Is a Gay Republican Purge Coming?

Immediately after the Mark Foley scandal broke, some anti-Republican gay-rights activists composed a memo (now known simply as "The List") containing the names of closeted gay Republican Congressional staffers and sent it to leading Christian-right advocacy groups. One of these groups, the Family Research Council, used The List to introduce its theory of a gay network that shielded Mark Foley from scrutiny.

On October 9, Family Research Council president Tony Perkins wrote in FRC's newsletter : "Has the social agenda of the GOP been stalled by homosexual members and or staffers? When we look over events of this Congress, we have to wonder." Perkins continued: "Does the [Republican] party want to represent values voters or Mark Foley and friends?" Though a portrait of openly gay former House Clerk Jeff Trandahl appeared beside Perkins's missive, Perkins stopped just short of calling for a purge of gay GOP staffers.

As speculation mounted about a coming gay GOP purge, a reporter from the St. Petersburg Times called Focus on the Family to ask its founder and chairman, James Dobson, about the issue. Dobson responded with an angry tirade. After denouncing Media Matters and this website, the Huffington Post, for publicizing his dismissal of Foley's explicit instant messages to male teenage pages as "sort of a joke," Dobson exclaimed, "She [the reporter] said, 'I heard late yesterday that Dr. Dobson had asked House leadership to fire all gay staffers. That's crazy too. That, first of all, would be flat-out illegal. You can't fire people just because somebody says so, and they're certainly not going to do it because James Dobson says so. That's crazy! They're trying to make us look like extremists and people who do ridiculous things, and there's absolutely no basis in this."

What Dobson did not know was that I had spoken to one of his closest allies that day, Don Wildmon of the American Family Association. According to Dobson's logic, what Wildmon told me would have been "crazy," "ridiculous," and "flat-out illegal." Indeed, Wildmon told me he had a copy of "The List," and that he wanted a purge of gay Republican congressional staffers as punishment for their supposed role in fomenting and covering up Foleygate. Here are Wildmon's remarks, which I reported in the Nation on Thursday:

"They oughtta fire every one of 'em. I don't care if they're heterosexual or homosexual or whatever they are. If you've got that going on, that subverts the will of the people; that subverts the voters. That is subversive activity. There should be no organization among staffers in Washington of that nature, and if they find out that they're there and they're a member, they oughtta be dismissed el pronto."

Wildmon went on to claim that an investigation by Congressional Republican leaders into the gay menace lurking in their midst would clear House Speaker Dennis Hastert of allegations that he repeatedly ignored warnings about Foley's behavior. "I think the identification of the members of the homosexual clique is going to come out," Wildmon declared. "I think it's going to come out whether or not Hastert knew what he says, and at this point I'm inclined to believe he's telling the truth. I'm beginning to think that the homosexuals shielded their former Congressman Foley and that Denny Hastert did not know the depth of what's going on up there."

Now the gay Republican operatives who have worked tirelessly to help their party fulfill the anti-gay agenda of its base find themselves out in the cold, waiting for the coming purge. It's almost as if they didn't see it coming.

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