Was Kerry's Reference to Cheney's Daughter Out of Line?

This is a partial transcript of "The Big Story With John Gibson," Oct. 14, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.

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SENATOR JOHN KERRY: I think if you were to talk to Dick Cheney’s daughter, who is a lesbian, she would tell that you she’s being who she was.

LYNN CHENEY, WIFE OF VICE PRESIDENT DICK CHENEY: I’m speaking as a mom and a pretty indignant mom; this is not a good man. What a cheap and tawdry political trick.


JOHN GIBSON, HOST: Lynn Cheney calling John Kerry (search) on the carpet for bringing up the Cheney’s gay daughter during last night’s debate. She says using her family to make a political point is over the line.

Heather Nauert is here with more on this controversy.


Well, the situation is not dying down. Just a short while ago, the Vice President said that John Kerry made him, quote, "an angry father." And Mrs. Edwards earlier said that Mrs. Cheney overreacted to the lesbian comment and therefore must be ashamed of her daughter’s sexual preference.

Joining me to tackle this thorny issue is Democratic Strategist Chris LeHane and Republican Strategist Sherry Annis.

Sherry, let me start with you. What did you think of Elizabeth Edwards’ statement that Mrs. Cheney must have overreacted and that she must be ashamed of her daughter’s sexual preference?

SHERRY ANNIS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think it was as appalling as the comment itself. Basically, I think both Kerry and Edwards in the last debate should basically keep Dick Cheney’s daughter out of this. It made more sense in the last debate, since Edwards was actually asked about Cheney’s daughter; it was referred to.

Here, nothing about Dick Cheney’s daughter was mentioned. He brought it out of the blue. And I think they should leave her out of it.

NAUERT: Now some Democrats are saying she’s a public figure. So, is she fair game in your view?

ANNIS: She does not go around talking about her gayness. Nobody talks about Kerry’s daughter’s dating habits. And the fact is Kerry was debating President Bush. He was not debating Dick Cheney (search). That was not part of the question at all. And I don’t think it was appropriate.

NAUERT: OK. But it was about gay issues.

Chris, let me ask you. What was the point of Kerry’s comment last night, bringing it out of the blue like that?

CHRIS LEHANE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think the Senator addressed an issue that a lot of American families have struggled with; it’s a challenging issue. He did it appropriately and he did it with sensitivity. And let’s keep in mind that…

NAUERT: Well, some would argue and the Republicans...

LEHANE: Let me just finish.  The whole issue of...

NAUERT: Chris, let me just jump in here.

Some would argue — and Republicans in particular — have been pretty angry about this and they say that it was really just an attack. Kerry came back and said he tried to do it in a positive way. But, a lot of people are saying that that sounds just disingenuous.

LEHANE: Well, I think the disingenuous voices are actually coming from the Republican side. Let’s keep in mind Dick Cheney injected his daughter into this campaign earlier this year when he talked about his differences with the President on this issue. He’s made her an issue on the campaign trail, first and foremost.

Secondly, if the Cheney...

NAUERT: OK. Are you talking about...?

LEHANE: If the Cheney’s are really...

NAUERT: I want to get this clear here. Hold on, Chris. I want to make sure there are no inconsistencies here.

Are you saying that Cheney brought this up during the vice presidential debate? Is that what you’re saying?

LEHANE: No. Earlier in August, and I think even before that, the Vice President has talked of his daughter’s orientation. He’s been asked questions about it and he’s talked about it; he’s been pretty open about it.

NAUERT: Your response to the question?

LEHANE: But let me just finish here. There’s an important point here.

If the Cheney’s really were concerned genuinely about their daughter being injected in this campaign in a high-profile way, then they’ve certainly made a much, much, much bigger issue today by jumping all over this. And I think the reality is, is that they jumped all over this because they wanted to create a little bit of a smoke screen about the fact that the President was zero-for-three in these debates; that the DOW today is below 10,000; that we have more tragedy in Iraq.

NAUERT: Sherry, does he have a point there?

ANNIS: No, absolutely not.

He’s completely trying to spin this issue into a new issue. The fact is Kerry brought this up in order to, one, point out that Dick Cheney’s daughter’s gay, and two, to point out differences within the administration on this issue.

And I think that it was completely premeditated and he assumed that it would have the reaction it did, especially possibly with the Reagan Democrat-type swing voters. I think it was inappropriate. And frankly, I expected to hear something like, "Dick Cheney’s daughter is gay, not that there’s anything wrong with that." The old "Seinfeld" (search) line, because there really was no reason continue to invoke her at all.

NAUERT: Chris, was there a point here to try to turn off socially conservative voters who might be turned of by her lifestyle?

LEHANE: His was dealing with an emotional issue with sensitivity and compassion. It comes back to the fundamental point here, which I made earlier, which is this really is a smokescreen by the Republicans designed to cover up what was a bad series of debate performances by the President.

NAUERT: All right, Chris, you said it already. You’re free and clear to say it the first time, but once you start repeating yourself, we got to cut you off there.

Thanks a lot to both of you.

LEHANE: Well, you know, I was trying to be the fair and balanced Chris.

NAUERT: All right. We’ll be sure to hear a lot more about this one.


GIBSON: Heather Nauert, thank you.

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