Actor turned political hopeful Antonio Sabato Jr. has distanced himself from his gay roles, suggesting he’s “not so proud” of his LGBTQ-themed films.
Republican Party leaders are calling on Sabato Jr. to withdraw his intention to run for California’s 26th Congressional District following revelations he appeared naked in two gay movies in the mid-2000s.
The one-time soap opera actor played a gay Air Force officer discharged as a result of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy in 2006’s Deadly Skies, a science-fiction film released directly to video. In the 2003 indie Testosterone, Sabato Jr. starred as the boyfriend of a graphic novelist suffering from writer’s block. It screened at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Sabato Jr. has gay love scenes in both films, requiring him to appear partially or fully nude.
The avowed conservative, an early supporter of Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential election, claims these entries in his filmography are not reflective of his values.
“I’ve done many movies,” he tells the Los Angeles Times. “I’ve done things I’m proud of and things I’m not so proud of. That’s just the way any actor works. They don’t know what kind of congressman I’ll be, the work ethic I have.”
Sabato Jr. disavowed his gay past after conservative opponent Jeffrey Burum, who is also contending in California’s 26th District, criticized the films as “pornography.”
“His behavior is inconsistent with anything I would want from a congressional leader,” says Burum, a retired Air Force officer, in a Times interview. “It’s also inconsistent with a party which has always favored traditional family values, which do not include porn.”
The veteran believes Sabato Jr. should drop out of the race immediately.
A spokesperson with the Sabato Jr. campaign dismissed the characterization that the actor’s work constitutes pornography and should disqualify him from contention.
“[A]nybody trying to make Antonio Sabato Jr.’s career and job choices salacious does so without really knowing the value of the craft,” adviser Charles Moran tells the Times. “For a long time, gays have played straight, straights have played gay. A good actor can do this, and many do. Antonio Sabato Jr. is no different.”
Moran, former president of the California Log Cabin Republicans, believes the backlash will not impact the race.
This isn’t the first time that Sabato Jr. has struggled to reconcile his professional background with his current political aspirations. The 45-year-old, most widely known for playing Amanda Woodward’s abusive ex-husband on the ‘90s nighttime soap Melrose Place, claimed he was blacklisted from Hollywood after speaking at the 2016 Republican National Convention.
“I’ve had fantastic directors who have said officially to my agents and managers they will never hire me again,” Sabato Jr. told Variety at the time. “They will never even see me for projects.”
“That’s unfair,” he added. “It’s just like Communism.”
The former Playgirl model and Italian immigrant defended Trump’s plans to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico in his 2016 address to the RNC: “[N]one of this is hateful.”
“This is the responsibility of the government, and the right thing to do,” Sabato Jr. claimed at the time. “Donald Trump will get it done and put us back on the right track. People know this, and that’s why they have voted as they have. We can no longer afford to be silent.”
Should the one-time Dancing With the Stars contestant win the Republican nomination for the California State Legislature, he would face off against Democratic Rep. Julia Brownley. Brownley was re-elected to her seat in District 26, which represents the majority of Ventura County, with 60.4 percent of the vote in 2016.