Obama campaign manager Jim Messina was behind an infamous 2002 anti-gay ad that aired in Montana, according to a profile by Joshua Green in Businessweek.
The ad was run against Mike Taylor, a Republican challenger to Senator Max Baucus of Montana.
The spot features porn music and decades old footage of Taylor's men's cosmetic line, suggestively edited to end with an apparent crotch grab.
"Mike Taylor: Not the way we do business in Montana," the voice over says, ostensibly referring to a loan scandal though in reality raising questions about Taylor's sexual preference.
Messina, according to Baucus, was responsible for the controversial message.
"Jim is tough,” Baucus says. “I’ll never forget when he showed me that ad. We were in Bozeman in a motel. The curtains were drawn. He said, ‘Max, what do you think?’ They were afraid I wasn’t going to like it. I loved it!”
The revelation has been seized on by the campaign's critics on the left.
Writing in Salon, David Sirota called the spot "one of the most homophobic ads in American history."
The sports car driving Messina has a reputation as a "guy's guy" and for being something of a lady's man. He also, however, has strong relationships with gay leaders, and played a central role in brokering Obama's support for a gay rights agenda in his time in the White House.
When asked for comment, the Obama campaign produced an email from a top supporter in the gay rights movement, defending Messina and comparing his record to that of the president's.
"With the exception of the President himself, the LGBT community has had no greater champion or advocate within the administration than Jim Messina," Joe Solmonese, HRC president and Obama campaign's national co-chair emailed BuzzFeed. "In the fight to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell, I had the honor of working by Jim's side throughout the entire process. No one that I know was more proud of that accomplishment or more visibly moved on the day of its passage than Jim. I'm proud to call him a friend."