To my disappointment, this story continues to be ignored by the mainstream media. A fellow blogger, Bil Browning at Bilerico, is now taking up the fight and asking questions about Hershman's hypocrisy, as well as that of a number of other legislators whose public positions collide with their own personal lives. Browning advocates a full airing of these legislator's dirty laundry. As Browning writes:
I'm sick and tired of these hypocritical Hoosier legislators who think that my sex life or relationship status is any of their business. Do I intrude on who they're sleeping with? I didn't, but I'm going to start now. I think we need to shame them into doing the right thing and voting against discrimination. We need to show them that unnecessary intrusion into someone else's sex life is not only unwelcome but unwarranted unless it involves children or animals. We need to burn their hand so they won't touch the stove again.
Consider this a call to arms gossip. (We're gay, we can do this tastefully and without violence! *grins*) I want to know the scoop. Tell me the stories that will embarrass those conservative bigots that are backing a constitutional ban on our formalized relationships. Send me gossip about who's a philanderer, a kink fiend, a drug addict, a porn addict, or had a divorce, an abortion or even a stay in rehab. Ask your friends and family for the dirt. Look it up on the internet. Sniff out a lead and send it my way.
Browning's post discusses specific acts of hypocrisy by several legislators without mentioning them by name. One of my personal favorites is the senator who befriended a much older, wealthy gay man who left a sizeable estate to him, then used the man's money to self-finance his campaign for the state senate, and has ever since established a record of supporting legislative efforts to discriminate against gays and lesbians without exception.
I know a lot of people have reservations about making an issue of a public official's private life. Anyone entering public life, in my view, gives up a complete claim to a right to privacy. When a public official aggressively participates in the pursuit of a public policy agenda promoting government intervention into matters of sex and sexual relationships among consenting adults, then private actions of the public official which are at odds with his public policy positions are fair game in my judgment. To paraphrase the New York Times' Randy Cohen, it is the denying to others what the politician does himself that provokes and warrants public disdain of the politician.
And so it is with Sen. Hershman the height of hypocrisy to advocate a constitutional amendment to "preserve the sanctity of marriage" and to support anti-abortion laws, while demanding of his ex-wife that she abort their unborn child and then conveniently terminate their marriage by filing for divorce. It is unthinkable and unconscionable for our media to ignore this glaring hypocrisy. The state's paper of record, the Indianapolis Star, found it important enough to out the identity of a man in a chicken suit, who's been dogging the mayor about his record on fighting crime at public events, and report on his alleged criminal past. And yet the private life of a state senator poised to succeed in his efforts to write discrimination into our state's constitution against unmarried couples merits no discussion by this same newspaper?
When I first reported on the news story which appeared in the Logansport Pharos-Tribune, I ran an exerpted version of the story. I'm reprinting the full story below as it appeared on November 7, 2000:
Ex-wife of candidate endorsed by Right to Life says that he paid for her abortion in 1997
Indiana Senate District 7 candidate Kathy Altman says Republican Brandt Hershman misrepresented her pro-life stand.
By DAVE KITCHELLPharos-Tribune staff writer
The open seat for one Logansport area legislative race is encountering an open season on a controversial issue as the campaign enters its final day.
The former wife of Republican State Senate candidate Brandt Hershman said Monday that his pro-life positions and endorsement by Indiana Right to Life do not conform with his personal beliefs. Tracy Johnson Hershman said when she became pregnant in early 1997, Hershman asked her to have an abortion. On May 30, 1997, she claims he drove her to the Planned Parenthood clinic in Merrillville where he paid for her to abort their child. Hershman asked her for a divorce a week later, she said.
"This is about somebody who really isn't who he says he is," said Johnson Hershman, a former Valparaiso Vidette-Messenger reporter who now resides in Michigan City.
Hershman said he considers her comments a vicious attack that comes from the campaign of his opponent, Democrat Kathy Altman of Monticello.
