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Sam Adams and the Double Standard

This commentary is the opinion of the author and does not necessarily reflect those of other authors at Box Turtle Bulletin.

Jim Burroway

January 21st, 2009

In 2005, Sam Adams, then a Portland, Oregon, city councilman, met 17-year-old Beau Breedlove. Adams was 42 at the time. Adams admits now that after Breedlove turned 18, they had a brief romantic liaison. When news of the liaison hit the wires, prominent voices began calling for Adams’ resignation.

In 1992, Jerry Seinfeld, a comedian with a hit television series, met and began dating 17-year-old high school student Shoshanna Lonstein. Seinfeld was 38 at the time. The following year, Seinfeld hit number three in the Neilson ratings, and went to number one in 1994. Seinfeld and Lonstein broke up in 1997. He later met Jessica Sklar and began dating her — even though she had just returned from a three-week honeymoon in Italy when they met. Through it all, Americans voted with their remotes and Seinfeld continued to top the Neilson ratings.

The Portland Tribune thinks Adams should resign because:

We don’t believe the public makes much of a distinction when it comes to a man over 40 having sex with either a 17-year-old or an 18-year-old. And it makes no difference if the teenager is male or female – it’s sexual opportunism, pure and simple.

While we may question the wisdom of Adams taking up with someone so much younger than himself, it should not be the cause of scandal itself. But we know that in the double-standards which apply to gays and lesbians, this is scandalous. In fact, merely being gay is scandalous in many quarters — even in relatively liberal city of Los Angeles. But what Adams did is no more scandalous than the behavior of America’s most beloved comedian of the last decade.

The Portland Oregonian thinks Adams should resign because he lied about the affair:

Adams said this week that he lied because he did not think voters would believe him if he said that his relationship with Breedlove was not illegal. Perhaps he was right, but it was not renewed faith in the judgment of Portlanders that prompted the mayor to come clean with them. It was simply that he was being pressed by the Willamette Week newspaper, and the lie was not sustainable on any of several levels.

So now, Portlanders are left with a mayor whose election was built on a lie.

I hadn’t followed the election, so I don’t know to what extent the mayor’s election was “built on a lie.” Nevertheless, I’m very disappointed in his deplorable lie.

It was about as deplorable as the one President Bill Clinton told about his sexual affair — under oath! Should Adams resign? I seem to recall that Clinton didn’t resign. Not only that, but Clinton left office with a 73% approval rating — the highest of any departing president since polling began seventy years earlier.

But as we all know, a gay man’s affair with an 18-year-old is much, much worse than a straight man’s affair with a 17-year-old. And a lie told by a gay man about his affair is way worse than a lie told by a straight man — under oath! Straight men are forgivable — maybe even adorable in their failings. Gay men aren’t.

That is, if you accept the premise that double standards are acceptable.

Hang in there Mayor. Yes, I’m very disappointed in you. You screwed up (no pun intended) and that screw-up reflects badly on all of us (another double standard, yes, but there it is). But if you’re going to resign, save it for something really important.

Comments

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Pender
January 21st, 2009 | LINK

I completely agree that the double standard is unconscionable. It’s also unconscionable that female politicians are scrutinized for their stylistic choices in ways that male politicians aren’t, or that black politicians have to be much more careful not to seem “angry” than a white politician.

It’s bad that these double standards exist, and shame on society.

At the same time, it’d take a peculiar blindness not to understand that these double standards do exist, and to enter politics as a member of a minority while engaging in conduct that society will (perhaps unfairly) see as a scandal that reinforces its prejudices about that minority is a tremendous betrayal. Sam Adams betrayed not only his voters and his party but the cause for gay equality, and that’s why I’m furious with him.

Finally, I’m not entirely clear why everyone seems willing to accept that Adams’ tryst with Breedlove in fact turned sexual only after Breedlove turned 18. Is there any evidence for this proposition besides Adams’ word that while he was lying about the other thing, he’s telling the truth about this thing? I’m open to correction on this, but based on the facts I’ve seen it seems a little credulous to trust him on this, and I’m sure the media and the electorate feel the same way.

Mike
January 21st, 2009 | LINK

This article cannot be serious! Talk about a double standard! Adams should creep away like the weasel he is. He lied about the affair. He had relations with a staffer. He’s damaged the gay community by: 1) making his competition for the position, a gay man, look like a mudslinging liar. 2) Perpetuating the stereotype of older gay men as predators.

