February 06, 2013 3:56 pm ET - by Carlos Maza
CNN invited Family Research Council (FRC) president Tony Perkins on their network to discuss the Boy Scouts’ ban on openly gay members, making it the third time in three days that the network has hosted a guest who claims gay men are more likely to sexually abuse children than straight men.
During the February 6 edition of CNN’s Starting Point, CNN host Soledad O’Brien grilled Perkins over his view that allowing gay members into the Boy Scouts might expose young boys to sexual abuse and assault:
O’BRIEN: Are you saying that someone who is gay is a pedophile, sir?
PERKINS: No, I never said that. You said that. I didn’t.
O’BRIEN: No, I’m asking a question because you’re saying that you would be worried about –
PERKINS: They are trying to create an environment that is protective of the children. This doesn’t make it more protective. There is a disproportionate number of male on boy — when we get into pedophilia, it’s male on boy, there’s a higher incident rate of that. But we’ve never said all homosexuals are pedophiles or all pedophiles are homosexuals.
Perkins’ appearance was the second time an FRC spokesperson had made an appearance on CNN this week. On February 4, FRC Senior Fellow Peter Sprigg appeared on CNN Newsroom where he sparred with host Carol Costello over the same “gays are pedophiles” talking point:
COSTELLO: [D]o you really think that a gay scout leader is going to like, become a gay scout leader to push a gay agenda? Seriously?
SPRIGG: Well, the mere fact that someone openly identifies themselves as homosexual means that they are modeling for boys the acceptability of homosexual conduct. And parents who do not agree with that view have a right to protect their children from that. They have a right to protect their children just from being exposed to the topic prematurely. And they have a right to protect their children from the potential risk of child sexual abuse at the hands of men who might be attracted to other males.
COSTELLO: Well, I’ll just say that the American Psychological Association has studied the issue that you just mentioned. Homosexuals are not any more likely to molest kids than straight men.
SPRIGG: Well, I think –
COSTELLO: And plus you’re condemning every single homosexual in the country as being a possible pedophile and that’s not fair.
And during the February 5 edition of CNN’s Starting Point, Richard Land – president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission – similarly warned that permitting gay scout leaders would result in “boys and men who are going to end up in relationships that are going to be tragic.”
In all three segments, CNN’s hosts debunked the claims of their anti-gay guests, pointing out that experts have rejected the claim that gay men are more likely to engage in pedophilia than straight men.
Still, it’s worth asking why CNN felt the need to continuously provide a national platform for this kind of extreme anti-gay commentary. It’s important to challenge right-wing talking points when they bubble up into the mainstream media, but at some point, inviting people like Perkins and Sprigg to continue peddling their anti-gay horror stories in front of a national audience starts doing more harm than good.
As the Columbia Journalism Review’s Jennifer Vanasco wrote :
I don’t think it’s bad for reporters to bring up pedophilia when writing about gay men and the Boy Scouts if parents bring it up on their own as a worry. But it is important to recognize that being concerned about gay men leading children in the scouts because of prospective pedophilia is an unfounded fear.
By repeatedly hosting notoriously anti-gay guests, CNN may have allowed their discussion of the Boy Scouts’ anti-gay policy to be hijacked by those hoping to frame the debate around the baseless “gays are pedophiles” myth.
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