“Look what we got running for president in the Democratic Party. We can go over here to [the county jail] and get better people out of there than those running for Democratic, to be president of the United States,” he said, according to a video captured by CBS affiliate WVLT. “We got a queer running for president, if that ain’t about as ugly as you can get.”
Hurst’s comment referring to openly gay Democratic candidate Pete Buttigieg was well-received by those in the meeting, drawing laughter and applause. He then went on to lament the plight of (presumably straight) white men in the country.
“I’m not prejudiced, but by golly, a white male in this country has very few rights, and they’re getting took more every day,” Hurst added. “You’ll hear them stand on the stage and say, ‘Oh, I’m for the poor and the black.’ You never heard one of them say, ‘I believe white people have rights, too.’”
Hurst has been criticized by those who consider his worldview and statements homophobic, racist and sexist. Officials from GLAAD, an organization that advocates for gay rights, called Hurst’s comments “completely unacceptable and ridiculous.”
Chris Sanders, executive director of the Tennessee Equality Project, which advocates for LGBTQ rights in the state, told The Washington Post’s Michael Brice-Saddler that Hurst should resign.
“There may be ways for him to make up for what he said, but they have to be concrete. We’re beyond an apology at this point,” he said. “We need to see some real change backed up by public policy in that county.”
However, despite the pushback, Hurst’s views are shared by many of those in his party who looked to Trump to return the United States to a period when women, people of color and LGBTQ Americans had fewer rights.
The 2018 midterm election was trumpeted as a high point in U.S. politics because of the increase in women and gay Americans who won their races. But not all voters deemed this change as worthy of celebration.
A majority of Republicans — 65 percent — believe that society has become too feminine and soft, according to the latest Public Religion Research Institute survey. More than half of Republicans — 53 percent — believe that men are punished just for being men.
And following the presidency of the United States’ first black president, most Republicans view discrimination against white people as significant of a problem as anti-black racism. Nearly 7 in 10 Republicans — 69 percent — say that discrimination against white people is now as much of a problem as discrimination against black people. More than 60 percent — 63 percent — of these Republicans believe that immigrants are invading the country while changing American culture.
All of these percentages are significantly higher for Americans who are white, over age 65 and who cite Fox News as their primary source of news.
Hurst is a political leader in a state where conservatives and the GOP enjoy widespread support. Republicans overwhelmingly control the governor’s mansion, both chambers of the legislature and most congressional seats. However, these wins are not enough for many conservatives to feel like winners — especially when it comes to the culture wars over issues of race, gender and sexuality.
It is this anxiety, fear and dissatisfaction that will be a leading factor in these individuals’ support for Trump, a president who has often presented himself as the leader of current cultural battles. As long as diversifying the demographics of individuals who have a seat at political tables continues, Americans such as Hurst will view the country as moving further away from its greatest days.