Media have turned to conservatives with histories of making bigoted, anti-gay remarks to comment on Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Mike Mullen's February 2 testimony on repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT). Those commentators include Family Research Council (FRC) president Tony Perkins, who had claimed that the “real issue” regarding the scandal involving former Rep. Mark Foley's (R-FL) interactions with congressional pages is the purported “link between homosexuality and child sexual abuse,” and FRC senior fellow Peter Sprigg, who once said that he preferred to “export homosexuals” rather than “import them.”
Media turn to FRC's Perkins, Sprigg for dubious DADT commentary
Sprigg on MSNBC: "[T]he presence of homosexuals in the military is incompatible with good order, morale, discipline, and unit cohesion." Appearing on the February 2 edition of MSNBC's Hardball, Sprigg claimed that “the presence of homosexuals in the military is incompatible with good order, morale, discipline, and unit cohesion. That's exactly what Congress found in 1993. And that's what the law states.”
Perkins repeatedly cites unit cohesion canard on CNN. In a February 2 appearances on CNN Newsroom and CNN's Larry King Live, Perkins repeated the talking point that repealing DADT would undermine unit cohesion.
Studies indicate that decisions to lift gay bans in other countries and allow open service have not undermined “morale or unit cohesion.” In an award-winning essay published in the fourth quarter 2009 issue of Joint Force Quarterly -- which is “published for the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, by the Institute for National Strategic Studies, National Defense University” -- Col. Om Prakash writes of DADT that “the stated premise of the law -- to protect unit cohesion and combat effectiveness -- is not supported by any scientific studies.” Indeed, as Media Matters for America has documented, at least 25 nations - including more than a dozen North America Treaty Organization member countries - allow openly gay people to serve in their armed forced. Multiple studies of the impact of the decisions to lift bans on gays and lesbians serving openly in those countries have indicated that, in the words of one General Accounting Office report, “the inclusion of homosexuals in their militaries has not adversely affected unit readiness, effectiveness, cohesion, or morale.”
Perkins previously made anti-gay comments about Foley scandal, Jennings
Perkins said “real issue” in Foley scandal was purported “link between homosexuality and child sex abuse.” In an October 2, 2006, statement headlined “Pro-Homosexual Political Correctness Sowed Seeds for Foley Scandal,” Perkins said that neither Democrats nor Republicans appeared “likely to address the real issue” in the Foley scandal, “which is the link between homosexuality and child sexual abuse.” He added that "[i]gnoring this reality got the Catholic Church into trouble over abusive priests, and now it is doing the same to the House GOP leadership." Perkins reiterated the statement in an October 3, 2006, appearance on Hardball, in which he claimed that “there's clear research that shows that homosexual men are more likely to abuse children than straight men.”
- Experts disagree with Perkins' claim. In fact, a 1995 study released by the American Psychological Association found that “gay men are no more likely than heterosexual men to perpetrate child sexual abuse.” Similarly, in a July 2002 article, USA Today noted numerous experts in psychotherapy, psychiatry, and child sex abuse who argued that figures showing “male pedophiles are more likely to molest boys than girls” are not evidence that gay men are more likely to abuse children than straight men, because they conflate men who abuse boys with gay men. The argument that homosexuals are overrepresented in such cases is based on what John Hopkins University psychiatrist Frederick Berlin has described as the “flawed assumption” that men who abuse young boys are also attracted to grown men.
Perkins piece calling for Jennings' appointment to be withdrawn peppered with anti-gay rhetoric. In a June 29, 2009, Human Events piece stating that Obama administration official Kevin Jennings is “unfit” for his office and calling for Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to “withdraw his appointment at once,” Perkins referred to Jennings as “the homosexual founder of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network” and claimed that he was “undoubtedly chosen for this post ... because the foundation of the homosexual education agenda is the concept of 'safe schools,'” a concept Perkins claimed “single[s] out homosexuals for more protection than others.” Perkins also stated that Jennings “apparently believes in locking sexually confused kids into a 'gay' identity.”
Perkins pushes falsehood that Jennings did not report a “15-year-old who meets sexual partners in a bus station restroom.” In his Human Events piece, Perkins claimed “the most dramatic illustration” of Jennings' “unfitness” for his position is that Jennings did not report a “15-year-old who meets sexual partners in a bus station restroom,” a claim based on Jennings' past statements about advice he gave to a student who told him about his relationship with an older man when Jennings was a high school teacher in the late 1980s. Perkins further wrote:
Sex between an adult and a young person below the “age of consent” (which varies from state to state) is a crime known as statutory rape, and some states mandate that people in certain professions report such abuse.
I do not know if “Brewster” was below the age of consent, nor whether Jennings was a mandatory reporter or violated mandatory reporting laws.
In fact, a 2004 letter from Jennings' attorney available at the time Perkins' piece was published, as well as a statement from the former student and his Massachusetts driver's license later obtained by Media Matters definitively show that he was at least 16 -- the legal age of consent in Massachusetts -- when he approached Jennings.
Perkins says “bizarre” Jennings seeks “to mainstream homosexuality in schools.” On his radio show, Lou Dobbs stated, “There's suddenly a major political storm around him, charges that he has promoted homosexuality in schools, acknowledged past drug abuse, at one time demonstrating contempt for religion itself. Can any of that be true?” Perkins replied: “Well, unfortunately it is. I mean, this guy is bizarre, and it shows just how radical this administration is in pushing forward policies. ... This guy -- he established GLSEN ... to mainstream homosexuality in the schools.” Perkins added, “This is an agenda that is being targeted all the way down to kindergarten. So this is -- the idea that this guy is heading up a safe and drug-free school program, and that he is advocating the expansion of homosexuality in the school and the curriculum” and that “people send their kids to school to get an education, and not to be recruited into a network of sexual behavior, whether it's homosexual behavior or heterosexual behavior.” [United Stations Radio Networks' The Lou Dobbs Show, 9/24/09]
Sprigg once said he preferred to “export homosexuals” rather than “import them”
Sprigg apologized for comment that “trivialized the seriousness of the issue.” In a 2008 interview with Medill News Service, discussing a bill that would make it easier for gay and lesbian Americans to sponsor their foreign partners' citizenship, Sprigg stated: “I would much prefer to export homosexuals from the United States than to import them into the United States because we believe that homosexuality is destructive to society.” In a subsequent statement, Sprigg said he “used language that trivialized the seriousness of the issue and did not communicate respect for the essential dignity of every human being as a person created in the image of God” and apologized “for speaking in a way that did not reflect the standards which the Family Research Council and I embrace.”