia probe in August, tweeting, "only in 2020 does #LadyG get to push a bunch of debunked conspiracy theories while questioning @SallyQYates (aka an American hero)." The derogatory tweet refers to a baseless claim from a porn star that Graham solicited male prostitutes, who then gave the Republican senator the "Lady G" moniker.
— Jen Psaki (@jrpsaki) August 5, 2020
Democrats have denounced similar insults directed at Graham in the past. During the Republican's recent campaign against failed Senate candidate Jaime Harrison, a South Carolina Democratic Party volunteer referred to Graham as "Lady G" in a text message sent to a prospective voter. The party quickly condemned the "homophobic language," telling the Washington Free Beacon that it was not part of its official campaign script.
Graham's office said it was "disappointed" to see Psaki's remark.
"Very disappointed someone in her position would embrace this style politics," said spokesman Kevin Bishop. "It says more about her than it does about Senator Graham."
Psaki's rhetoric also undermines the Biden White House's repeated calls for unity. Just months after leveling the attack on Graham, Psaki touted a quote from Biden campaign manager and deputy chief of staff Jen O'Malley Dillon calling for "compromise" and "healing" in politics. Since taking office, however, Biden has worked to sidestep Republicans, issuing a record-breaking 28 executive orders in his first two weeks.
"We've seen Democrats call for unity and healing time and time again, but somehow their calls never seem to apply to themselves," South Carolina GOP chairman Drew McKissick said. "The same party that champions themselves as being the ‘party of tolerance' is the same party that hurls derogatory, inflammatory insults at people who think differently than they do."
The White House did not return a request for comment.
Former Trump administration official Richard Grenell—who became the first openly gay cabinet member in 2020—called on Psaki to apologize to the gay community. "This is the type of demeaning language we should all be against," he said in a tweet. "This isn't partisan."
— Richard Grenell (@RichardGrenell) February 2, 2021
Democratic lawmakers, activists, and liberal media pundits have long floated unhinged conspiracy theories that Graham is being blackmailed over his sexuality. Former Obama senior campaign official Jon Cooper alleged in 2019 that Graham was "kowtowing to Trump" because he was "being blackmailed over his sexual orientation," adding that the scheme involved "a pretty serious sexual kink." Days later, MSNBC anchor Stephanie Ruhle suggested that "Trump or somebody knows something pretty extreme" about Graham. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.) also joined in, tweeting, "They got to him, he is compromised!" Graham has stated multiple times that he is not gay.
Psaki is not the only Biden administration communications official facing criticism for controversial social media posts. State Department deputy spokeswoman Jalina Porter referred to law enforcement as "terrorist cops" in August, promoted a video telling Los Angeles police officers to "suck my dick and choke on it" in June, and called police the "largest threat to U.S. national security" in 2016.