SELWESKI: GOP homophobes step into KKK rhetoric
April 6, 2013
What started out as a snit over a Facebook post and grew into a political controversy, stretching all the way to top national Republican Party leadership, has emerged as an epic embarrassment for the GOP on the issue of gay marriage.
At the start, Dave Agema, one of three Michigan representatives who shape the Republican National Committee agenda, posted an item on his Facebook page that excoriated the gay community. His post was entitled “Everyone Should Know These Statistics on Homosexuals.”
The article, supposedly written by an obscure OB-GYN medical doctor, depicts gays as sexually promiscuous, pedophiles, and deviants living a “filthy” lifestyle. Incredibly, it claims that they are to blame for “half the murders in large cities.”
The post generated a furor within the Michigan GOP, with some Republicans calling for Agema, a former western Michigan state representative, to resign and/or apologize. Other GOP stalwarts endorsed the former lawmaker and added their name to an online petition urging him to stand firm.
But the story took a huge right turn Friday night when information was published that showed the Agema version of homosexuality was based, in part, on the observations of a Ku Klux Klan member, a white supremacist. So, here is the situation for a party that is in post-election contrition, trying to portray itself as more inclusive and open-minded than in the past: A new poll shows that half of the party’s most ardent Michigan supporters embraced a homophobe who got some of his outdated, outlandish information from an admitted gay-hater and racist.
Overall, here are some of the claims in the Facebook post: 37 percent of homosexuals engage in sadomasochism, 60 percent say they have had sex with strangers in “bathhouses,” about 80 percent of homosexuals are infected with sexually transmitted diseases, and the average gay person has between 20 and 106 sexual partners per year.
Agema’s answer to those who denounced this deplorable smear: “Some people don’t like facts.”
But eight points made in the essay that Agema posted were based on the vitriol espoused by Dr. Edward Fields, a non-practicing chiropractor from Marietta, Ga., and a prolific hater of Jews, blacks and gays.
According to the Jewish Anti-Defamation League, Fields is a Holocaust denier who has been “active in white supremacist and anti-Semitic groups since he was a teenager in the late 1940s ... a significant force in the racist world” of the South. As recently as January, former KKK leader and infamous Louisiana GOP politician David Duke interviewed Fields on his Internet-based radio show. One subject: Jews and homosexuals taking over the world.
Great credit goes to Ken Braun of the Midland-based Mackinac Center for digging up this background material.
In Michigan, the poll taken a few days ago by the MIRS news service in Lansing found that 65 percent of Republican precinct delegates surveyed agree that Agema had the right to post his anti-gay message. About half said they would re-elect Agema as RNC committeeman, despite the controversy. And only 16 percent said that he should step down.
Agema has defiantly refused to apologize and said that he could present “reems (sic) of studies” that back up his claims about homosexual deviancy.
The stunning situation for the national GOP is that, on the heels of an intraparty study that concluded Republicans are too rigid and unable to embrace American diversity, an apparently extraordinary number of bigots and homophobes in the Republican Party have been exposed.
It’s almost as if this sequence of events revealed an ugly GOP underbelly. This is not a “gotcha” moment generated by some liberal Democrat. This is a man-in-the-mirror expose.
The broader picture is this: The Michigan GOP is more moderate on social issues than Republicans in many Southern states and is surely representative of politics in Middle America. Imagine the public opinions in Alabama if a similar situation had occurred there.
The Michigan poll was not based on a widespread survey of Republican voters, but the delegates questioned are the GOP activists – the heart of the party. Half of the party apparatchiks apparently feel, at a minimum, that it is acceptable for gays to be stigmatized, ostracized and marginalized.
Worse yet, the Facebook message, written by a “Dr. Frank Joseph,” was based on anecdotes and suppositions from 1978-94.
The most recent material was from 1994? On the fast-moving train that the gay marriage issue has become, the Agema position is like departing at a dusty station in 1894 and never taking a step forward.
Democratic members of Congress – their fingers to the wind – have emerged in recent days to sanctimoniously declare that their position has “evolved” and they now back same-sex marriages nationwide. But the Republicans, based on the Agema controversy that has received national attention, seem torn between the old-school position of gay-bashing and a newfound respect for public beliefs in favor of marriage equality.
Numerous GOP officials, including RNC Chairman Reince Priebus and Michigan GOP Chairman Bobby Schostak, stepped forward to denounce Agema’s embrace of virulently anti-gay rhetoric. At the same time, they adhere to their traditional view of marriage and dodge the issue of an Agema resignation. Others, such as Gov. Snyder, remain largely silent.
This issue should certainly come to a head this week when the RNC holds its 3-day, quarterly meeting in Los Angeles. I wonder if Agema, adhering to the old Religious Right rhetoric, will restate his laughable claim that the GOP is being pushed to the left by “liberal Republicans.”
About 1,100 supporters have signed the pro-Agema petition on his website, though some names appear to be fake. Meanwhile, 200 Republican activists from across the state have supported a call for the committeeman’s resignation. That grassroots effort was led by a 28-year-old Grand Traverse County GOP activist, Dennis Lennox, who has sent 47 emails on this issue since the dispute erupted.
Yet, the Agema opponents seem most concerned that the Grandville Republican has denigrated the party to the extent that the impact could be felt in 2014 at the ballot box. This is about winning.
As he labels calls for his resignation “a joke,” Agema seeks alliances with the party’s “moral conservatives.” Which begs the question: Who are the immoral conservatives with whom he is battling?
If this is all about electability and political power, simple electoral math may come in handy. Among the conservative commentators who denounced Agema in recent days was George Will. The longtime columnist recently wrote that, among young voters of all partisan stripes, being gay is about as interesting as being a lefty.
He wasn’t referring to liberals. He was citing those who are left-handed in everyday life.
A southpaw -- that’s not a choice. That’s just the way it is.
I wonder: In 2013, are self-righteous Republicans who rally around out-of-step, bigoted political figures such as Agema the true deviants?