The news paper is NOT making a big deal of age, YOU are. They are making a big deal of the fact that he lied AND dipped it in the company pool.

Please. Don’t RUIN your site by even thinking of sticking up for this scumbag.

Mike
January 21st, 2009 | LINK

Jim. Go read the history of Adams rise to mayor. See what he did to a fellow gay man. Read the allegations in this case because he’s also being accused of giving jobs to silence the original story.

Mike
January 21st, 2009 | LINK

I wish there was a way to go back and edit posts, I wanna keep adding.

I’m insulted that you posted this thread without reviewing the facts further. I’m disgusted that you are turning this into some kind of gay v straight action. It’s not. The paper that is not asking him to step down actually supported him. He carried on his lie months. He manipulated people to lie for him.

Norm!
January 21st, 2009 | LINK

Adams himself declared that the controversy isn’t about this sexuality:

“Asked whether he was treated differently from other politicians because he is gay, Adams said no. “I think this is an issue about a public official lying,” he says. “Not an issue of sexual orientation.”

The chicken hawk aspect of Adams’ relationship is troubling. He admits the relationship was “embarrassing” and “inappropriate”. However, he claims that this relationship was an “anomaly” and denies having sex with any other teen.

Adams’ lie is the real issue (assuming there was no criminal conduct with a minor and Adams did not misuse his office or position). I don’t think Adams’ lie about his personal life meets the Pres. Bill Clinton threshold of impeachable offense.

Since Adams’ can’t be recalled during his first six months in office, I suspect he is going to try to ride out the controversy until the state Attorney General’s investigation exonerates him and the city council reprimands him.

Andy
January 21st, 2009 | LINK

Well, I think it’s an enormous tragedy. Sam Adams has been a popular and faithful public servant and he won in a landslide; this city was jazzed about having him as our mayor. But we now have a different relationship with him.

I’m sure there is an element of homophobia. I’m sure there is an element of puritanism. Portland is a very progressive city, and had Adams said last year, “Yes, I had a brief romantic involvement with him after he had achieved the age of legal consent,” well…there might have been some moral tut-tutting and what-not, but my guess that most Portlanders believe that politicians have the right to private lives and that, really, nothing out of the ordinary occurred here. But that’s not what he did.

He deliberately lied to the voters because he worried that the truth might affect his chances for election. He didn’t trust his constituents to make a mature decision. He very forcefully denied the accusations and insisted that he had been acting as a “mentor” to a young man struggling with his sexuality. And many prominent people in Portland took him at his word and rose to his defense. And we were betrayed.

Politics can be a dirty business. It is unfair that Adams has to function as a national ambassador for the gay community, but his reputation affects us all. This notion of gay men as sexual predators lurking to pounce on sexually confused teenagers is one of the grand shibboleths used to pass Proposition 8. The anti-equality forces now have a living, breathing example that they can use to continue to beat us over the head. He has embarrassed and betrayed the City of Portland and the larger gay community. I believe he must resign because to lie to voters is to treat them with contempt. He would have been an amazing mayor, and I grieve for the lost opportunities. In the age of Obama, voters have the right to demand accountability from our politicians and expect honesty and transparency.

patrick
January 21st, 2009 | LINK

i am just curious? why is it wrong to lie, but not wrong to have sex with other men.

Emily K
January 21st, 2009 | LINK

I asked this in the other Adams thread, but I’ll ask it here:

the fling happened a couple years ago when the kid turned 18 (he’s now 21 apparently) and yet Adams took pains to see that it remained hidden. I don’t understand why, if it is legal and it is simply his preference of age in a partner, he needed to keep it hidden. Why did he need to hide it? Why not be honest about it in the first place since it is not a criminal offense? Is it because he felt his actions, though not illegal, would have compromised his election?

I understand wanting to keep things private, but I’m under the impression that he actively tried to keep the story hidden from view. It’s like he was putting himself inside another closet. The last thing we need is more closeted politicians.

Jackson H
January 21st, 2009 | LINK

I completely agree.

grantdale
January 21st, 2009 | LINK

Emily,

If you’ve got the time (and inclination!) even a quick trawl through the ‘public’ comments around the articles shows EXACTLY why Adams had cause to be concerned. The meme of ‘he’s lying about the 18 years’ has rapidly re-surfaced. All the usual hypocritical crap that Jim has posted about.

It doesn’t help that some people keep refering to “the kid” either (hint hint). He’s an adult. At 18, he was also at the age of consent. There is no suggestion that the relationship was other than mutual: not that that has stopped the anti-gay whispers etc. Referring to him as a ‘kid’, on a serious and important for him, is both degrading and disrespectful.

