Insure.com CEO Defends Paul Cameron

Timothy Kincaid and Jim Burroway

July 14th, 2008

insuredotcom.bmpLast Friday, Timothy Kincaid revealed for the first time that a popular insurance portal, Insure.com, is hosting false and defamatory anti-gay claims. This follows nearly six weeks of private communications with Insure.com CEO Robert Bland, in which we tried to work with them in resolving the situation.

Soon after Kincaid’s exposé appeared, Mr. Bland wrote a response defending his company’s material, and he has left other comments on this web site which suggest that Insure.com has little interest in factual accuracy or professional responsibility. With these latest comments, whatever hope we first held that Insure.com would act responsibly and in the best interests of their customers, shareholders and participating agencies has now vanished.

In a comment on Kincaid’s article, Mr. Bland wrote:

We expect to take another look at this article over the next 4 weeks because we want to make certain that we encompass all available current research on this topic. We think that there’s a human interest story to be researched here on why all U.S. life insurers decline HIV-positive applicants (many of whom are healthy and have been for two decades) but will not even attempt to segregate gays who, according to a growing body of evidence, may have a much shorter lifespan than non-gays. [emphasis ours]

This comment left us dumbstruck. There simply is no “growing body of evidence” to suggest that gays have a different lifespan — let alone a “much shorter” one — from non-gays. In fact, there’s no evidence for it at all. We challenge Insure.com to show us their “growing body of evidence,” because we certainly haven’t seen it in any of the hundreds of peer-reviewed journals that we continually monitor as part of our work.

Mr. Bland is not unaware that Insure.com’s claims are without merit. This is not an example of benign ignorance or lack of information, which was our assumption when Kincaid first contacted Insure.com on June 1. We both have provided him with evidence that the bases for Insure.com’s anti-gay article are either not relevant or are the product of a discredited anti-gay extremist.

We repeatedly told Mr. Bland about Paul Cameron’s professional misconduct. Kincaid even warned him that relying on Cameron has resulted in public embarrassment of those who quote him, including Secretary of Education William Bennett. Kincaid provided links to detailed analysis, and he advised Mr. Bland to search the Internet for additional information about Mr. Cameron.

This is not difficult to do — Cameron’s reputation is very well known. Even Exodus International, which works closely with Focus On the Family to lobby against civil rights for gays and lesbians, has pulled their references to Paul Cameron. Focus On the Family themselves scrubbed their materials of anything associated with Cameron more than a decade ago. And yet just last Saturday morning, Insure.com’s CEO returned to our web site once again to cite Cameron and his Denmark gay lifespan “study”:

Then, in early 2007, Drs. Paul and Kirk Cameron reported at the Eastern Psychological Association convention that married gays and lesbians lived about 24 fewer years than their married heterosexual counterparts. This time, the Camerons extracted official data from Denmark, the country with the longest history of gay marriage, for 1990-2002. Married heterosexual men died in Denmark die at a median age of 74, while 561 partnered gays died at an average age of 51.

We found this surprising, as we had already provided Mr. Bland with Burroway’s analysis of that study when Kincaid first contacted Insure.com six weeks before. But if Insure.com doesn’t trust our analysis, then maybe they can trust conservative Christian psychology professor Warren Throckmorton. He examined Cameron’s Danish “Gays Die Young” notions and devoted a nine part series to the subject. Throckmorton concluded that the Camerons skewed their findings “to the point where any results cannot be trusted.”

And as insurance professionals, Insure.com surely can trust Dr. Morten Frisch. He’s the senior epidemiologist at Copenhagen’s Statens Serum Institut. Frisch described the Camerons’ report as having “little to do with science… The methodological flaws are of such a grave nature that no decent peer-reviewed scientific journal should let it pass for publication.” But Dr. Morton did manage to find one good thing to say about it:

Although the Camerons’ report has no objective scientific value, the authors should be acknowledged for providing teachers with a humorous example of agenda-driven, pseudo-scientific gobbledygook that will make lessons in elementary study design and scientific inference much more amusing for future epidemiology students.

As for what Drs. Cameron “reported” at the Eastern Psychological Association convention, Burroway wrote EPA president Dr. Phil Hineline in April 2007 to ask about the nature of the Camerons’ participation at the gathering. Dr. Hineline responded with a public letter condemning the Camerons for misrepresenting their participation at the convention. First, the Cameron’s didn’t present a report at all. All they did was participate in a “poster session,” in which they manned a table with a poster of some of their data in a large hall, alongside scores of other presenters. Not to be too condescending about it, but this is more like a science fair for grown-up professionals than a formal presentation before the convention as the Camerons portrayed it. What’s more, Dr. Hineline confirmed that the data they submitted to the EPA had nothing to do with lifespans at all — that had been added later — and he said they would not have been accepted it if it did.

We both tried to disabuse Insure.com’s CEO of the notion that most gay people have HIV, as he appeared to have alluded to such an argument in an earlier email. On June 12, Kincaid explained that at most, perhaps 15% of gay men and almost no gay women have HIV. And yet last Saturday morning, Mr. Bland continued his “gay = AIDS” smear by quoting from a Canadian doctor who said that once diagnosed with HIV, the average lifespan of such a person is 8 to 10 years, and that’s why we all die so much earlier. But even if that “gay = AIDS” canard were true — and it clearly isn’t — we suggest that the Canadian doctor and Mr. Bland read last week’s issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, which found that the life expectancy of those with HIV is actually approaching something closer to normal.

Our readers have suggested that Insure.com pull down the disputed article until pending verification of its sources. As an insurance portal providing relevant information to its many customers, that would be the prudent thing to do. But instead of following that sensible advice, CEO Bland reposted the entire article as a comment on our web site, saying that Insure.com has “no intention of ‘taking (it) down’ because it contains no factual errors and no editorial bias or slant whatsoever.”

Insure.com is a well-known, publicly traded company. In our private communications with CEO Bland, he reassured us on June 2 that Insure.com has no political agenda, and that in their 24 years in business they have never asked about anyone’s sexual orientation before hiring them. We took them at their word, which is why we waited nearly six weeks before going public with our concerns.

Mr. Bland kept delaying and asking for more time, claiming that “other priorities” interfered with Insure.com’s investigation of the article. But since Friday, Insure.com’s busy CEO has found the time to write several comments on this web site — and on at least one other web site as well — claiming that “Box Turtle Bulletin is too anxious to bash Insure.com.” He decided it was a priority to take the time to write these comments, and yet he hasn’t found it to be a priority to simply have someone hit the delete button on the false information promoted by Insure.com. The remedy for all this is incredibly simple.

But instead of doing the reasonable and sensible thing, Mr. Bland continues to stake his reputation and that of his publicly-traded company in defending these anti-gay smears. More startling, he continues to tie this reputation to that of Paul Cameron, a man who:

  • once said that “unless we get medically lucky, in three or four years, one of the options discussed will be the extermination of homosexuals,”
  • wrote approvingly of how the Nazi’s “dealt with” homosexuality at the Dachau and Sachsenhausen concentration camps,
  • and who just last month urged a group of Russian ultra-nationalists to press on with their often-violent suppression of gays in that country.

We frankly find this to be both puzzling and troubling.

Mr. Bland claims that he is not homophobic and that Insure.com does not have an agenda. We believe that the “growing body of evidence” suggests otherwise.

See also:
Aug 15: Insure.com Pulls Cameron Quotes
Jul 17: Certified Cameronite: Insure.com
Jul 14: Insure.com CEO Defends Paul Cameron
Jul 11: Insure.com’s CEO Bob Bland Responds
Jul 11: Insure.com’s Anti-Gay Propaganda

Stefano A

July 14th, 2008

Jim and Tim:

In addition to reporting on this at Box Turtle, have you also notified GLAAD and the relevant state/national insurance regulatory bodies?

Just wondering.

Buffy

July 14th, 2008

Why am I not surprised?

Stefano A

July 14th, 2008

Robert Bland may contest that he has no anti-gay agenda, but get a load of this where he links homosexuality with pedophelia:

http://www.reason.com/news/show/34181.html

Words speak louder than actions

Tim Cavanaugh’s E Pluribus Umbrage (Dec. 2002) makes a gross error in characterization by stating that the Catholic Church is “unable to take a strong stand against raping children.” The pope has consistently called sexual abuse of minors an “abomination” and has only recently obtained the public support of American bishops to rid the church of homosexuals and pedophiles. I believe that Mr. Cavanaugh has made the popular media mistake of confusing official Church policy and teachings, which source solely from the pope, with the actions of certain renegade U.S. bishops.

In direct violation of Vatican policy, many U.S. bishops and religious orders have allowed seminaries to admit homosexuals and pedophiles over the past 40 years. In certain seminaries, professors openly dissent from Catholic teaching on homosexuality, and homosexual behavior has been protected while orthodox, morally-straight seminarians have been persecuted or forced out altogether.

Not surprisingly then, 90 to 98% of the publicized cases of priestly pedophilia committed by U.S. Catholic priests involve boys (whether prepubescent or postpubescent). Not all “gays” are pedophiles, but pedophilia – called “intergenerational love” by homosexuals – is part and parcel of the homosexual subculture, whose publications commonly carry themes of adult-child sex.

Apparently the U.S. bishops have now finally begun to take a strong stand against “sexual abuse of minors” and have begun to purge the Church of homosexual priests. While the Catholic Church very publicly and painfully begins to purge its ranks of sodomites and child abusers, one can only hope that other large organizations will follow suit.

There’s much work to be done. Here in Illinois, for example, the State Child Sex Abuse Hotline received over 10,000 calls for help this year with not one call involving a Catholic priest. Sadly, most of the calls involved abuse by close family members.

Robert Bland
Darien, IL

Stefano A

July 14th, 2008

That concluding comment that he can only hope other “large organizations” will also “purge” homosexuals from their ranks is priceless.

Obviously no proponent for ENDA.

Sapphocrat

July 14th, 2008

No surprise from a guy who thinks Rush Limbaugh’s audience is “highly educated, diverse and involved”:

http://finance.abc7chicago.com/abclocal?…NSUR

And, nope, Mr. Bland has no political agenda whatsoever:

http://www.newsmeat.com/fec/bystate_detail.php?st=IL&last=bland&first=robert

Willie Hewes

July 14th, 2008

It’s a day for jawdropping news, I guess.

David Benkof stops writing, and Insure.com would rather go down screaming than take one of 3000 articles down from their website. What is happening to the world?

Someone already said this, but, is GLAAD on this?

Stefano A

July 14th, 2008

Sapphocrat:

Thanks for posting the link to compaign contributions. I’d checked but didn’t find as complete a list as the one you linked to.

Jason D

July 14th, 2008

I’ve put this on my twitter, with the link to this article.

Ephilei

July 14th, 2008

BTB I’m impressed that you communicated with Insure.com before going public. That shows wisdom and kindness. Are there other sites/organizations in which you did the same but were successful removing bad research?

Actually, there was a study measuring Limbaugh’s audience which found it was one of the most informed audiences. Not everyone we disagree with is an idiot.

Gary

July 14th, 2008

This is some of the best work you’ve done, BTB.

Unfortunately it is also truly disturbing (like the insurance industry in general).

Robert Bland is willing to put his professional reputation on the line to support his anti-gay agenda. . .all the more reason to expose him to his peers and business associates.

Thanks for the good work.

Jim Burroway

July 14th, 2008

Ephilei,

Yes we have. And when that happens, we see no reason whatsoever to publicize it. The sad fact is, that many well-meaning people fall into the trap of believing that Cameron’s so-called “research” is legitimate, and are shocked to discover that he has been censured by so many professional organizations throughout his career.

But of course, Cameron’s reputation is in such tatters that Focus On the Family scrubbed their web site of all mention of him more than a decade ago. Just two years ago James Dobson derided Cameron, describing him as someone who “calls himself a researcher.”

And without Cameron, the whole “gays die young” smear falls apart.

Snappyback

July 14th, 2008

Donor to Huckabee and Buchanan? That explains a lot. Can’t expect integrity now. Time to start contacting the companies they’re representing.

ted

July 14th, 2008

At this point, would it make sense to provide contact info for the PR reps for the insurance companies that Insure.com represents.

David

July 14th, 2008

Not only it is time to contact that Insurers that Insure.com represents, it is time to inform the various hedge funds and other financial instruments that invest in Insure.com as well. Anyone with money invested in Insure.com risks taking a hefty loss in what is already an unstable market.

The material quoted here regarding Mr. Bland’s viewpoint is worth forwarding to any of the insurance companies his firm represents, and to your state insurance regulatory committee or agency.

Additionally, if anyone you know is an Insure.com customer and received less than satisfactory underwriting on a policy application, they should be informed of this material as well. There are strict regulations addressing the ways that agents and agencies influence the underwriting process. Since agents and agencies are paid commission based on the price of the final, underwritten contract, activities that could contribute to an inflated price are strictly prohibited and the fines can be significant.

David

July 14th, 2008

To clarify, I am not stating that the material in question has definitely been used to the detriment of customers; however, all Insure.com customers do deserve the opportunity to evaluate whether this material, or any other material authored by Mr. Bland, has had a negative impact on the underwriting process for their insurance contracts.

If said customers believe this material contributed to a negative underwriting decision, they should then address that issue with their State Insurance Commissioner or other appropriate agencies.

Joe Moderate

July 14th, 2008

Timothy and Jim,

Wow, very impressive work, guys! I am wholly amazed at this CEO’s responses. Glad that you guys are on his ass.

Great work,

Joe

banshiii

July 14th, 2008

Yep, probably time for us all to get to work exposing this numnut.

Patrick ONeill

July 14th, 2008

I would love to see someone in California file a complaint with the Attorney General about Insure.coms’ using these articles.

I would if I lived in a state that actually had anti-discrimination laws, and Bland is a registered agent doing business in CA

Rob

July 15th, 2008

I’ve sent another message to Kanetix.ca regarding the content on the insure.com website, as well as copying the communication to the Ontario Human Rights Commission, and the Federal Human Rights Commission.

In Canada we take the publishing of lies attacking a minority very seriously. Though I expect a response from the Provincial Human Right Commission, our current Prime Minister (What’s 12″ and hangs between George Bush’s legs? Stephen Harper’s tie.) is so spineless, that I don’t imagine much will happen on the Federal side.

Robert Bland

July 15th, 2008

June 2, 2008:

Dear Mr. Kincaid,
I have already asked our editororial personnel to re-check our facts on the NOvember 15, 2007 article in question.

It will take us several days to complete our fact-checking on this article, which we are happy to do and we thank you for taking the time and effort to write us citing your concerns.
We’re currently hosting about 3,000 articles in total and we are always ready and willing to recheck our facts when any reader states that they have found a factual error. We will thoroughly recheck our sources on these articles and we thank you again for taking the time and effort to write.

Insure.com has no corporate political agenda on this or any other political issue, but is interested in publishing accurate insurance-oriented information that might be of interest to consumers.

However, you clearly have more than a one-article accuracy concern on your mind today. I didn’t mention this in my earlier note to you today in the spirit of openness and cooperation, but your 1 minute claim that my 24 year-old firm is “homophobic” based upon your reading of one article or writer Joe White has published anything that is “fraudulent” or that we are otherwise now in need of your services to audit our hiring or marketing policies is going to fall on deaf ears here, especially given that you’ve decided you already know everything you need to know about us and that your two communications to us today both inflammatory, ill-researched, overly-emotional, highly-biased and perjorative claims that could be misleading and damaging to my firm’s sterling reputation.

You know nothing about us and we are not in need of any of your audit services or ad hoc editorials at the present time. You’ve read one of our 3,000 articles, didn’t like it and have then made all sorts of aggrandized assumptions and conclusions about us.

Sincerely,
Bob Bland, CEO

Timothy Kincaid

July 15th, 2008

Robert Bland has seen fit to cut and paste an email that he sent to me on June 2, 2008. I’ve no idea why he’s posting it here at this time.

Our readers may wish to know that we had no interest in auditing Mr. Blands records or in providing ad-hoc editorials. Frankly, I’ve no idea where he came up with that. Nor had we branded him or his company as homophobic.

Timothy Kincaid

July 15th, 2008

It should aslo be noted that there is another article of interest to gay consumers. With the title, Health insurance benefits for domestic partners, one might think that it would provide information relevant to individuals in those seven states that have Domestic Partnerships or Civil Unions as well as perhaps some info for the additional two that have marriage recognition.

Sadly, this article – which was updated Jun. 3, 2004 – is woefully outdated and inaccurate. For example, some of the statements within include:

No state currently recognizes same-sex marriages.

Obviously that is no longer true

Even as employers are increasingly looking to offer domestic partner benefits, health insurers are resisting selling plans that include such coverage. They fear that an employees gay partner might contract AIDS, an exorbitantly expensive disease to treat. No individual health insurers sell policies with domestic partner benefits.

I don’t know about all states, but since 01/01/05, in California all insurance providers were required by law to treat Domestic Partners identically to spouses. New Jersey also requires insurers to provide domestic partnership coverage.

Although the article is inaccurate, it is the sort of information that a site like insure.com should provide.

Sadly, much more effort has been expended in propogating false and defamatory claims that can be used by anti-gay activists than in updating an article that could provide true and useful information valuable to the company’s potential gay customers.

John

July 15th, 2008

Timothy,

The above cut and past letter to you from Mr. Brand from June 2, 2008 seems like it was written by two different people.

The first 4 paragraphs seemed perfectly professional. The sort of thing you might expect in response from an insurance company. Although it is from the CEO, and that seems strange, unless this is a very small outfit.

The last two paragraphs are so angry, and have such a different tone, that they don’t even seem related to the first part of the letter.

It must be a fairly small company whose leaders don’t have much PR sense. You just wouldn’t get this sort of vitriol from a larger, more professional organization with an established PR department.

Stefano A

July 15th, 2008

John:

I’m unsure of the number of employess. It may be “small” in terms of employees, but it Insure.com has a large web footprint. They’ve been heraleded by Forbes magazine and others as one of the “best of the web” insurance sites.

I’m also not sure, but I think they are owned by bestquotes.com.

Robert Bland

May 8th, 2009

Nice mention in New York Times today about information that Insure.com offers gay couples as respects health insurance.

“It’s not easy being gay,” said Mary Jo Hudson, director of the Ohio Department of Insurance. She wasn’t referring to political opposition and other obstacles, but the plight of same-sex couples who are trying to get and keep health insurance. Many employers and insurance companies require proof of a domestic partnership before you can qualify for benefits. One of the most common documents is an affidavit signed by both partners, explaining the details of the relationship. For more information on what needs to be included in an affidavit, the Web site insure.com offers a check list.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/09/health/09patient.html?_r=1&ref=health

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