The creators of “Will & Grace” said they were thrilled when Vice President Joseph Biden credited their series with swaying public attitudes about gays and lesbians, but like leaders in the effort to win same-sex marriage rights, they are still critical of President Obama’s hesitancy to embrace gay nuptials.
On “Meet the Press” on Sunday, Biden said he was “absolutely comfortable” with same-sex marriage, which many activists and journalists took to mean an endorsement even as he made clear that the President “sets the policy.” Obama has stopped short of supporting same-sex marriage but has said that his views are “evolving.”
In the interview with David Gregory, Biden also gave a shout out to “Will & Grace,” saying that “when things really begin to change is when the social culture changes. I think ‘Will & Grace’ probably did more to educate the American public than almost anything anybody’s ever done so far.”
Series co-creator David Kohan called the reference “thrilling and surprising and humbling.”
Co-creator Max Mutchnick said they were “absolutely thrilled when he referenced the show,” while making clear they they “never made the show to have a political and social impact,” but to entertain. The series, which ran from 1998 to 2006, was a key feature of NBC’s Thursday night lineup, and has been a success in syndication. Biden’s comment “was the dot on the exclamation point,” Mutchnick said.
Although they will be among the event chairs at an LGBT fundraiser for Obama in Los Angeles on June 6 --- Mutchnick sent a check on Monday --- he said that the President “needs to catch up with his vice president in terms of his views.”
“I have always thought that his language, where he has stated that his views are ‘evolving,’ I personally find that wholly offensive,” Mutchnick said. “I can’t imagine what it would be like to say that about other minorities in the United States. I couldn’t speak that way about other people.”
While the White House on Monday defended Obama’s progress on LGBT issues, like the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and downplayed Biden’s comments, Mutchnick said he considered Biden’s seeming embrace of same-sex marriage as akin to “testing material out of town.” Kohan called it a “tip of the hat to the people who need to hear it.”
“The reason I feel most offended by this is because I don’t believe the President believes this,” Mutchnick said. “I don’t believe he is evolving. I believe he is a man seeking reelection, and he all but breaks it down into Morse code.” He was referring to the nuance of the President's position, as he tries to woo LGBT support yet does not embrace same-sex marriage for fear of jeopardizing votes in key swing states.
He added, “The President should take a page from his friend Oprah Winfrey who takes a page from her friend Maya Angelou. ‘We do better when we know better.’ I believe the President knows better.”
Mutchnick said the check he wrote for the campaign “was written for Joe Biden.” They also sent the Vice President a complete series homevideo set of the show.
Mutchnick was among the 40 or so prominent gay donors and activists present on April 19 when Biden was in Los Angeles for a roundtable at the home of HBO’s Michael Lombardo and architect Sonny Ward.
At that event, Biden made a similar reference to “Will & Grace,” but on “Meet the Press” he also made reference to a question he was asked by Chad Griffin, incoming president of the Human Rights Campaign, during a Q&A session.
Biden recalled a question as, “How do you feel about us?” “And I had just walked into the back door of this gay couple and they’re with their two adopted children,” Biden told Gregory, referring to Lombardo and Ward. “And I turned to the man who owned the house. I said, ‘What did I do when I walked in?’ He said, ‘You walked right to my children. They were seven and five, giving you flowers.’ And I said. ‘I wish every American could see the look of love those kids had in their eyes for you guys. And they wouldn’t have any doubt what this is about.'”
Tickets for the June 6 Obama event at the SLS Hotel start at $1,250 per person, with event chairs paying $25,000 per couple. Pink is scheduled to perform.
Update: Biden's comments made for a contentious White House press briefing today, as spokesman Jay Carney defended the administration's progress on LGBT rights but reporters repeatedly queried him on whether Obama would change his position once the election is over. The complete briefing is here.