Anyway…

Frankly, IMO, if someone is old enough to be sent to kill or be killed in Iraq et al then they are also old enough to choose who to have a sexual relationship with. And that includes choosing one with a 42 year old.

Personally, though… I think 18 year old gay boys should have 18 year old boyfriends. I had joked to the husband about changing him for two 20’s when he turned 40… but in reality I could think of nothing more tiresome. I remember being 18. I don’t want to be 18. I don’t want him to be 18.

Adams was a dingbat to have a relationship with an 18 year old — given his public profile and his political ambitions — but that’s about it. (I don’t even have a problem with the initial lying to hide a personal matter that was nobody’s business but their own). What followed that, hmmm…

But, again personally, I think there are some seriously screwed up moral frameworks at work if someone thinks (or ignores) that an 18 year old can consent to joining the military, but cannot agree to a sexual relationship.

(ps I also think B. Clinton’s behaviour was both absurd and nobody’s business but… H. Clinton’s.)

Timothy Kincaid
January 21st, 2009 | LINK

I’m a bit bemused at the huge distinction being made over whether Breedlove was a few weeks younger than his 18th birthday or a few week older.

Yes, I know there is a legal distinction. But I don’t think that our readers are so forgetful that they confuse legality with either morality or ethical behavior. It hasn’t been that long since Lawrence and I hope that we haven’t forgotten that laws do not intrinsically measure what is right. Especially something as arbitrary as a matter of a few weeks.

As an elected official, Adams was doubly stupid if he violated legal distinctions. But this “was he legal or wasn’t he” stuff has, to my way of thinking, much more to do with titilation than any legitimate sense of moral outrage.

Rick
January 21st, 2009 | LINK

Content removed at the request of the author of this comment.

Laura
January 21st, 2009 | LINK

Is it homophobia to question a relationship between a 40 year old and a 17/18 year old? Sam Adams certainly claimed as much when he was questioned about during election season, and categorically denied it. Yet people regularly do question such relationships in the heterosexual world regularly and while actors may ultimately get a pass (not just Seinfeld but also T R Knight and Sir Ian McKellan come to mind as recent examples), politicians seldom do. In Oregon, another Mayor had his retirement riddled with scandal and his honored place in the state (as well as lucrative speaking engagements and award ceremonies) canceled when it came out that he had had a relationship with a 16-17 year old over 10 years earlier. (you may have to check the age on that one)

There is also the issue of the law and what it means for politicians to break them. (Which they do all the time, of course.) There is no proof that Sam Adams began his sexual relationship with Breedlove at 18 except the word of a politician facing a news article about the relationship he denied for so long. And if you do the math, it is clear that Adams and Breedlove met when Breedlove was under age and spent time together before his birthday. Does the fact that Adams clearly began an emotion and potentially non-sexual physical relationship with a teenager negated by the fact he may have had the political savvy to wait until the teenager was legal? B/c this fact has not protected most teachers, except at the university level, nor even fellow high school students. (Remember the GA case of an 18 year old basketball star who served 4 years in jail for having sex with a 16 going on 17 year old consenting fellow high schooler and lost any chance he had of getting a sports scholarship to college?)

Sam Adams is now also under scrutiny because an extremely young and inexperienced woman was made part of his Mayoral cabinet over much more experienced applicants from a diverse applicant pool and it now turns out that she was investigating his relationship with Breedlove prior to the appointment. (The woman was a reporter before joining the cabinet.)Other people working in the state made it clear that they had always questioned the connection, and the woman herself admitted that she felt some co-workers questioned her credibility, long before this story broke b/c they knew what we did not. And there is also evidence amongst some of his co-workers before his stint as Mayor that they were aware of the relationship and had questioned his judgment to his face in the same way that they have questioned other ethics issues amongst their peers regardless of sexual orientation.

Ultimately, there are many cases in which discrimination against our community is clear and there are obviously cases in every employment industry in which we are punished more swiftly and more severely for the same actions. But Sam Adams plans to continue serving his term, there is as of yet no call for him to do otherwise, and no one has questioned him calling reporters homophobic for asking about his relationship with Breedlove when he was running, (Adams claimed it was a “homophobic lie” designed to discredit him and make him into a predator and that “of course it never happened”). In other words, unlike the hetero Mayor who lost everything for a similar relationship in Oregon, Adams will likely keep his respect and his position. So where is the double standard?

