From the White House press room to the Katrina-ravaged Gulf Coast, there aren't too many challenges lesbian supercouple Ellen Ratner and Cholene Espinoza haven't taken on.
In addition to being bureau chief for Talk Radio News Service and a longstanding member of the White House press corps, Ellen Ratner is the “short” to Jim Pinkerton's “long” on Fox News' The Long and the Short of It, a weekly liberal vs. conservative news analysis show. What brought a feisty liberal lesbian like Ellen Ratner to conservative cable behemoth Fox News?
First of all, Ratner rejects that characterization. “I do not consider Fox ‘right wing.' They have an editorial viewpoint, but that's not reflected by the news department,” Ratner insists. And surprisingly, although Ratner has been liberal-baited, she has almost never been gay-baited or even had reference to her lesbianism made in the hate mail she receives.
“I'd really say I've been baited more for being Jewish than being gay,” she says. “I try not to do too many pieces on gay or Jewish issues, because they're subjects on which I'm passionate, and I don't think passion leads to objectivity.”
That's not to say Ratner is silent when it really matters. “There's a guy, Les Kinsolving, who I used to do a radio show with,” she explains. “He's a complete lunatic, obsessed with sex. Every time he's called on in the White House press room, he manages to work anything he asks around to sex, homosexuality, totally off-the-wall stuff.
“One day I lost it. I went to [White House Press Secretary] Scott McClellan and said, ‘I'm not going to tolerate this. You can have your views on gay marriage, but you can't allow verbal gay bashing in here. Would you let people talk like this about blacks in the '60s, during the civil rights movement? Then don't allow it here.'
“He asked what he should do, if he should be more aggressive in response to [Kinsolving's] questions. And I said yes. And he did it. So if it comes to that point, I don't mess around. I'm very open in the press room and have been since I got there 13 years ago.”
In 2002, Ratner met Cholene Espinoza, a former Air Force U-2 spy plane pilot and current commercial pilot for United. Espinoza had been hit hard emotionally by the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, and felt rudderless and full of doubts. She did her best to make sense of the tragedy, but time spent as an embedded reporter in Iraq for Ratner's Talk Radio News Service deepened her sense of frustration.
Just as Espinoza was beginning to recover from the terrorist attacks and her time in Iraq, Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf coast. “I had been to war twice,” Espinoza writes in her book, Through the Eye of the Storm. “Once as an embedded journalist with the First Tank Battalion of the United States Marine Corps, and again the following June, after the invasion. We had shipped almost 200,000 people and enough firepower to overthrow a government and attempt to rebuild an entire nation more than 6,000 miles, but here, within our own borders, we could not provide food, water, protection, or an escape for the victims of Hurricane Katrina.”
The Power of Two: Ellen Ratner and Cholene Espinoza