The Washington Times isn't known for carrying open or enlightening views on LGBT issues. Indeed, it could be argued that the Times takes certain delight in painting itself as anti-gay, in reinforcing the homophobic smear that "homosexual orientation is contrary to human nature." From same-sex marriage to DOMA to the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," the Times has consistently hammered this point. But the op-ed it published Tuesday on Perez Hilton lifted the gay-bashing to a disturbing level.
Hilton, the openly gay celebrity blogger who runs top gossip site PerezHilton.com, recently announced that he has written his first children's book. The Boy With Pink Hair is to be published in September by Penguin's Hispanic imprint Celebra. According to its publisher, the book "is a defining story about how believing in yourself and following your aspirations can not only bring out the best in you, but also in those around you."
In a statement about the book posted on his website, Hilton, whose real name is Mario Lavandeira, says:
I am absolutely elated about this book, which comes from a very dear and genuine place within me. While I can identify in many ways with THE BOY WITH PINK HAIR, he represents so much more. This story is about every kid that's ever had a dream, felt excluded, wanted to belong, and hoped that one day they could do what they loved and make a difference. Today, with this book, that's exactly what I feel I have the opportunity to do. I hope everyone can share in the spirit of a boy that only wants to bring some happiness to the world around him.
But the Times chose to represent Hilton and news of the book deal by insinuating that he is, in essence, a pedophile.
From the Times:
Mr. Hilton's book, according to the publisher's press release, is "the story of a child born with a shock of fabulous hair that sets him apart from his peers. While some find this difference hard to accept or understand, 'The Boy With Pink Hair' uses the opportunity to find what makes him special and share it with the world."
It would seem that Mr. Hilton, whose legal name is Mario Armando Lavandeira Jr., does indeed have some experience with children.
"He does have a known interest in children," says Peter Sprigg, a senior fellow for Family Policy Studies at the Family Research Council, "having published a photo of teen star Miley Cyrus that could have been considered child pornography."
In June 2010, the blogger took to Twitter to disseminate a picture of pop star and teen actress Miley Cyrus getting out of a car, legs spread open, and crotch apparently visible for all to see.
At the time, Miss Cyrus was 17 years old.
After being roundly criticized for possibly publishing child pornography, Mr. Hilton defended himself on his website in a video playfully mocking the episode. "Miley was clearly wearing underwear," he asserts in the video, still live on his site and preceded by an ad for "Scream 4."
Clad for the video in "fake fur" to "address a fake controversy," the blogger asks, "Do you think Miley is that stupid to be out in public without panties?" Eventually, the camera backs up for the reveal of the video's visual joke: Mr. Hilton is wearing no pants. "Sure, I like to be controversial," Mr. Hilton says. "But I don't want to go to jail."
The Times op-ed, written by Daniel Halper, has every right to criticize Hilton for comments he has made in the past and for inappropriate things he has posted on PerezHilton.com. But what possible reason could Halper have had for devolving this critique into demagoguery, and for the Times to have had no compunction about publishing it? Writing that Hilton "does indeed have some experience with children" and then reinforcing that statement with a comment from a far-right conservative claiming that Hilton "does have a known interest in children," (and -- look! -- now he's writing a children's book) shows that the Times, and Sprigg, wanted to get across one thing: That there is a straight correlation between homosexuality and pedophilia -- a well-known conservative talking point that has been proved to be fiction.
But if the Times' intent wasn't blatant enough, the fact that it invited Sprigg to comment is a flaming red flag. Sprigg is a senior fellow for the Family Research Council, a group the Southern Poverty Law Center has designated as "anti-gay." Among the offensive comments SPLC lists as part of its file on the FRC are several that push the patently untrue claim that pedophilia "is a homosexual problem." From the SPLC:
"Gaining access to children has been a long-term goal of the homosexual movement."
-- Robert Knight, FRC director of cultural studies, and Frank York, 1999
"One of the primary goals of the homosexual rights movement is to abolish all age of consent laws and to eventually recognize pedophiles as the 'prophets of a new sexual order.'"
--1999 FRC pamphlet, Homosexual Activists Work to Normalize Sex with Boys.
"[T]he evidence indicates that disproportionate numbers of gay men seek adolescent males or boys as sexual partners."
-- Timothy Dailey, senior research fellow, "Homosexuality and Child Sexual Abuse," 2002
"While activists like to claim that pedophilia is a completely distinct orientation from homosexuality, evidence shows a disproportionate overlap between the two. ... It is a homosexual problem."
-- FRC President Tony Perkins, FRC website, 2010
As for Sprigg, his views on gay rights are just as extreme:
- In March, Sprigg "blame[d] marriage equality laws for a fall in the birthrate in certain states, arguing that people would have fewer children if gay couples are allowed to wed," according to Right Wing Watch. In a report on "The Top Ten Harms of Same-Sex 'Marriage,' " Sprigg concluded: "The contribution of same-sex 'marriage' to declining birth rates would clearly lead to significant harm for society."
- In December 2010, Sprigg absurdly claimed that "a lot of time the researchers are unwilling to accept the logical conclusions of their own findings" related to the correlation between homosexuality and pedophilia.
- In February 2010, Sprigg agreed that "we should outlaw gay behavior," saying: "I think that the Supreme Court decision in Lawrence v. Texas which overturned the sodomy laws in this country was wrongly decided. I think there would be a place for criminal sanctions against homosexual behavior."
- In March 2008, Sprigg came out against the Uniting American Families Act, which would have allowed "same-sex partners to be united legally through the U.S. immigration process." Sprigg stated: "We oppose this bill because it is, although it may be at the margins, part of an assault on the definition of family ... I would much prefer to export homosexuals from the United States than to import them into the United States because we believe homosexuality is destructive to society." He later apologized for those remarks, saying: "I apologize for speaking in a way that did not reflect the standards which the Family Research Council and I embrace."
Even considering the Times' long history of publishing anti-gay screeds, this op-ed exposes an appalling lack of judgment. Not only does it introduce a completely fabricated attack on Hilton's character, it dismisses his book-writing venture as a push to "refurbish his image." What the op-ed notes only in passing, however, is that Hilton vowed to change the tenor of his website following the spate of gay teen suicides across the country in the fall of 2010. As gossip site PopEater reported at the time, Hilton said during an interview on The Ellen DeGeneres Show:
Over the last two weeks I have been doing everything I can to bring awareness to the teen suicides and gay bullying. ... In doing so, a lot of people have called me a hypocrite and a bully myself and a big one ... From now on I really want to be part of the solution and not part of the problem.
Following the suicide of college student Tyler Clementi, Hilton told MTV News:
I think it's important for young people to hear stories from others who have been through similar situations. ... And they can see that, yeah, it will get better. I may be going through a difficult time now, but I do have options, and killing yourself is not and should not be one of those.
Hilton says his book will be a story "about every kid that's ever had a dream, felt excluded, wanted to belong, and hoped that one day they could do what they loved and make a difference." The fact that the Times found a way to attack that surely shows that the world needs more boys with pink hair, right?