"It's dirty politics is what it is," said Hershman, who has been a member of Rep. Steve Buyer's staff and formerly worked in the White House during the Bush administration. "I obviously had an unpleasant divorce."
Hershman said the last-minute revelation is similar to the one facing the Republican candidate for president. Last week, George W. Bush was reported to have been arrested for drunken driving in Maine in 1976. Two subsequent arrests also were disclosed.
"They tried it against George Bush and now they are trying it against me," he said. "I won't revisit or wish any ill will to my ex-wife. I will not discuss my ex-wife or my personal relationship with anyone."
Tracy Johnson Hershman, who says she is a Republican, said he forced her to have an abortion. Brandt Hershman said, "I did not force anyone to do anything, ever, period." Tracy Johnson Hershman's response is that he may not have forcibly made her have an abortion, but he made it clear he wanted her to abort their child.
On Oct. 10 this year, the Indiana Right to Life Political Action Committee announced it had endorsed Hershman in his race. In the announcement, Mike Fichter, executive director of the PAC, said there is a clear "black-and-white choice" in the race. "Brandt Hershman is firm in his commitment to restoring and protecting the sanctity of life whereas Kathy Altman supports abortion on demand."
Altman, a Roman Catholic with four children, said that is untrue. Altman said she never sought the endorsement of Right to Life.
Hershman said a transcript of a Clinton County debate between the candidates confirms her pro-choice stand. A copy of the transcript provided by Right to Life that pertains to Altman's response to the question "What are your views on the abortion and partial abortion issue?":
"I'm a Catholic. I'm a religious woman. I'm pro-life ... however, I absolutely believe that a woman has a right to choose. I absolutely believe in our Supreme Court's judgment and that it is no one else's decision. It is the woman's right to choose. As far as partial(-birth) abortion, I think its horrorous (sic) because you see these pictures and it's so disgusting -- but it's nothing but another abortion and no abortion is pretty. You see that these are the facts and you don't mess around. But it is a woman's choice."
Hershman said if he is elected, he will support a bill that would require the same health standards for abortion clinics that are required of other Indiana outpatient surgical centers.
"It's where I stand and it's what I believe," he said. "For Kathy Altman to dignify this kind of personal attack is beyond humanity.
"Katie Wolf never had to do anything like this to get elected, and that's what this is about."
"I have said publicly and categorically that I would seek to ban partial-birth abortions and at such time as the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade with the exception of rape, incest and the life of the mother," Hershman said.
In response, Altman, the director of the Indiana Commission on Agriculture and Rural Development, said her position has been misrepresented by Hershman.
"I do not support any type of abortion. I do not support partial-birth abortion."
Hershman said he has kept the campaign between the two of them a clean one.
"I don't attack her beliefs. I don't attack her personally. I don't attack her family. I don't sling mud."
Hershman said he has asked Altman to pull ads, but she has refused.
"I've always been willing to discuss issues in a multitude of public forums, but I won't engage in this kind of public behavior now or later."
At the Indiana Republican Party Fall Dinner Oct. 27, Hershman was selected to lead the invocation. In a release from the Indiana Republican State Committee, State GOP Chairman Mike McDaniel said, "Brandt Hershman represents the future of our state. Hershman supports strong, conservative values."
Tracy Johnson Hershman, who is also Catholic, said her former husband did not want her to go to church.
"If he just got religion, he just got religion," she says.
"I am the one with the Catholic guilt over (the abortion)," she said. "I'm the one who sat there and cried over the entire thing."
The couple had been married since 1989.
Tracy Johnson Hershman said she is not out to assassinate the character of her former husband, but the truth has to be known, but she learned of some of the claims her former husband was making after his campaign supporters called on a former business associate.
Altman and Hershman are vying for the seat held by three-term incumbent Katie Wolf, D-Monticello. The district includes all or part of Carroll, White, Howard, Pulaski, Clinton, Jasper, Tippecanoe and Starke counties.
Dave Kitchell may be contacted at 722-5000, Ext. 5150, or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org