Cory Booker (left) and Steve LoneganPhoto:
NEWARK, N.J. — Democratic Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker is accusing his U.S. Senate race rival of making bigoted comments following a newspaper interview in which Booker was ambiguous about his sexual orientation.
Republican Steve Lonegan says it’s “weird” Booker won’t refute rumors he’s gay.
Lonegan says he “personally likes being a guy.”
Booker said in a Washington Post profile Monday that “some part of me thinks it’s wonderful” when people say they think he’s gay.
“I want to challenge people on their homophobia,” said Booker, in the profile. “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.’ ”
Lonegan, the former mayor of Bogota, N.J., said he didn’t read the profile and doesn’t know if Booker is straight or gay, but in an interview on Steve Malzberg’s Newsmax talk show, brought up an old interview in which Booker said he likes to get manicures and pedicures.
“Maybe that helps to get him the gay vote, by acting ambiguous,” Lonegan said.
Booker’s campaign said in a statement issued Wednesday that “Mr. Lonegan’s comments are disappointing, bigoted and far outside the mainstream, implying that a man is not a man if he’s gay.”
Booker, who won the Democratic primary this month, is an ardent supporter of gay rights and same-sex marriage. He was the keynote speaker at the Human Rights Campaign’s national dinner last year, when he compared the fight for same-sex marriage to the struggle for civil rights.
Under his leadership last year, the Democratic Party’s platform committee for the first time included support for same-sex marriage.
Associated Press contributed to this report.