(Re)Birth of a Meme

The "Perry Gay" story goes national, stays groundless, but gains traction

Hutchison and Perry: Anyone else laying odds the ugliness has only just begun?
Hutchison and Perry: Anyone else laying odds the ugliness has only just begun?

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison did not say that Gov. Rick Perry is gay.

By now the story that the guv's big primary challenger has been hiding secret messages on her campaign website has been burning up teh interwebs. In fact, it's kinda hooey, and shows that a lot of reporters don't seem to understand how a website works.

Yesterday, the Statesman reported that "Perry gay" was one of a series of search terms hidden in the html for one of her campaign sites. It was not, as some sources have misreported, fnord on the home page: It was in the page source. It's an old, nay primitive, but proven way to generate traffic to a site: Load the code with a mess of non sequitur keywords to get more search engine hits. The only way it would come up would be a) you happen to be looking through the page source or b) if you ran a search for "Perry gay." So the majority of people who would find this are bored code monkeys and Log Cabin Republicans.

Yet 24 hours later, the old rumor has been picked up by a bunch of national outlets, including Talking Points Memo, Politico, and Huffington Post (who also link to Chronicle news editor Michael King's 2004 editorial debunking it as unproven).

Who does this damage? Initially, Hutchison took a lot of of flack over this, but with the amount of updates and corrections going on as reporters get issued a copy of HTML for Dummies, that's abating. However, the Perry campaign is going to have to step cautiously when debunking this. Think of it as the conservative primary version of "When did you stop beating your wife?"

There's a further interesting twist here: This wasn't on the main campaign website, TexansForKay.com, but the secondary site, StandByKay.com, so even if it gets into trouble for violating search engine terms and conditions, it's no real campaigning biggy.

So yesterday it looked like the Hutchison campaign would be asking for their money back from their web designers. If the old story about Perry being gay gains some traction among primary voters, they may owe them a bonus.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
MORE Rick Perry
No Nugent Is Good Nugent
No Nugent Is Good Nugent
GOP weeps over Nugent comments, but are these crocodile tears?

Richard Whittaker, Feb. 23, 2014

Texas Governor to Decriminalize Pot!
Texas Governor to Decriminalize Pot!
Perry claims progress … but the facts are not so plain

Jordan Smith, Jan. 24, 2014

More by Richard Whittaker
Powerhouse and Netflix Drop <i>Castlevania</i> Season 4 Trailer
Powerhouse and Netflix Drop Castlevania Season 4 Trailer
Drac's back as the blood-soaked horror animation returns

April 30, 2021

Alamo Drafthouse Reopening Locations Nationwide
Alamo Drafthouse Reopening Locations Nationwide
Mueller, Village to light back up across the summer

April 29, 2021

KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

Rick Perry, Kay Bailey Hutchison, Republican Party of Texas, Election 2010, Governor's Office, 81st Legislature, Rick Perry Gay, Politico, Huffington Post, Talking Points Memo

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle