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Video: 'Focus' activist blames liberals and Hollywood for Foley scandal

Published: Tuesday October 10, 2006

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Republicans did not respond to early warnings in the Foley scandal because "liberals treasure homosexuality," according to a conservative family activist.

"[M]ore and more, homosexuality is something that liberal politicians and the Hollywood set prizes," said Tom Minnery, Vice President of Public Policy for Focus on the Family.

"I suspect," Minnery continued, speaking to CNN's Kyra Phillips, "that may be why the Republican leadership did not act faster to clamp down on Mark Foley."


PHILLIPS: Inappropriate messages to teenage boys. It's the main revelation in the Mark Foley scandal. The former Congressman's sexuality was a revelation to some, less so to many others. Now the very proximity between that announcement and the scandal is concerning a number of people in the gay community.

My next guest is the executive editor of "The Advocate," a gay and lesbian news magazine. Its current cover story focuses on another gay politician, former New Jersey Governor James McGreevey.

Anne Stockwell joins me now live from Los Angeles. Anne, appreciate you being with us.

ANNE STOCKWELL, EXEC. EDITOR, "THE ADVOCATE": Good to be here. Thank you.

PHILLIPS: Let me start off by just saying, how is "The Advocate" handling the Foley scandal? What's the discussion in your editorial meetings on how you should go forward and cover this?

STOCKWELL: Well, the first thing that we -- that we're talking about is that we reported on this story ten years ago. In fact, if you go to, our Web site, you can see the actual story. Lots and lots of people knew about Mark Foley, and one of the things that we've discovered is that they perhaps were more worried to have it revealed that he was gay than to have it revealed that he was preying on teenagers.

PHILLIPS: You say you broke that story ten years ago? The fact that he was preying on teenagers or that you broke the story that he was gay?

STOCKWELL: Well, we did not break the story, we reported on the story. It was known at that time that he was voting in -- against gay people, but he was gay. Along with several other members of Congress. Jim Kolbe was included in that story, too, and he has since come out.

PHILLIPS: Interesting. So what happened after your story ran? Did anything -- was there any sort of discussion or feedback or did any other members of the media pick up on your story?

STOCKWELL: No, they really didn't. We think that that has to do with the closet, the long-standing feeling among the press that it's shameful just to say that someone's gay. Of course, it's not shameful to be gay. It's shameful to behave shamefully.

PHILLIPS: Which is -- I mean, we've been wanting to make that point from the beginning, Anne.

STOCKWELL: Thank you.

PHILLIPS: And I know that just because you're gay doesn't mean you're preying on innocent children...

STOCKWELL: Well, the difficulty is that we have a leadership that has made a lot of success on fear of gay people. So, in answer to your question, it's particularly important to us to report that Mark Foley is a predator, and it's not the fact that he is gay that really should have been an issue here.

PHILLIPS: Let me ask you, do you think that gay politicians, specifically gay Republicans, will ever be able to be out on the Hill?

STOCKWELL: I sure hope so.

PHILLIPS: Do you think that will ever happen, or do you think they will have to continue, in many ways, living a double life?

STOCKWELL: I think it has to happen. I think that the old argument that gay people are immoral somehow or that they're ill somehow is simply fading away. Most people know someone who's gay, and most people love someone who's gay these days, whether it's a family member or a friend or a financial adviser or a representative in Congress. And we all know from our personal experience that the kind of old thinking that says we're somehow monstrous is just -- it's out of date.

PHILLIPS: Do you think somehow that this scandal could change the party, the Republican party?

STOCKWELL: I'd like to think so. After all, several gay Congress -- gay people on the Hill tried to get some action about Mark Foley. I think Jim Kolbe said just today that he let someone know. So the question is, why didn't the presumably heterosexual people higher up in the leadership feel that they needed to take action?

PHILLIPS: Are there other political leaders on the Hill that your publication, maybe reporters that work this beat, know that either he or she is gay and there are conversations going on about, well, maybe we should come out, maybe this is it, maybe this is the time that we should start shaking things up?

STOCKWELL: Well, I hope those conversations are going on. It would be wonderful if something good could come out of this.

PHILLIPS: Final question. Do you think there will be any political fallout from this? Do you think it will change the way the votes take place come midterm elections?

STOCKWELL: I don't know. I do know that this episode of covering up something that was wrong seems to add to a pattern with the leadership that has been less than candid about a lot of things with the public.

PHILLIPS: Anne Stockwell, executive editor of "The Advocate." Appreciate your time, Anne.

STOCKWELL: Thank you.

PHILLIPS: Well, the Foley scandal has shaken Washington, but Republicans may be much more worried about how it's playing outside the nation's capital. Christian conservatives are a crucial voting bloc for the GOP.

For insight into their reaction, we go to Colorado Springs and Tom Minnery. He is the vice president of public policy for the group Focus on the Family.

And I guess I want to ask you, Tom, your first reaction to my interview with Anne. Did anything -- anything you want to respond to?

