Family Research Council (FRC) president Tony Perkins appeared on Fox News to warn that lifting the Boy Scouts' ban on gay members would expose scouts to higher rates of sexual abuse and molestation, after a week of making the rounds on mainstream media outlets to provide anti-gay commentary in the debate.
During the January 3 edition of Fox News' America's News HQ, Perkins repeated the widely debunked myth that allowing gay men to participate in the Boy Scouts would raise the risk of child sexual abuse in an interview with host Shannon Bream:
BREAM: How do you respond to those who say that the suggestion that somehow a gay scout master would be a threat to a child suggests that they would act inappropriately simply because of their sexual orientation, and they find that insulting?
PERKINS: Yeah, that's a good question, Shannon. Although there is a higher incidence of men who self-identify as homosexual who abuse children, not every homosexual is attracted to children. We've never said that, no one has ever said that. But let's be real. It doesn't pass the parent test. As a parent of three daughters, I wouldn't want my neighbor, who is a heterosexual, a man, camping out with my girls. So why would I want a man who is attracted to men camping out with my boys? [...]
BREAM: The Boston Globe had an editorial that said basically gay soldiers now serve openly in our armed forces, gay marriage is legal in a number of states. They say Eagle Scouts have been returning their badges in protest, that the country has changed and it's time for the Boy Scouts to change with that.
PERKINS: Well, first off, we're not talking about grown men, we're talking about children who are impressionable and cannot make informed decisions. That's why we treat them as children. And they're going to be in an environment where they are going to be secluded from their parents in many cases. And it's not just about scout leaders, it's about other scouts. Look, last fall the Boy Scouts were forced to release about 15,000 pages from what they call their “Perversion Files.” They had identified between the 1960s and the 1990s, about 1900 individuals who preyed upon children. Now that was with the policy they had in place. They still had a problem and paid out millions of dollars. [emphasis added]
Perkins shied away from explicitly linking homosexuality to pedophilia in his statements to mainstream media outlets in the week before this Fox News appearance, but he may have felt more comfortable promoting the smear on Fox, where the “gays as pedophiles” narrative is far from unfamiliar. Fox's Bream failed to push back and point out that every major medical organization has rejected the damaging myth that gay men are more likely to engage in pedophilia than straight men.
In a recent column for the Columbia Journalism Review, Jennifer Vanasco chastised outlets like Fox for failing to provide context while giving airtime to the pedophilia horror stories surrounding the Boy Scouts, writing:
[T]his is not a safety issue. It's about prejudice. When people say that they are worried about putting gay men in leadership positions because children might be harmed by pedophilia, what they are really saying is that gay men make them uncomfortable, and they believe gay men to be perverted and deviant. Happily, most Americans no longer think this way, but the media still needs to pierce the illusions of those who do. When something is wrong, we need to explicitly say so.
I don't think it's bad for reporters to bring up pedophilia when writing about gay men and the Boy Scouts if parents bring it up on their own as a worry. But it is important to recognize that being concerned about gay men leading children in the scouts because of prospective pedophilia is an unfounded fear. Instead of further scaring our readers, we should inform them -- with facts. [emphasis added]