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Posts for May, 2009

How Do You Write A Movie Review Without Naming Its Characters?

Jim Burroway

May 12th, 2009

NPR managed to do just that.

A review appeared on NPR of the Kirby Dick’s documentary move Outrage, and nowhere in it does the review mention any of the politicians discussed in the review. There is a photo of Sen. Larry Craig accompanying the review, which hints that he may be one of the movie’s subjects. But nowhere is there any mention of Florida Gov. Charlie Crist or Larry Craig in the review. Those names were cut by NPR editors, citing “a long-held policy of trying to respect the privacy of public figures.” Ironically, Larry Craig’s arrest on soliciting sex in a public men’s room wasn’t a private affair. It was a matter of public record.

Critic Nathan Lee had originally written the piece to include mention of Craig and Crist. When NPR insisted on removing references to those to politicians, Lee removed his byline from the article in protest and lodged a complaint on the NPR site. That complaint was also quickly removed by NPR executives. Lee’s complaint read:

“I asked that my name be removed in protest of NPR’s policy of not ‘naming names’ of closeted or rumored-about politicians – even those who actively suppress gay rights, and thus whose sexual identities are of significant importance to the press.” … “I personally disagree with NPR’s policy – there is no other area of ‘privacy’ that elicits such extreme tact,” Lee continued in his comment that was excised from the NPR website. “And also feel that it is a professional affront to my responsibility as a critic to discuss the content of a work of art, and an impingememnt of my first amendment right to free speech and the press.”

The whole point of Dick’s documentary was the hypocrisy of closeted politicians who vote against the interest of gay people in Congress, while seeking the comfort of those very same people after hours. As the movie illustrates, the need to preserve the closet can lead some politicians to vote against their very own conscience. When a closeted politician votes against HIV/AIDS prevention programs or LGBT civil rights, it can sometimes be a ruse to throw off suspicians that he may be gay. It’s like the schoolyard bully who picks on the effeminate kid in order to cover his own securities over his sexuality.

The motivations of closeted politicians is absolutely a valid story, one that the mainstream media should be covering. It was huge news when it was revealed that South Carolina Sen. Strom Thurmond had a daughter by an African-American woman. He had been a staunch segregationist for much of his career. Hypocrasy is clearly a real news story. Nathan Lee puts it this way:

The entire point of ‘Outrage’ is that there is an ‘overriding public need to know’ about the kinds of men profiled in ‘Outrage’,” film critic Nathan Lee told indieWIRE on Sunday, “Let’s say Charlie Crist had a record of voting for vigorous anti-immigration policies, and then it was rumored that he employed illegal immigrants. The press would have absolutely no qualms investigating him to the hilt in the public interest of exposing hypocrisy. Why should it be any different in the case of possibly gay public figures who vote against the civil rights of gay people, or, in the case of HIV/AIDS funding, their very life and death?”

But there really is a different standard at NPR when it comes to closeted politicians. As Movie Line notes:

In the last month, NPR was all too happy to run an editorial about the sexuality of American Idol frontrunner Adam Lambert, wherein writer Linda Holmes snarks on the media outlets that are reticent to fully acknowledge what she presumes is Lambert’s homosexuality. And this past November, after comedian Wanda Sykes came out as a lesbian at a gay rights rally in Las Vegas, NPR spent minutes of airtime discussing whether it would lead Queen Latifah (who’s never publicly stated that she is a lesbian) to do the same.

So what interpretation of its own ethics policy allowed NPR to air and publish rumors in those cases?

More to the point, doesn’t Charlie Crist’s sexuality pose far more important consequences to public policy than Queen Latifah’s — especially now that he’s announced his run for the U.S. Senate?

Birds of a Feather: “Monogamous” Marriage Defenders

Jim Burroway

June 27th, 2008

I mentioned earlier this morning that another anti-marriage amendment was introduced in the Senate. What I didn’t know was that these two upright paradigms of traditional “monogamous” heterosexual marriages were co-sponsors: Larry “Tap-Tap” Craig (R-ID), and David “D.C. Madam” Vitter (R-LA).

Of course, they’re only monogamous in that peculiar way in which heterosexuals define monogamy.

Honestly, you just can’t make this stuff up.