In my mind, having sex with a minor, or having a relationship with a minor with intent to sleep with them the minute they become legal, is unethical regardless of who it is and if we hold heteros responsible we must also hold our community responsible. The charge and the concern are not homophobic, the gossip and speculation may be. Making that distinction will ultimately keep you and others from glossing over the very real breach of ethics here as well as the ways it has impacted people across the sexual spectrum.

Norm!
January 21st, 2009 | LINK

You’re right, Emily. Adams motives for lying are a mystery.

At the time he lied, Adams was widely assumed to become the mayor-elect and did not have any major political opposition. Sure, if he admitted to having sex with the 18-year-old, there may have been murmurs, but most Portland voters would not have cared. Even now some folks are defending him (although his support is quickly dwindling and even the gay paper is calling for his resignation).

Looking back and seeing how adamant and eleborant Adams spun his lies, it is concerning that there may be some other issue he was trying to hide. It’s also likely that he overreacted — not out of fear of homophobia, but to protect his ego and political power. Adams is rumored to be very aggressive in challenging or undermining anyone who opposes his agenda, so it would make sense if he used the lie to destroy his only significant challenger at the time (which it did, and he still refuses to apologize to).

Emily K
January 21st, 2009 | LINK

Rick, the fact that you had an affair with your 40 year old teacher, whether you initiated it or not, means that your teacher committed a crime. (8th grade = 13/14, yes?) Unless it occurred in a state where the age of consent is 13 or 14, it was a crime. And teachers have a clear moral obligation not to engage in sexual relationships with their students. It also means he was a pederast, and usually pederasts cannot have relationships with people who are adults. Which means many of them end up engaging in criminal acts repeatedly.

I would NOT want my son, daughter, nephew, or niece to be under that teacher’s tutelage. I don’t care if *they* “initiate” it and it becomes “the best erotic friendship they ever have.” It is completely inappropriate considering the fact that:

1. 13 and 14 year olds are NOT sexually mature, even if they ARE having sex (and yes I’m aware that they DO have sex, and they do have a right to have sex with one another, but this is beside the point)

2. It is absolutely inappropriate for a teacher, who is an adult, a professional, and a person of authority to engage in such an act.

I hope this teacher was brought to justice because other boys might not find that their liaisons with this man were as enjoyable or fulfilling. Or they may feel they regret a mistake that was impulsive and immature.

And, yet again, we have a gay man who puts himself in a position to justify right wing bigotry.

I know there’s a double standard. But until we become truly equal in the eyes of others, we have be twice as “behaved” as everyone else.

Yes, my opinions of Rick’s situation are very strong, and I will not compromise these views. My mother has been an educator for 25 years so believe I have a special appreciation for the profession. I’m horrified at situations where teachers, role models for the young, excersize such a lack of judgment.

Bruce Garrett
January 21st, 2009 | LINK

I’m with Jim on this one. Yes, he shouldn’t have lied about the affair. Yes, it makes you wonder if there isn’t something else buried in there that he’s still trying to hide. But when this made the news I had to ask myself if the affair would have been an issue in the election in the first place, if Adams had been heterosexual and the staffer a female. So long as they were both single and not cheating on anyone I strongly doubt it would have been much of one in Portland. Maybe some folks out there would have looked askance at it for the age difference, but as long as Adam’s boyfriend wasn’t under age I doubt it would have cost him much there in Portland. But Adams was up against the old stereotype of the predatory gay male and my hunch is that’s why he, stupidly, chose to hide it. Adams is only ten years younger then me and that’s still old enough to have had it drilled and drilled into him when he was Breedlove’s age. Ironically, I’ll bet the kid is wondering what the fuss is all about.

Adams should have let it out in the open and let the chips fall wherever. Now he has to deal with the cover-up and dang if you don’t really get tired of people not realizing that the cover-up is often more damaging then the act. And there’s this point to consider: even if he did lie because he was afraid of having to deal with the sexual predator label, even if there is a double-standard at work here, shrinking away from it rather then confronting it is still an issue of character gay voters need to consider. We need politicians who aren’t afraid to confront prejudice and stand up for their own human dignity. Yes, it still takes nerve. But we need that kind of nerve in our elected officials. And…courage.

So Adams needs to judge whether or not he can be effective as mayor now, and what if anything he’s done to damage the prospects of gay candidates elsewhere, and gay rights legislation locally. But I wouldn’t exactly be unhappy if the heterosexuals wagging their fingers at him now in the media and in the statehouse had their own closet doors thrown open in retaliation. Glass houses and all that.

