Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s campaign calls him a peddler of “false Internet garbage.” Arianna Huffington found his scoop insufficiently sourced and refused to run it on her site.
But nonetheless, Glen Maxey, a former Texas state legislator—the only openly gay one in its history—has shoved into public view what was previously only fodder for cocktail party chatter among reporters and politicos. Last week, he self-published an e-book filled with salacious details about Perry’s personal life peddled by anonymous sources of dubious credibility alleging the swaggering, coyote-killing governor of Texas has had a string of male lovers. Gawker ran with Maxey’s tales, creating a one-stop location for “All Your Rick Perry Gay Sex Rumors Collected in One Handy Book.” Politico took a more sober approach, focusing on Lin Wood, a well-known Atlanta lawyer who defends those caught up in legal and other scandals. Several blogs focused on gay issues wrote pieces about the "controversy."
Maxey’s book, Head Figure Head: The Search for the Hidden Life of Rick Perry, focuses on his work with an unnamed reporter on the Perry story. That reporter was Jason Cherkis, who works for The Huffington Post, which never published on the Perry sexuality rumors. Arianna Huffington told Politico she spiked the story because “we realized that it was not a publishable story,”—not because of a threatening letter from Wood. Cherkis, meanwhile has said that the problem was simple: they needed the two sources he spoke with to go “fully on the record.” But they wouldn’t do that.
So who is this tormenter of the Texas governor?
For more than two decades, Maxey has been a fairly well known Democratic operative on the Texas scene. He worked on Ann Richards’s 1990 gubernatorial campaign, then served six terms in the legislature, winning the Austin Chronicle’s annual reader’s poll for “Best Legislator” eight times in that stretch.
But the last 15 years have been spotty for him, as well. In 1998, Maxey had a brush with bankruptcy. In 2003, as redistricting prompted a number of Democrats to call it quits, he announced he would not seek reelection.
In the ensuing years, Maxey ran two unsuccessful races, one to become chairman of the Democratic Party in Texas and another to become the tax-assessor-collector. The second campaign was a disaster. Maxey’s opponent was a Democratic incumbent, and the contested primary did not sit well with party elders.
Shortly before the election, The Austin-American Statesman reported that while serving in the legislature, Maxey “approached” the district attorney privately and inquired about how to get leniency for a former beau of his who was facing charges for intoxication and possession of cocaine. “I called the attorney general and asked if there was an option by which he could go into treatment,” Maxey tells The Daily Beast, unapologetic. Still, he acknowledges that he should not have pushed a Democratic incumbent into a race unnecessarily. “I was too proud.”
Some would call it a day after all this. Not Maxey. He is a guy who doesn’t walk away from a fight, even if he has to get down and dirty to win it. And that’s just what he does in his book, which relies primarily on a hustler who allegedly communicated with him solely via text message, a real estate agent who had a close encounter in the dark with a man he believed was the governor, and a friend who swears he was hit on by Perry but turned him down. And of course, not one of these men was willing to go on the record.
Having not quite gotten the smoking gun, Maxey also relies heavily on innuendo to make his case. For example, what’s up with those teeny jogging shorts Perry’s always wearing? This Maxey finds very suspicious. He also hears the governor shaves his legs and arms! What’s up with that?
Unsurprisingly, Maxey can be a little naïve about why The Huffington Post spiked the story. He complains almost relentlessly about how much work went into it—at least two months and heaps of interviews with hundreds of people around the state capital—as if this alone should give HuffPo the impetus to publish his account. He doesn’t seem to understand what hearsay is, and when confronted about this, says simply, “I’m not a journalist.”
Maxey’s also been asked repeatedly what the point of publishing is, now that Perry’s presidential campaign has more or less gone up in smoke. This annoys him. “Rick Perry’s not going away,” Maxey says, pointing out that while Perry “may be off the national stage in a matter of months,” he remains the governor of Texas and a wingman for the religious right and anti-gay activists. “The Tea Party has control of the legislature here in Texas,” Maxey says. “They have a two-thirds majority in the House and the Senate. It’s not over for us.”