TOM MINNERY, FOCUS ON THE FAMILY: Well, I think Anne has it wrong when she says that homosexuality is something that is regarded as shameful in Washington. I think that, more and more, homosexuality is something that liberal politicians and the Hollywood set prizes. And I suspect that may be why the Republican leadership did not act faster to clamp down on Mark Foley. They didn't want to be subjected to the complaints that they're homophobic, they're bigoted, such as a lot of us are every day. That hurts after a while, and I suspect that plays into this.

PHILLIPS: Do Evangelicals care if there are gay Republican leaders on the Hill?

MINNERY: Well, I think Evangelicals care about moral standards that are much higher than that. I mean, our organization and Christian teaching says that sex ought to be reserved for marriage -- married couples. So heterosexual sex or homosexual sex out of marriage is something that we think is improper.

PHILLIPS: Do you think it's sad -- and just let me ask you straight out. Do you think it's sad that people have to cover up who they really are when it comes to their sexuality? I mean, let's just put the Mark Foley scandal aside and look at some of the other politicians who are sort of talking about their sexuality now. And some of them are being forced to come forward.

And now there's this discussion about, well, should political leaders be able to come out, whether they're Republican or Democrat and say, hey, I'm gay, I'm proud, I'm living a healthy lifestyle, and I don't want to be judged for it?

MINNERY: Well, of course, people have sexual proclivities that they ought to hide. We call it moral standards. There is a set of standards by which we expect people to behave in public, regardless of what they think about in private or what they would like to do in private. So certainly, people should not just go with the -- if it feels good, do it. I mean, that's what got Mark Foley into the situation he's in, which you are condemning. So you evidently believe, as I do, that people should hide these things.

PHILLIPS: Well, I don't think it's fair to say if you're gay you're a pedophile. I don't think that's fair at all. I mean, there are plenty of gay men and women who have healthy relationships and they're not molesting young children. I don't think that's very fair to put those two together, do you?

MINNERY: Well, I don't know anybody who compared gay to pedophile in this interview. I don't know that Mark Foley is a pedophile. As far as I know, he never actually had sex with any of the pages. He just sent lurid e-mails to them. That's a long way from being a pedophile. So I think that's wrong for you to suggest that, Anne (sic).

PHILLIPS: But is that OK to do that, to send those -- are you saying that's all right to send those type of e-mails or instant messages to men that are under 18? I mean, they're very explicit sexual e-mails. That's not.

MINNERY: Come on. No, those are abhorrent. That's not proper for anyone to do, heterosexual or homosexual. PHILLIPS: So we've seen the resignation of Mark Foley. Do you think anybody else needs to resign over this?

MINNERY: Well, let's wait to see what the investigation produces. I'm so happy there's a bipartisan investigation that's now been impaneled. I have to tell you the truth, Anne, I don't think this would be on CNN or on the front pages if we were not a month before an election day. This is the only reason why this is such a hot story, I'm afraid to say.

PHILLIPS: Tom, you'll have to forgive me, Anne Stockwell, the executive editor of "The Advocate," is no longer with us. This is just you and me. This is Kyra Phillips.

MINNERY: I'm sorry, Kyra.

PHILLIPS: That's OK. That's all right. It's easy to -- we obviously wanted the two of you to come on together, and we had to do it this way, I am told, so it wouldn't get into an uncomfortable position for either one of you. So this is your chance to respond. Obviously, we let Anne talk as well.

Let me ask you what kind of impact you think this will have on the November elections. And do you think it will affect the way social conservatives vote?

MINNERY: Well, Kyra, it's hard to say. There are so many factors involved in election day. Obviously, the war continues to be a worry to many people. On the other hand, in some key states, we have marriage amendments on the ballot again, and that, as in 2004, will undoubtedly bring out social conservative voters. And the idea of the top-down views that Bill Schneider was giving about how people view Congress, I think is only half the equation.

The other half is the bottom-up view, how people view their own congressmen or their own congresswomen is very significant. And so a lot of these individual races will bear out on local issues that really have nothing to do with the Mark Foley scandal and may not have all that much to do with the war situation.

PHILLIPS: Final question. This was a quote that we came across in one of the blogs, as you can imagine. There's so many people blogging about the Mark Foley situation. And this blogger says that Washington creates within the minds of elected officials a mentality that says laws, morality and normal bounds of decency don't apply to me, because I'm an elected official.

Rest assured that the only true solution is to get our officials out of office before they become infected by the Washington disease, pride-induced blindness. What's your response to that?

MINNERY: Well, that's a harsh statement. I think I would say we wish that all people would abide by the historic moral standards of Western civilization, which come to us from the Bible. That would be better for a whole lot of people regardless of whether they buy into the teachings of Jesus Christ or not. Western morality has served us well, and I hope it will continue to do so.

PHILLIPS: Tom Minnery, VP of public policy, Focus on the Family, we appreciate your side of the story.