CHN
January 21st, 2009 | LINK

I’m dismayed to see all of this chatter go back and forth about Sam. First of all, let me clarify for the record that Beau Breedlove was not a staffer of Sam’s. He was a young man who was serving as an intern for a conservative state representative in the State Capitol, which was also Breedlove’s hometown. Sam met him while he was conducting City of Portland business at the capitol.
As far as the current member of his staff goes, Sam has a reputation for hiring talented, but inexperienced and young go-getters, much like he was when he was brought under the wing of our former and formidible Mayor Katz, when he served on her staff when she was the Speaker of the House. I’m sure that opportunity resonated for him, and he is furthering that tradtion. Although his policy advisor may not be very seasoned, it’s hardly news that City Commissioner’s hire inexperienced staffers with their limited resources. Although her salary seems high (apparently 30% more than she made at the weekly rag that she wrote for) it’s not high in comparison to what she could potentially make in a City bureau as a press or communications specialist.
I live in Portland, and I see Sam’s lying as a CYA move in 2007. The people in this town ACT like they are so progressive, but are easily threatened by “diversity”. I think the fact that Sam is gay is a major factor here. If the previous mayor had done something similar in his career (and I’m virtually certain that he did) folks would have simply chided him and cluck-clucked about it. When the former police chief had a consensual relationship with a staffer (who he did not supervise, prior to his appointment as chief) the town went ballistic, printing lurid email messages from him to her and completely humiliating him. The mayor was encouraged to fire him, but instead demoted him to commander and rushed him out of the public eye. Yeah, so Derrick is black and the former mayor is white. Bigotry to any of us is bigotry to all of us and I think that Sam is getting “black washed” or “gay washed” over this one. And it’s too bad. I don’t care if he lied. I’d lie too. It’s none of our business. He’s being pressured to resign. Where does that get us? A city without a leader. and why?

tristram
January 21st, 2009 | LINK

So now we should hold our elected officials to the standards we’d apply to stand-up comedians? Adams not only lied and played the ‘gay card,’ he ‘persuaded’ the intern to lie as well. And try to follow CHN’s exculpatory gyrations (especially the part about the ‘current member of [Adams’] staff’) with a straight face. At some point we have to repect ourselves enough to stop crying ‘homosexism,’ to excuse idiocy and dishonesty.

tristram
January 21st, 2009 | LINK

not ‘repect,’ ‘respect,’ r-e-s-p-e-c-t

sorry about that

tristram
January 21st, 2009 | LINK

Here is Adams’ shameful 2007 letter which, given what Adams knew at the time and we now know, tragically undermines the vital efforts of a lot of dedicated people who are not out there hooking up with the kids who come to them for advice and support:

An Open Letter to Portlanders
By Sam Adams
Dear Portlander,

As you have probably seen in the media, I have been the target of a nasty smear by a would-be political opponent. I will not dignify the substance of this smear by repeating it – if you read the accounts you will see there is no foundation to it. The reason is simple: it is untrue.

This kind of ugly politicking may be commonplace in other cities and at the national level, but Portland and Oregon largely has been blessedly free of it. It saddens me that it has been introduced here, and I have faith that Portlanders’ rejection of it will mean that this incident is an anomaly.

About this attempted smear, here is what I want to say.

I have in the past, and I will in the future, respond to people who reach out to me for help and advice. This is especially true when it comes to young people.

Growing up in Newport and Eugene, Oregon I remember when I was a teenager and I had nobody who I felt I could talk to at a time I desperately needed someone to give me advice and perspective about coming to terms with being gay. I came through it. Not everyone does.

Gay youth suicide rates, homelessness and depression are still too high. And adequate services have been lacking: Reasons why I co-founded Portland’s Q Center, served on the Boards of Cascade AIDS Project, Basic Right Oregon and lobbied the state legislature in support of statewide non-discrimination laws.

I didn’t get into public life to allow my instinct to help others to be snuffed out by fear of sleazy misrepresentations or political manipulation. I understand the need for good judgment, and I keep within the bounds of propriety — as I did in this case.

I’m glad that people consider me as a person they could come to for help, understanding and support. I work at it. And I hope that you do too. Local programs needing mentors have long waiting lists.

About my political future: this attempted smear will not deter me from serving Portland in the best way I know how. Soon I will be with sharing with you my future political plans.

