November 9, 2005

Why Jerry Kilgore lost the Virginia governor's race

Although Bush won 54% of the vote in Virginia last year, Republican Jerry Kilgore lost the gubernatorial contest yesterday. A reader writes about Kilgore, who has a wife and kids:

Kilgore had the same problem Al Gore had in 2000: On TV, his voice and mannerisms scream "gay."

People can deny or dodge it, but the fact is that Kilgore is untelegenic -- especially compared to Democratic rival Tim Kaine, who has the look and manner of a local-news sportscaster.

And a big part of Kilgore's problem is his "prissy" voice. I tried to get people to notice this during the 2000 presidential debates. Lots of people noted that Gore came across as a bit of a "teacher's pet" -- smug, know-it-all.

But few bothered to notice what I noticed: Gore has a slight but distinct lisp in his voice which suggests effeminacy, if not homosexuality, in the public mind. In our newsroom during the first Gore-Bush debate, I could *hear* the TV but not see it. And as I listened, Gore's lisp was startlingly clear -- sounding especially "gay" in comparison to Bush's down-home Texas drawl.

Al Gore has a lissssssp rather than a lithp -- a hissy sound when he pronounces the letter "S." Al's not gay, but a large fraction of the men with this speech defect are. It's the bane of gay men's choir directors across the country.

Ace comedian Harry Shearer, who provides the voices for such "Simpsons" characters as the evil billionaire Mr. Burns and his devoted male secretary Smithers, emailed me a precise description of Gore's speaking style. "It's not a lisp--as in "lithp." Rather, it's a sibilant problem, in which the sibilants are pronounced in a thinner, more 'hissy' fashion than is normal among American males."

More at

During the Va. gubernatorial debate this year, the same phenomenon repeated itself. A co-worker was watching the Kilgore-Kaine debate on a TV that I couldn't see. But as I caught the voices, the high-pitched "Southern belle" voice of Kilgore really rang through. All that was missing was a few "fiddle-de-dees," and Kilgore could have been playing Scarlett O'Hara in a drag production of "Gone With the Wind." I walked over to the TV and inquired who was who in the debate. When informed that the sissy-sounding candidate was Kilgore, the Republican, I said to my friend, a staunch Republican who lives in Virginia: "Y'all are in a heap of trouble."

Welcome to the television age, GOP. You cannot -- CANNOT -- win elections with candidates whose TV personas don't click with voters. George W. Bush won two elections because, compared to the prissy Gore and the snobbish Kerry, Bush seemed liked a "regular Joe" -- maybe not an intellectual, but a decent, ordinary guy with common sense, and not stuck-up at all. Kilgore might be a wonderful, decent, conservative person. But on TV, he was a cross between Gomer Pyle and Truman Capote.

Have you ever seen "Gomer Pyle" since you were a kid? I watched it all the time when I was about 8, but I didn't seen an episode again until I was 35. Boy, there's a lot you don't pick up on when you're 8! With Jim Nabors, there was definitely no need to ask or tell.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

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