More Accusations Against Larry Craig

Jim Burroway

December 2nd, 2007

The Idaho Statesmen this morning reports on four gay men who are willing to publicly state that they have had a sexual relationship with Idaho Sen. Larry Craig. The four — David Phillips, Mike Jones, Greg Ruth, and Tom Russell — are coming forward after having been by Craig’s August 27, denials, when he said, “I am not gay, I never have been gay.” The Statesman has posted audio clips of interviews with the four on their web site in addition to the printed in-depth stories from each of the four. A fifth man who does not want to be named said Craig solicited him at Denver International Airport in 2006. Are the stories credible?

…[T]he new evidence is not definitive. There are no videos, no love letters, no voice messages. Like [three un-named accusers] last August, they are he-said, he-said allegations about a man seeking discreet sex from partners whom he counted on to never tell.

But the Statesman’s investigation, which included reviews of travel and property records and background checks on all five men, found nothing to disprove the five new accounts. The men offer telling and sometimes similar details about what happened, or the senator’s travel records place him in the city where sex is alleged to have occurred, or his accusers told credible witnesses at the time of the incident.

Update: Sen. Craig has issued a statement in response.

Making A List, Checking It Twice…

Jim Burroway

November 27th, 2007

“I’m Not Gay!”Looking for the perfect gift this season? How about a Larry Craig action figure? No, not a doll, an action figure! That’s important because, you know, he’s not gay or anything. Just press the button, and he’ll tell you:

Thank you all very much for coming out today. I will read a statement: ‘I am not gay. I never have been gay.”

The NGLTF Gets It

Jim Burroway

November 13th, 2007

According to The Hill, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force has written Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and John Cornyn (R-TX), saying their investigation of Sen. Larry Craig shows evidence of a double standard:

The group argues the Ethics Committee has singled out Craig because he allegedly solicited gay sex but has ignored allegations of impropriety involving Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) because Vitter’s alleged behavior was heterosexual.

…There are only two ways to resolve this: drop the investigation into Sen. Craig or investigate the allegations surrounding Sen. Vitter.

It’s like I was saying

Larry Craig, Really?!?

Jim Burroway

October 9th, 2007

In case you missed last weekend’s Saturday Night Live:

YouTube Preview Image

Judge Denies Sen. Craig’s Petition to Withdraw Guilty Plea

Jim Burroway

October 4th, 2007

This just in from Reuters:

A Minnesota judge Thursday refused to let U.S. Senator Larry Craig take back the guilty plea he made after a sex sting arrest, making it likely the Idaho Republican will resign his Senate seat as planned.

Update: Sen. Craig vows to complete his term and not step down.

Sen. Craig To Resign

Jim Burroway

August 31st, 2007

I’m still trying to figure out how anyone can have a “wide stance” when their trousers are gathered about their knees. That’s okay though. I won’t have to think about it any more. News media everywhere are reporting that Idaho Sen. Larry Craig will resign tomorrow, leaving the GOP’s double standard intact. I’m glad he’s resigning, but the GOP’s business isn’t done. Wouldn’t you agree?

Log Cabin Republicans Call for Criag’s Resignation; No Mention of Vitter

Jim Burroway

August 31st, 2007

Yesterday, I jumped the gun a little bit by saying that Log Cabin Republicans were calling for Idaho Sen. Larry Craig’s resignation as I was discussing the GOP’s double standard between Sens. Craig and Vitter. At that time they hadn’t explicitly called for his resignation, although I think their statement made the conclusion inescapable. Today, LCR has this on the front page of their web site:

Update! Log Cabin, which has been featured in national media coverage of the situation involving Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID), has called for the Senator’s resignation.

Still no mention of Vitter. Amazing. Gay Republicans are being poorly served by this “stance.”

Update: As BTB contributing author Timothy Kincaid points out, Patrick Sammon, president of the Log Cabin Republicans is, well, mentioning Sen. Vitter in media appearances. I’m glad he’s bringing this up, but so far Sammon’s only calling on one Senator to resign and not two. I hope this changes.

Senator Craig, the Audio

Timothy Kincaid

August 30th, 2007

Now there is audio of the arrest of Senator Larry Craig (R-ID).  What’s next, a musical?