With warm regards,

Sam

Emily K
January 21st, 2009 | LINK

Wow. given what he proclaims in the context of that letter, what he did with that guy is absolutely a breach of ethics.

Now before anyone cries “PURITAN!” at me, let me say that doctors and teachers are held to similar ethical standards: A doctor cannot ethically engage in a sexual relationship with a patient – no matter how old they are – because it creates a conflict of interest. Additionally, surgeons are not allowed to operate on family members. Teachers have roles that they fill. That is why in their contracts it is written that it is unethical for them to engage in relationships with their students, even if they ARE “of age.”

CHN
January 22nd, 2009 | LINK

Well, it’s already been established that Sam lied. He lied in his 2007 letter. He lied to the press. Okay. So, he was never a mentor to this young man, so he lied about that. He’s really just guilty of having an inappropriate fling with a very young guy while he was experiencing his post-break up dating frenzy. What ethical standard is he breaching other than poor judgement and being flattered by the attention of a hot bod?

Mike
January 22nd, 2009 | LINK

I agree with the article except for the double standard part. Just Out Portland’s editorial board has asked him to resign. If you look at the boards many gays are pissed and want him out of there. I am hearing a ton of outrage from that community.

The double standard which may be there is that Clinton wasn’t held to a high standard because he had previously been accused of adultery whereas Adams was to be the shining example of a gay Mayor to the gay community.

He was put up on a high horse by his “community” and they are quick to through stones at him. One commenter on another site said this “sets the gay community back 20 years.”

Don’t be too quick to judge and look for the double standard. Look at who is throwing stones first.

Emily K
January 22nd, 2009 | LINK

I was under the impression that he WAS a mentor to the guy. If that’s the case, ethics were breached. There seem to be more twists and turns in this story than i can keep up with.

TimNCGuy
January 22nd, 2009 | LINK

The issue here should be whether it is OK to lie when answering a question that should NEVER have been asked.

Since when is is OK for two unmarried consenting adults to have to answer questions about who they may or may not be dating or having a relationship with?

Mike
January 22nd, 2009 | LINK

“Since when is is OK for two unmarried consenting adults to have to answer questions about who they may or may not be dating or having a relationship with?”

Since the relationship was between a person with power and a staffer.

This was not a question of “Hey, who ya dating?” It was a question about his judgment. He took out ads to cover his lie. He smeared his competitor – who is also gay – in the process.

If lies are okay here then I guess we should all be fine with the lies told by the pro-Prop 8 people.

Bruce Garrett
January 22nd, 2009 | LINK

(If lies are okay here then I guess we should all be fine with the lies told by the pro-Prop 8 people.)

Actually, I think there is a pretty big moral difference between a lie you tell about yourself and a lie you tell about someone else. That ninth commandment says not to lie about your neighbor, not just don’t lie.

Mike
January 22nd, 2009 | LINK

@ Bruce Garrett. I’m atheist. Couldn’t care less what your Bible says. I’m not separating the lies into categories either. As a community, if we are willing to accept Sam’s lies, his deception, his strong arming to get others to lie, his willingness to ruin a fellow gay man, then we have no room to complain about the Pro-8 tactics.

BTB has totally shocked me with this main post. The post was made prior to having all the information and played the “anti-gay card” with lightening speed. I guess I never paid close enough attention to the material before. I’ll read everything here a little differently now.

CLS
January 22nd, 2009 | LINK

The media lynch mob exists for one reason: Adams iied to them. But why is Adams obligated to reveal his sex life to the media? If the media has no right to pry (and without criminal wrongdoing they don’t) then they have no right to a honest answer.

Politicians routinely say “no new taxes” and then impose new taxes on people. Those are “lies to the public” because the action directly impacts the public. Yet the media yawns over those kind of daily lies from the political class. But when a politician refuses to tell the truth about his sex life “honesty” suddenly because the issue.

The only conclusion I can have from this sort of double standard from the media is that the issue isn’t honesty at all. They ignore dishonesty among politicians routinely, especially when they worship the politician (see how the media will portray Obama for a very long time). The reason they are hyped up on this sort of “honesty” is because it involves sex. And Americans are still sexophobic Puritans no matter how secular they become. (that is a general statement meant to imply exceptions).

Mike
January 22nd, 2009 | LINK

Oh come on already! Obviously his credentials are a lot stronger than an error or intentional omission. Which politicians have not left some juicy details out of their personal lives when they go into public service.

