Media conservatives obsess over Foley's sexuality

››› ››› SIMON MALOY

In commenting on the scandal involving former Rep. Mark Foley, several conservative media figures and outlets have taken special notice of Foley's reported homosexuality and even linked Foley's sexual orientation to pedophilia.

In commenting on the scandal involving former Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL), who resigned from Congress amid allegations that he sent sexually explicit messages to underage male former pages, NBC News correspondent Mike Viqueira, on the October 2 edition of MSNBC's Hardball, reported that part of Foley's "reputation" was that "in 2003 ... there were some questions raised about his sexual orientation as he was preparing to run for the Senate." Host Chris Matthews agreed that Foley's sexuality was a key component of the scandal, saying: "It is a tricky situation. It has to do with orientation. It has to do with age ... and adult relationships with kids." In making the connection between Foley's homosexuality and his alleged misconduct involving underage male pages, Matthews and Viqueira joined several conservative media figures and outlets that have taken special notice of Foley's reported homosexuality and even linked Foley's sexual orientation to pedophilia.

For example, an October 3 Wall Street Journal editorial attacked "today's politically correct culture" and suggested that "Democratic critics" of House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-IL) are being hypocritical for criticizing him over his handling of the Foley scandal because they aren't saying that "they now have more sympathy for the Boy Scouts [of America's] decision to ban gay scoutmasters."

From The Wall Street Journal editorial:

But 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? Where's [House] Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi [D-CA] on that one?

The suggestion that the Boy Scouts' ban on gay scoutmasters is grounded in allegations of misconduct is baseless. Reacting to the Supreme Court's decision in Boy Scouts of America v. Dale (2000), which held that the organization's "First Amendment right of expressive association" allowed it to maintain a ban on gay scoutmasters, the Boy Scouts issued a press release on June 28, 2000, stating: "We believe an avowed homosexual is not a role model for the values espoused in the Scout Oath and Law." The defendant in the case, James Dale, a one-time Eagle Scout, was expelled from the Boy Scouts in 1990 over his disclosure that he was gay, not over any allegations of misconduct.

On the October 2 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, CNN chief national correspondent John King interviewed Tony Perkins, president of the conservative Family Research Council (FRC), who claimed that the House Republican leadership may not have aggressively investigated Foley's alleged misconduct when it was first brought to Republican leaders' attention months before because "there may have been some fear that they had, in pressing it forward, out of fear of being seen as gay bashing or homophobic because of the orientation of Congressman Foley." In prefacing his first question to Perkins, King said that "pro-family voters" looked to the FRC "for guidance and advice in moments like this" -- suggesting that "pro-family" is a synonym for "conservative."

From the October 2 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:

KING: Tony Perkins, thank you for joining us. I want to begin with a simple question to you. You're a leader of a grassroots conservative organization that a lot of pro-family voters around the country look to for guidance and advice in moments like this. There are conservative activists like [ConservativeHQ.com chairman] Richard Viguerie, conservative groups like Citizens United, who say the Republican leadership blew this; they did not handle this well. The speaker and others should resign from office. Do you think that's the case?

PERKINS: Well, I think it's premature to say whether or not the leadership should resign. I think it certainly raises questions about what did the leadership know and when did they know it. We do know that they had indications that there were improper communications between this congressman and pages as long as two or three years ago. But, I think there may have been some fear that they had, in pressing it forward, out of fear of being seen as gay bashing or homophobic because of the orientation of Congressman Foley.

KING: Well, let's talk about one specific incident. John Shimkus [R-IL], the congressman -- he's the Republican chairman of the Page Board; he oversees essentially the page program. He is -- his job is to protect those kids whose parents send them up to Washington. It's a position of great responsibility.

[...]

KING: Congressman Shimkus went to Mark Foley and said, "Don't do it again." But there's no evidence he called an attorney, no evidence he said, "Mark, you need counseling" -- no evidence -- we know he didn't tell the Democrats, didn't even tell other Republicans on that board. As we speak, sir, John Shimkus is still the chairman of the Page Board. Will you send your child to Washington to be a page?

PERKINS: Oh, I -- there's no defense of this behavior. It's outrageous; it's shocking. But it shouldn't be totally surprising when we hold up tolerance and diversity as the guidepost for public life, this is what you end up getting. A congressman chasing 16-year- old boys down the halls of Congress; it's a shame. It's a tragedy and it does need to be addressed but not just the symptoms here.

