Pat Buchanan: "[H]omosexuality is an affliction, like alcoholism"

In attacking Senator John Kerry's reference to Vice President Dick Cheney's daughter Mary Cheney during the October 13 presidential debate, MSNBC analyst and former Republican presidential candidate Pat Buchanan falsely claimed in his October 19 nationally syndicated column that civil unions are “deeply unpopular.” Buchanan accused Kerry and Senator John Edwards (who also mentioned Mary Cheney, during the vice presidential debate) of mentioning the vice president's daughter in an attempt “to injure Dick Cheney among social and religious conservatives.” He also referred to being gay as a “cross [to carry] through life” and wrote: “To some of us, homosexuality is an affliction, like alcoholism, and hellishly difficult to control.”

Buchanan claimed: “Both Kerry and Edwards know their support of civil unions, which are tantamount to gay marriages, is deeply unpopular.” He then cited a vote in Missouri on gay marriage -- not civil unions -- as proof of the lack of popular support for civil unions. But recent surveys show that more than half of the American public (ranging from 51 percent to 64 percent, according to polls, as noted in the chart below) supports civil unions or gay marriage. Of that majority, around 28 percent support providing full marriage rights to same-sex couples. The most recent Pew Research Center poll, conducted in early August, found that 29 percent favor or strongly favor “allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally”; 48 percent favor or strongly favor “allowing gay and lesbian couples to enter into legal agreements with each other that would give them many of the same rights as married couples.”

Polls (click links to read full results) Legal marriage Civil unions No legal recognition
Los Angeles Times (subscription required)
conducted July 17-21
26 percent 38 percent 31 percent
CBS News/New York Times
conducted July 11-15
28 percent 31 percent 38 percent
CBS News
conducted May 20-23
28 percent 29 percent 40 percent
conducted May 13-14
28 percent 23 percent 43 percent

In his column, Buchanan also claimed that “this fact [that Mary Cheney is a lesbian] was still not known to most Americans” and that both Kerry and Edwards mentioned her sexual orientation during the debates in an attempt “to injure Dick Cheney among social and religious conservatives by implying a connection between his moral beliefs and his daughter's lifestyle.”

But as Media Matters for America has pointed out, Kerry did not “out” Mary Cheney. Dick Cheney, his wife Lynne, and their daughter Mary have been very open about her being a lesbian; the vice president mentioned his “gay daughter” during an Iowa town hall meeting in August. An MMFA search of the Nexis “All News” database for mentions of Cheney's “gay daughter” (“Cheney” within 20 words of “gay daughter”) prior to the October 5 vice presidential debate returned 432 results. As Washington Post media reporter Howard Kurtz wrote in his October 15 “Media Notes” column, the fact that Mary Cheney is a lesbian “was hardly a state secret.”