At every turn, with so much information gathering and technology to produce “instant story lines”, there is so much scrutiny that ability is overlooked.

Did he lie when directly asked? Perhaps. Such as President Clinton redefined “sexual relations”.

And for the record, there’s a lot of intentional targeting of established 40 something year old professionals by young adults. And, for the record, there is a long list of relationships that are successful with 20+ years difference.

The story is out. He’s come clean on the facts. No let the man do his job as mayor and judge his record 2-4 years down the road when it comes time for re-election. Heck, follow the stories of our mayor and his antics here in Jackson, MS. I’d be darn glad if we did have a candidate with the credentials of Adams, but the far right wing radical church-mongers of Mississippi wouldn’t elect a gay official if he was the last man/woman standing as a resident.

Bruce Garrett
January 22nd, 2009 | LINK

(Bruce Garrett. I’m atheist. Couldn’t care less what your Bible says.)

Well I guess I identify as agnostic nowadays, but I brought in that ninth commandment mostly as a rebuke of the Proposition 8 supporters, who were overwhelmingly religious based groups. You’re the one who brought Proposition 8 into this. I was merely pointing out that even by their own (rhetorical) standards their lies were worse then Adams’.

And it’s not a matter of separating lies into categories. It’s a matter of judging harm and right now the only harm I’m seeing in what Adams did is it gave the bigots something to bellyache about. That’s not a trivial concern and Adams might want to ponder that it isn’t only his good he has to worry about in all this. But this whole thing strikes me as Clinton and Lewinsky all over again, with people venting that Clinton’s lie was as bad as Nixon’s. No. It wasn’t. It simply wasn’t.

If the kid was under age, or one of his own staffers who was hired in exchange for sex, I’d be saying he needed to resign too (although since I’m not a resident of Portland I’d kinda feel like it wasn’t any of my business). I may still say it if something more pops out of his closet. But at the moment I’m just really tired of people who make other people’s sex lives an issue. Favoritism is an issue. Sexually harassing your own staff is an issue. Taking advantage of under age kids is definitely an issue. Cheating on a spouse is definitely an issue. All I see here is finger wagging at a gay man for having a teenage boyfriend.

Yes, he lied about it. Yes, you can make a case that’s a character issue, but not in the way I keep seeing it made a character issue. He should have thrown it back in the questioner’s faces when it first bubbled up to the surface. But if 18 can go to war, then 18 can have a roll in the hay with whatever it wants. As long as the kid wasn’t pressured into it, as long as he isn’t or wasn’t getting taxpayer favors for it (this is the shoe I’m waiting to hear drop), as long as neither of them were cheating on a spouse, then it’s their business (Adams and Breedlove) and nobody else’s.

Timothy Kincaid
January 22nd, 2009 | LINK

BTB has totally shocked me with this main post. The post was made prior to having all the information and played the “anti-gay card” with lightening speed. I guess I never paid close enough attention to the material before. I’ll read everything here a little differently now.

Mike,

Please always be cautious about what you read or watch anywhere. And that includes here at BTB. We’re human with biases, presumptions, and days in which we might not be at our best. And occasionally we get something wrong.

What we write here at Box Turtle Bulletin is just our take, our opinion. And at times the authors disagree with each other so we certainly can’t expect all the readers to agree with everything we write.

We hope that we are adding some perspective and providing an easier access to specific information. But at the end of the day we can’t do anyone’s thinking for them and, frankly, we wouldn’t want the responsibility.

Stefano A
January 22nd, 2009 | LINK

My personal opinion is that the calls for Adams resignation, especially on the part of the Editorial Board and publisher Marty Davis of Portland’s Just Out gay news magazine and other editorial boards is premature.

I do not see anything inappropriate with an investigation looking into the possibility of any criminal conduct given Adams position as Mayor; that is, if Adams had sex with Breedlove before he turned 18 and if the affair conducted while Adams was serving as a city commissioner rose to the level of official misconduct; that is, if Adams also used his position of power to keep others quiet about what they knew.

Such an invesitgation is necessary to maintain the public’s trust.

Such an invistigation could also clear Adams’ name of any criminal wrongdoing.

If he is cleared of any criminal wrongdoing there would be no need for these calls of resignation.

Personal opinions regarding what people think or feel about the relationship itself between Adams and Breedlove are, in my opinion, irrelevant.

BobN
January 23rd, 2009 | LINK

“He smeared his competitor – who is also gay – in the process.”

