Newark Mayor Cory Booker (Eduardo Munoz/Reuters)
Newark Mayor Cory Booker (Eduardo Munoz/Reuters)

The hullabaloo over Newark Mayor (and my friend) Cory Booker, his sexual orientation and his response to questions about his sexuality is the very definition of nonsense. Yes, it’s fine to ask whether Booker is gay or straight. What’s ridiculous is that folks won’t accept his highly evolved answer.

What I love most about Booker is that he is a man comfortable in his own skin. I’ve known him for a long time. I know at least two women he’s dated. I even spied him here in Washington on what appeared to be a date (with a woman) a few years ago. And even though I and other gays would love to claim him as our very own, my finely tuned gaydar registers nary a blip of recognition. That Booker won’t play the “are you or aren’t you” game the way it has been played in the past is refreshing.

We’re talking about Booker’s private life because of the reason he gave for doing so in a profile in The Post this week.

“Because how unfair is it to a young lady to put them in the spotlight if they haven’t signed up for that yet?” he says. “And people who think I’m gay, some part of me thinks it’s wonderful. Because I want to challenge people on their homophobia. I love seeing on Twitter when someone says I’m gay, and I say, ‘So what does it matter if I am? So be it. I hope you are not voting for me because you are making the presumption that I’m straight.’ ”

At once, Booker is standing on principle by insisting that he’s not going to open his private life up to public inspection while at the same time affirming what it means to be gay. So what does it matter, indeed. Okay, the one time it does matter is when a closeted public official dabbles in anti-gay rhetoric and peddles anti-gay policies. This doesn’t even apply to gay-friendly Booker.

Meanwhile, the magazine interview Booker did where he revealed a love of late-night manicures and pedicures only added fuel to the gay speculation. A revelation his Republican Senate opponent Steve Lonegan was only too happy to exploit during an interview with NewsmaxTV.

“It’s kind of weird. As a guy, I personally like being a guy,” Lonegan said on the “Steve Malzberg Show.” He added, “I don’t like going out in the middle of the night, or any time of the day, for a manicure and pedicure. It was described as his peculiar fetish . . . I have a more peculiar fetish. I like a good Scotch and a cigar. That’s my fetish but we’ll just compare the two.”

And if you ask politely Lonegan will show you his “He-Man Woman haters club” membership. #eyeroll

Booker’s retort to Lonegan’s homophobic idiocy during an interview with HuffPost Live on Wednesday was pure gold.

I mean that’s just sad. Honestly that’s just really sad. And it’s just disheartening to hear somebody in this day and age in the United States of America to say basically, implicate that gay men are not men. That they’re not guys. … He’s challenging the masculinity of millions of Americans. That’s really unacceptable. … That kind of callous, bigoted disrespect to gays and lesbians shouldn’t be tolerated. The thought that what defines manhood is the drink that you drink or cigar that you smoke, I think that he just really misses the boat on what it means to be a man in America.

Yep, pitch perfect. And given his standing in the polls, Lonegan will be able to enjoy that Scotch and cigar unmolested by Senate duties.

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Jonathan Capehart is a member of the Post editorial board and writes about politics and social issues for the PostPartisan blog.