Did the White House Ask Kagan About Her Sexual Orientation?

May 14, 2010 1:01pm

Senior White House officials tell ABC News that the chatter about Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan's sexual orientation is bizarre for any number of reasons, primarily because her friends and colleagues say she's heterosexual.

That said, questions about her sexual orientation have burst into the media, with Politico interviewing a friend of hers who attested that “I’ve known her for most of her adult life and I know she’s straight”; the Washington Post’s Ruth Marcus exploring whether a 50-year-old unmarried woman experiences judgments and stereotypes that a 50-year-old unmarried man does not; and the Post’s Karen Tumulty asking if we’re a nation of busybodies.

One passage from Tumulty’s piece today raised some eyebrows – a comment from President Obama’s former White House communications director Anita Dunn.

“Administration officials asked Kagan directly about her sexual orientation when she was being vetted for her post as solicitor general, Dunn said in response to a question that she protested was inappropriate. But she insisted that it was not a relevant factor in determining who was named to that job or this one.”

Did the White House ask Kagan about her sexual orientation?

The White House did not offer an immediate response, but Dunn tells me that she may have misspoken or not have been clear when she spoke to Tumulty. She said to be perfectly clear she doesn’t know whether Kagan has ever been asked her sexual orientation by anyone in the administration during the vetting process for the Solicitor General or Supreme Court positions.

That said, according to several current and former administration officials, it’s highly likely that the vetting process would result in plenty of information about any nominee’s personal life – including whether someone is heterosexual, gay, lesbian, bisexual, adulterous, or with a child out of wedlock.
A nominee may not be asked about it directly, but such information would likely come out through interviews with friends or colleagues.

Vetting processes also turn up detailed personal information about finances, family, religion and all sorts of matters that might be uncomfortable – the point is to spare the nominee and the president any embarrassment or surprises during the confirmation process.

-Jake Tapper

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