The GOP’s Double Standard

A commentary

Jim Burroway

August 30th, 2007

Idaho Sen. Larry Craig’s arrest and subsequent guilty plea for soliciting sex in a Minneapolis airport public restroom continues to dominate the airwaves and the blogosphere. As the discussions and reactions continue to unfold, I’ve noticed a very significant double standard taking shape.

Now I know that a few in the gay community want to try to paint Sen. Craig as a victim of police entrapment in an operation presumably designed to single out gay men while somehow excluding straight people. But complaining about this being a double standard ignore the obvious: straight people generally don’t use public restrooms, at least not for that purpose. They may use airplanes (mile high club, anyone?), parks, beaches, roadsides, and drive-in theaters, and they sometimes get busted when police receive complaints about it. But straight couples generally don’t use gender-segregated restrooms, for obvious practical reasons.

And while I’m well aware of the history of overly-aggressive police campaigns that have targeted gay people in more private settings or for more innocuous behavior, let’s not forget another key point. This was a public men’s room at a public airport visited by members of the public. There’s nothing private about it.

stalls.jpgWhen I go to a public restroom, the last thing I want is some dirty old man’s blue eyes looking into my stall trying to decide whether I’m tap-worthy. And the second-to-the-last thing I want to encounter in a public restroom is someone who has found someone else tap-worthy. Please people, when you find someone you want to get down and dirty with, do what any other normal self-respecting person would: get a room, for crying out loud!

So I’m all for ensuring that our public restrooms are used for their intended purposes. And I’m grateful that, in my experience at least, this problem appears to be an extremely rare phenomenon. Either that or nobody has ever found me tap-worthy. I’m actually okay with it either way.

Sen. Craig and his wife at a press conferenceNo, there’s no double standard there as far as I’m concerned. The double standard we really need to be concerned about is the reaction among others in the GOP to the revelation that Sen. Larry Craig pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct — a misdemeanor.

Yesterday, GOP party leaders reacted to this misdemeanor by stripping Sen. Craig of his committee leadership posts, and Senators John McCain (R-Az) and Norm Coleman (R-Mn) have called for Sen. Craig’s resignation.

Sen. Craig may be a hypocrite, but that doesn’t automatically disqualify him from the Senate. If it did, they’d never have a quorum. And copping to a misdemeanor shouldn’t disqualify anyone either, unless it disqualifies everyone who cops to a misdemeanor. But as it stands now, it doesn’t.

Just last month, Sen. David Vitter (R-La) admitted to using the services of the so-called “D.C. Madam.” And while Vitter fully admitted his guilt publicly, he never had to do it in the justice system. And he probably won’t since the statute of limitations has passed for solicitation — another misdemeanor.

Sen. David VitterIn stark contrast to the fallout for Sen. Craig’s misdemeanor, I don’t remember any GOP calls for Sen. Vitter’s resignation, nor have there been any sanctions by the GOP leadership levied against the man. In fact, when Vitter spoke before his Senate colleagues about the situation, he was greeted with a round of applause. Where were the calls for Vitter’s ethics investigation?

Can anyone honestly look at this situation and not see it as anything but a double standard?

Apparently the Log Cabin Republicans can’t. They stopped just short of calling for Craig’s resignation without a single mention of Vitter. (Update: In an email alert, LCR makes their call for Craig’s resignation explicit) I find that especially egregious. Surprisingly, it’s the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force who has accurately denounced the unequal treatment between Vitter and Craig.

Believe me, the last person in the world I want to defend is a dirty old man found lurking in public restrooms. Larry Craig may be a “nasty, naughty boy,” but if you take a hard honest look at the situation, either Sen. Craig is getting a really raw deal or Sen. Vitter has gotten away scott-free with “conduct unbecoming a senator.”

As long as Vitter remains in the Senate, Craig should be allowed to serve out his term (which expires in 2008), and the decision on future terms should be left to the good people of Idaho. But if the GOP insists on driving Craig out of town on a rail, then they had better hitch Vitter to the same cart.

Update (Aug 30): This post was updated to reflect the fact that the Log Cabin Republicans did not explicitly call for Craig’s resignation.