We need to go to the source of the problem. And if the leadership was negligent, it should be dealt with and it should be dealt with in the most severe way possible. But what prevented the leadership from acting? Were they fearful of acting because they would be seen as homophobic or gay bashing?

Perkins's comments echoed those of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA), who, as Media Matters for America noted, said on the October 1 broadcast of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday that House Republicans would have "been accused of gay bashing" if they had "overly aggressively reacted" to Foley's alleged impropriety.

Also, on the October 2 edition of The Situation Room, conservative pundit Bay Buchanan, in faulting the House Republican leadership for not taking appropriate action, explicitly linked Foley's reported homosexuality to his contact with the underage former page. According to Buchanan:

BUCHANAN: John, that was all they needed to know.

I mean, I -- I will repeat myself. This is a known homosexual who's writing emails to the home of a 16-year-old boy, asking for pictures. There -- that's all you need to know. It's done.

That is enough to demand that anyone who knew that, who had authority to make certain they shook things up enough, so that they would make certain the pages understood that: We want to know what is going on. We need an investigation. Bring in the FBI. Stop this guy. Make certain that, if indeed he was the predator he could be, he was stopped that day.

On the October 2 edition of MSNBC's Tucker, host Tucker Carlson wondered "how the Democrats ... are going to paint this as a scandal of the Republican Party" and asked Democratic strategist Steve McMahon: "So, the Republican Party is now the party of gay sex, or what exactly is the Democratic line going to be here?" When McMahon responded, noting that Foley was "hitting on teenage pages," Carlson again turned the conversation toward homosexuality:

CARLSON: I'm trying -- I'm trying to figure -- look, I am, as I think anybody who takes the time to read these instant messages from Congressman Foley -- whom I'll say up front I've always liked, you know, nice guy -- they're stomach-turning; they're disgusting; they're creepy as all hell, and he deserves whatever he's going to get. I just wonder, as a political matter, how the Democrats, though, are going to paint this as a scandal of the Republican Party? So, the Republican Party is now the party of gay sex, or what exactly is the Democratic line going to be here?

McMAHON: Well, the Republican Party is the party that thinks that the laws don't apply to them, that the truth isn't important, and that when things like this are brought to their attention, they can sweep them under the rug, whether it's Osama bin Laden threatening to fly airplanes into buildings, or whether it's a member of Congress who's hitting on teenage pages. I mean, this is a -- this is a party that thinks the rules don't apply to them, and I think that's the scandal here. And I think the American public, frankly, Tucker, has had enough.

CARLSON: That's pretty good. Is there in fact -- I mean, just as a rhetorical line there, you know, kind of sodomy, terrorism in the same sentence, you know, good luck with that.

The weblog Think Progress documented several other examples of media conservatives responding to the Foley scandal using "anti-gay smears."

From the October 2 edition of MSNBC's Hardball:

VIQUEIRA: Denny Hastert says he has absolutely no recollection of that conversation. He told me that he may -- Reynolds may have told him, but it was at the end of a long list of legislative items. And I said, well, you know, did that raise any red flags for you? I mean, Mr. Foley has had this reputation. It's been reported that pages were warned to stay away from him. Of course, in 2003, Mr. Foley, there were some questions raised about his sexual orientation as he was preparing to run for the Senate and Bob --

MATTHEWS: Yeah, I remember that story.

VIQUEIRA: So, you know, the question is, well, didn't that raise any red flags for you? And he said, no, you know, they were pretty innocuous messages. All -- the kid, the intern, the 16-year-old, lived in Louisiana and the aftermath of Katrina, it didn't seem like anything inappropriate was going on here.

[...]

MATTHEWS: It is a tricky situation. It has to do with orientation. It has to do with age --

VIQUEIRA: Yeah.

MATTHEWS: -- and adult relationships with kids, which we've sort of grown up to, in our civilization, we don't have them.

Posted In
Diversity & Discrimination, LGBT
Network/Outlet
Wall Street Journal, MSNBC, CNN
Person
Tucker Carlson, John King, Tony Perkins, Bay Buchanan
Show/Publication
Hardball, The Situation Room, Tucker
Stories/Interests
Mark Foley Scandal
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