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Is ABC Gay-Baiting DHS Secretary Napolitano by Calling Her “Big Sis”?

Is it gay-baiting to call the head of the government agency responsible for surveillance and airport screening “Big Sis”?  It is–according to Huffington Post’s Eat The Press Columnist Jason Linkins and Towleroad’s Andy Towle–when you are referring to the never-married Janet Napolitano and you reference Matt Drudge.

ABC is taking some heat for an online article that describes Napolitano as “[t]he former Arizona governor, dubbed “Big Sis” by one conservative blogger,” who “oversees more than 188,000 civilian employees, 200,000 contractors and an amalgam of 20 subagencies, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Coast Guard and the Transportation Security Administration.”

It is the reference to Drudge–who knows a little something about being gay-baited–that raises the spectre that ABC was furthering a suggestion/smear that Napolitano is a lesbian. In January, Drudge featured a picture of Napolitano and a picture of naked female scan on top of a headline that read “Big Sis Wants to See Under Your Clothes.” Andrew Sullivan, and others, immediately called “foul,” with Sullivan quipping “Isn’t outing people something Drudge might want to avoid?”

ABC’s reference to Drudge is what’s drawing the current heat.  Linkins said there was “no substantive reason” for ABC to include the reference, and suggested “[t]hey just want to smirk about Napolitano’s sexual back story which, I guess to their minds, has some important bearing on her ability to carry out the duties of her office.”

Drudge didn’t invent the “Big Sis” line. There are references to Napolitano as “Big Sister” going back to the beginning of her tenure at DHS. She does, after all, run the agency responsible for snooping in luggage and setting up scanners at airports.  And it was her agency that suggested, controversially, that conservative fringe groups were a terrorism threat and should be watched.

While the Big Brother/Big Sis is certainly a great parallel–especially if you worry about such things–it’s less clear whether that was the reference ABC was going for when it used the name and then name-checked Drudge. While it seems fair game to accuse Drudge of gay-baiting, does that accusation extend all the way to ABC just because they referenced him?

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