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Trump administration vetted celebrities for supporting LGBT+ rights while plotting botched COVID ad campaign

Josh Milton October 30, 2020

Donald Trump officials sought to boost the president's polling amid the coronavirus pandemic by reaching out to Britney Spears. She declined. (Getty)

Trump administration officials reportedly plotted to drum up support for the beleaguered president by approaching celebrities to bolster his handling of the coronavirus pandemic – just not ones who support LGBT+ rights.

In a $265 million public relations bid to “defeat [the] despair” around the pandemic, the public affairs division of the Department of Health and Human Services envisioned a star-studded campaign, according to documents released Thursday (October 29) by House investigators.

But lawmakers said that officials sought to exclude any high-profile figure they feared would disparage Donald Trump, especially when it came to LGBT+ rights, signalling just how jittery Trump officials are over the president’s lukewarm polling and tattered track record on most social issues.

At least 22 celebrities that the administration did approach were listed as “declined”. Among them were Britney Spears, Selena Gomez, Dwayne Johnson and Hugh Jackman.

Christina Aguilera is ‘an Obama-supporting Democrat and a gay-rights supporting liberal’, Trump officials say.

The documents indicated that contractors were employed to research the political views of around 274 celebrities, including their stance on LGBT+ rights, in a clear effort by Trump’s re-election campaign to sieve out any opposition.

At least 22 other performers were flagged for being “LGBTQ advocates” and supporters of former US president Barack Obama.

Ricky Martin was described as having an “interest in gay rights”, perhaps because he is literally gay.

Queer figures considered to help net the “LGBTQ demographic” were Matt Bomer, Ellen Page, Neil Patrick Harris, RuPaul, Laverne Cox, Andrew Rannells and Hunter Schafer. Jim Parsons and Sarah Paulson declined.

Adam Levine was labelled a “liberal democrat who supported Obama and fights for gay rights” by contractors, while singer Christina Aguilera “is an Obama-supporting Democrat and a gay-rights supporting liberal”.

Christina Aguilera was labelled by Trump campaigners as 'an Obama-supporting Democrat and a gay-rights supporting liberal'. (Gregg DeGuire/Getty Images)
Christina Aguilera was labelled by Trump campaigners as ‘an Obama-supporting Democrat and a gay-rights supporting liberal’. (Gregg DeGuire/Getty Images)

Justin Timberlake was filtered for “supporting gay marriage”, the documents said, as was “LGBTQ supporter, including [of] marriage equality,” Sarah Jessica Parker.

Bruce Springsteen, Jared Leto and Ben Affleck were also flagged.

Officials were also spooked by “Julianna Moore [sic]” for being a “Liberal Democrat, pro-choicer, LGBT rights supporter, gun control campaigner”.

Democrats on the House Oversight and Reform Committee and the select subcommittee on the coronavirus crisis said the record were “deeply troubling”.

They accused secretary of health and human services Alex Azar II of “a cover-up to conceal the Trump administration’s misuse of hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars for partisan political purposes ahead of the upcoming election”.

Indeed, out of the hundreds of high-profile figures, just 10 made it through contractors pro-Trump filters. According to a separate “Celebrity Participant Status Chart“, they included TV host Mehmet Oz, Quaid and singer Garth Brooks.

The entire effort, first floated by department spokesperson Michael Caputo, was a shambles and by late September was binned by officials.

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