Some right wing leaders are responding to the congressional page scandal by attempting to shift blame onto gay Americans and making the patently false claim that gays are disproportionately likely to commit child sexual abuse.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, no stranger to ethics problems, and certainly not someone who should be speaking on behalf of family values, got the ball rolling on Fox News Sunday when he tried to excuse Republican leaders’ failure to protect minors serving as congressional pages. Gingrich argued that inappropriate e-mails in which Congressman Mark Foley asked a 16-year-old former page for his photo “were relatively innocuous.” Then he tried to turn the tables and blame the Republican leaders’ inaction on gays: “I think had they overly aggressively reacted to the initial round, they would also have been accused of gay bashing,” Gingrich said, “because it was a male-male relationship.”
That’s right. According to Newt Gingrich, the same Republican leaders who want to write anti-gay discrimination into the U.S. Constitution, who have a collective rating of zero on the Human Rights Campaign scorecard, and who count some of the most bigoted anti-gay activists in the country among their core supporters are so scared of being accused of “gay bashing” that they’re rendered impotent when it comes to protecting vulnerable children. This line of reasoning may seem so preposterous that it could be taken as a bad joke, but it’s also apparently rather catchy.
On Monday, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins jumped on the bandwagon, trying to imply that the broader problem is that Congress is cowed by the awesome power of the LGBT lobby. “We need to get to the source of the problem,” he said on CNN. “What prevented the leadership from acting? Were they fearful of acting because they would be seen as homophobic or gay bashing?” Perkins continued, “It shouldn’t be totally surprising, when we hold up tolerance and diversity as the guideposts for public life, this is what you end up getting.“
Perkins upped the ante in today’s San Francisco Chronicle by dismissing Foley’s wrongdoing and the failure of the House Republican leadership to do anything about it, and asserting instead that “the real issue” in the page scandal “is the link between homosexuality and child sexual abuse.”
Today’s Wall Street Journal editorial (subscription required) about the scandal echoed Gingrich’s and Perkins’ assertions:
“In today’s politically correct culture, it’s easy to understand how senior Republicans might well have decided they had no grounds to doubt Mr. Foley merely because he was gay and a little too friendly in emails. Some of those liberals now shouting the loudest for Mr. Hastert’s head are the same voices who tell us that the larger society must be tolerant of private lifestyle choices, and certainly must never leap to conclusions about gay men and young boys. Are these Democratic critics of Mr. Hastert saying that they now have more sympathy for the Boy Scouts’ decision to ban gay scoutmasters?”
The implication here—an assertion about which Perkins was more explicit—is that there is a tie between homosexuality and child molestation. To be clear, that assertion is patently false. As Robert Geffner, the editor of The Journal of Child Sexual Abuse, told USA Today, several studies find that homosexuals are no more likely than heterosexuals to molest kids. Indeed, the most prominent “academic” claiming that there is a correlation between homosexuality and child sexual abuse, Paul Cameron, is clearly more interested in demonizing gays than doing legitimate research, as he’s argued in the past that “the extermination of homosexuals” should be considered.
Maybe instead of attacking gay people, far-right leaders should ask a more obvious question: Why did top Republican leaders in the House decide to protect their own political power when they could have protected children?