Update (Aug 31): Log Cabin Republicans clarify their call for Craig’s resignation:

Log Cabin has been providing a strong voice in the midst of the scandal involving Senator Larry Craig (R-ID). His behavior has been inappropriate and illegal. His explanation is not credible. He should take responsibility for his poor judgment and illegal behavior by resigning.

Again, no mention of Vitter.

Update (Sept 1): As BTB contributing author Timothy Kincaid points out, Patrick Sammon, president of the Log Cabin Republicans is, well, mentioning Sen. Vitter in media appearances. I’m glad he’s bringing this up, but so far Sammon’s only calling on one Senator to resign and not two. I hope this changes.

Romney’s Harsh Response

Timothy Kincaid

August 28th, 2007

Generally we find that when a public figure is caught in a scandal, political and religious leaders tend express their disappointment but also find a way to display compassion and sorrow (especially with those of the same party).  Phrases like “sympathy for the family”, “hope for recovery”, or “this time of difficulty” tend to abound.

Not so with presidential hopeful Mitt Romney and his comments on Kudlow & Company about his former co-chair Senator Larry Craig:

Yeah, I think it reminds us of Mark Foley and Bill Clinton. I think it reminds us of the fact that people who are elected to public office continue to disappoint, and they somehow think that if they vote the right way on issues of significance or they can speak a good game, that we’ll just forgive and forget. And the truth of the matter is, the most important thing we expect from elected–an elected official is a level of dignity and character that we can point to for our kids and our grandkids, and say, `Hey, someday I hope you grow up and you’re someone like that person.’ And we’ve seen disappointment in the White House, we’ve seen it in the Senate, we’ve seen it in Congress. And frankly, it’s disgusting.

This sort of response is surprising (to me) from a man who until yesterday was a close ally and I think it says several things about the way in which Romney views the world – and the way in which he would preside over the administration of the nation. I’m curious as to what others read into this reaction.

Who Is In the Loo?

Timothy Kincaid

August 27th, 2007

The Mayor of Ft. Lauderdale is concerned about a “health crisis” of sex in public bathrooms (eight arrests in two years within the county). And he brought in the parade of anti-gay crusaders to decry the evils of the “homosexual lifestyle”.

But just what is the lifestyle of those who are caught doing the nasty with total strangers in a public potty? Well, from another city, a profile is beginning to emerge. Perhaps it’s something like this:

  • Married with three children (adopted) and nine grandchildren
  • Member of US Senate since 1991, Idaho
  • Board of Directors, NRA
  • Voted for Federal Marriage Amendment
  • Endorsed Idaho’s anti-gay marriage amendment
  • Consistent conservative “values” voter
  • Arrested June 11 for lewd conduct in the bathroom at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport

Sen. Larry CraigAh, Senator Craig. You really should know by now that a sex scandal is all the more delicious when it screams of hypocrisy. And since people have been talking about this for years, you’d think you’d have the sense to be a bit discreet.

From Roll Call:

“At 1216 hours, Craig tapped his right foot. I recognized this as a signal used by persons wishing to engage in lewd conduct. Craig tapped his toes several times and moves his foot closer to my foot. I moved my foot up and down slowly. While this was occurring, the male in the stall to my right was still present. I could hear several unknown persons in the restroom that appeared to use the restroom for its intended use. The presence of others did not seem to deter Craig as he moved his right foot so that it touched the side of my left foot which was within my stall area,” the report states.

Craig then proceeded to swipe his hand under the stall divider several times, and Karsnia noted in his report that “I could … see Craig had a gold ring on his ring finger as his hand was on my side of the stall divider.”

This isn’t Craig’s first brush with sex-scandal. There was some concern that the page scandal in 1982 would include him. He held a preemptive press conference to deny any involvement and quickly married a staffer. And in 2006, blogger Mike Rogers announced that he had witnesses of Craig’s tearoom activities.

Slow learner, that Craig.

In his defense, Craig says:

I should have had the advice of counsel in resolving this matter. In hindsight, I should not have pled guilty.

Well I can’t disagree with that.

But Senator Craig, here’s my problem with you. If you have a penchant for hanky-panky with the fellas in the men’s room, you can hardly object when long-term, devoted, caring and committed same-sex couples want the same recognition and rights that you get from your beard, uh wife.

Update: Sen. Craig has just resigned his position as Senate co-chairman for Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign.