COVER ILLUSTRATION BY MICHAEL SHIREY
BY PAUL SCHINDLER | Throughout the month-plus storm that ensued from a dinner and “fireside chat” for Texas Senator Ted Cruz hosted by Out Hotel owners Ian Reisner and Mati Weiderpass, the two gay hoteliers repeatedly insisted the event was not a fundraiser, but instead a chance to discuss foreign policy, in particular their concerns about Israel’s security.
Now, however, the New York Times is reporting that Reisner wrote a check for $2,700 to Cruz around the time of the April 20 gathering at the Central Park South penthouse the two business partners and former lovers own.
The Times published that information on May 29, along with a statement from Reisner saying, “In the interest of transparency, I gave Senator Cruz a $2,700 check to show my support for his work on behalf of Israel. When I realized his donation could be misconstrued as supporting his anti-gay marriage agenda, I asked for the money back. Senator Cruz’s office gave the money back, and I have no intention of giving any money to any politicians who aren’t in support of LGBT issues.”
The newspaper said it learned of the donation from two people with direct knowledge of it, and that Reisner’s statement came after that.
Reisner and Weiderpass, in a series of media interviews and social media posts, have alternately expressed contrition for hosting the meeting and “for hurting the gay community and so many of our friends, family, allies, customers and employees” and aggressively volleyed back that their critics are extremists intolerant of diverse viewpoints within the LGBT community.”
Senator Ted Cruz with Mati Weiderpass, in the Manhattan home he owns with Ian Reisner. | FACEBOOK.COM
One particularly low moment in their campaign at rehabilitation came when they told New York magazine, in response to charges that they have profited off the LGBT community, that “gays are cheap” and the hotel loses money.
In his original mea culpa posted on Facebook on April 26, Reisner claimed he had been “ignorant, naive and much too quick in accepting a request to co-host a dinner with Cruz at my home without taking the time to completely understand all of his positions on gay rights. I’ve spent the past 24 hours reviewing videos of Cruz’ statements on gay marriage and I am shocked and angry.”
The same week that Cruz dined with Reisner and Weiderpass, the Texas Republican announced two pieces of legislation — one a constitutional amendment to shield states limiting marriage to different-sex couples from legal challenge and another blocking any federal court action on the question until such an amendment is adopted.
Cruz’s views on gay marriage are not simply a quibble over the principles of federalism. Last summer, writing in the New Yorker, Jeffrey Toobin quoted him saying, “If ever there was an issue on which we should come to our knees to God about, it is preserving marriage of one man and one woman. And this is an issue on which we need as many praying warriors as possible to turn back the tide.”
Cruz has also voiced opposition to LGBT non-discrimination protections, both in the proposed federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act and in local Texas ordinances. When he first ran for the Senate, in 2012, Cruz faulted his Republican primary opponent Tom Leppert, a former Dallas mayor, for participating in LGBT Pride parades in that city, according to Texas media reports. He has repeatedly characterized being gay as a choice.
The Out Hotel has suffered cancellations from a wide array of community groups that had planned to hold events there, including Broadway Cares/ Equity Fights AIDS and the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus.
Reisner is one of the investors who earlier this year purchased roughly 80 percent of the commercial property in the Fire Island Pines for $10 million.
There has been widespread discussion about a boycott of those Fire Island properties as well, though organizers of that effort did not leaflet the beach community during the Memorial Day Weekend kickoff to the summer season, as had originally been expected.
In a post on a Facebook page set up to push for a boycott of Reisner and Weiderpass' properties, Andrew Tobias, the financial writer and novelist long involved with the Democratic National Committee –– who had defended the two men early in the controversy –– wrote, “The best solution would be for [Reisner] to find a buyer for his share in the Pines properties ASAP — even as he follows through on his pledges to help the community.”