Yeah, the sleazy person in all this is Adams, not the other gay guy who knowingly started up rumors about a man dating a young man…

Seriously, on what basis were the allegations raised? It seems pretty clear that, posts to the contrary, at least one Portlander thought exposing the story might cost Adams the election.

Laura
January 23rd, 2009 | LINK

I just came to correct my comment. There is a call for him to resign and it looked like he was going to until Dan Savage got involved.

While double checking my comments I did note an article, published in Oregon on Wed, in which Adams now admits “the whole mentee thing was a lie.” That is a direct quote from Adams that he is not disputing, the text from the article itself implies that Adams basically admitted there was never any mentorship going on beyond the first request from Breedlove to discuss being gay in the legislature. That there was “immediate attraction” (Adams again) when they met, when Breedlove was under age.

I also checked Adams blog (the old one as the new one has been taken down) and the letter reposted by Tristam has 30 or so pages of comments in support with people sharing their own stories of being considered predators, being excluded from jobs and service programs for fear that they were predators, etc. and the whole time Sam Adams stoked the conversation comparing their real experiences of oppression with his made up one.

Again the issue is not that he was asked something he should not have been asked; he was asked if he slept with someone who was underage and with whom he had taken on a mentorship role. If he is telling the truth, the answer to both of those questions is “no.” In which case he had nothing to fear by saying so. What he is guilty of is 1. starting an emotional relationship with someone he claimed to be mentoring at the time of the relationship when that person was under age, with the intent to engage in a sexual relationship once he was legal. (If a straight man in his 40s was dating a 17 year old girl with intent to sleep with her a few weeks after her 18th birthday, I believe Oregonians would be equally disgusted and outraged.) 2. lying not only to the media that is calling for his resignation but also to the queer community and allies (including other Oregon politicians who he has now apologized to for “compromising their integrity”) all of whom defended him against what we were told was a baseless homophobic attack and 3. asking at least two people, Breedlove and his overpaid former journalist staff person, to lie for him; both of them are now under potentially career ending scrutiny as well. I feel like a fool for standing up for him. And so do many of my friends, who are able to see the difference between some of the homophobic ways Adams has been attacked during this scandal (which is wrong) and what he did (which is equally wrong). But worse, I feel like he pimped the community’s real experiences of homophobia and painful memories of being called predators when we are not to hide what he had done and the lies he told about it. And for someone who has made a point of being a mentor to queer political hopefuls in the city, as well as queer youth in general, he has also compromised the careers of at least two of those mentees to get his groove on and the backlash may now compromise a fundraiser he was putting on for the q center, further negatively impacting queer youth in this city.

There is a lot at stake here and while some of it is very clearly allowing homophobic people in Oregon to spew hate and think they are the majority, that should not be enough to discount the serious ethical and social issues and impact Adams decisions have made. even Portland’s queer weekly paper agrees (as this is not a homophobes vs. the gay mayor issue as Savage would have people believe; many in the queer community are upset and shaken).

Ultimately, knowing Adams myself and having worked closely with another major, out figure, in our local government who has worked closely with Adams, I doubt he will step down. I especially think the Savage intervention is going to make him puff right back up and act like he did nothing wrong. And in fact, that is exactly what he would have continued to do if one of the local papers had not finally decided to put the issue in print. And ultimately all of us will pay the price b/c Adams credibility has been compromised amongst multiple constituents in Portland and certainly with the more conservative cities in the tri-county area and beyond. No one knows how that will impact his effectiveness as a Mayor, a real mentor, and an advocate for queer youth but so far it has resulted in him dropping out of an ethics conference at the local college and people canceling their reservations for his fundraiser for queer youth.

(Seriously, we should be able to confront the homophobia in this case without excusing the ethical issues in it. One does not negate the other.)

Mombian: Sustenance for Lesbian Moms » Blog Archive » Weekly Political Update
January 23rd, 2009 | LINK

[…] he previously denied. Many are now calling for his resignation. Adams was 42 at the time. Jim at Box Turtle Bulletin points out the double standard in play here: Adams relationship was perfectly legal, whereas no one […]

Sam Adams and the double-standard : PinkNews.co.uk
January 26th, 2009 | LINK

[…] Read more…. No tags for this post. […]

Portland Dating
February 24th, 2010 | LINK

Yeah, the sleazy person in all this is Adams, not the other gay guy who knowingly started up rumors about a man dating a young man reason they are hyped up on this sort of honesty is because it involves sex. And Americans are still sexophobic Puritans no matter how secular they become.

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