WASHINGTON -- As Massachusetts Democrats and LGBT leaders continued to criticize Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) for refusing to appear with the rest of the state's congressional delegation in an "It Gets Better" video on Thursday, Republicans attacked the project's founder, Dan Savage, as someone too controversial and hostile to Republicans for them to associate with.
On Wednesday, Massachusetts lawmakers released a video for the project, assuring young people who are getting bullied that life will eventually get better. Brown, the only Republican member of the state's delegation, was also the only member of the 12-person group who declined to participate.
During a press call hosted by the Massachusetts Democratic Party, state Rep. Carl Sciortino (D-Medford) said Brown's refusal to participate in the video was part of a pattern of failing to support rights for LGBT individuals. He cited the fact that in 2006, when Brown was a state senator, he was the only member to vote to uphold then-Gov. Mitt Romney's veto of a Commission on Gay and Lesbian Youth.
"Sen. Brown's absence in our congressional delegation's video sends a message that he supports kids being bullied or harassed," said Sciortino. "Now, I don't think that's the message that Sen. Brown wants to send. I'm asking him, as a senator for the commonwealth, to stand up and show some leadership on behalf of his LGBT constituents, our young people that are facing violence in our schools, our young people that are being bullied in our schools."
On Wednesday, Brown's office argued that the senator has had a "strong record" on bullying and said his "main focus right now is on creating jobs and getting our economy back on track."
But on Thursday, Republicans offered a sharper response, going after Savage, a nationally syndicated sex columnist.
"Senator Brown believes all people regardless of sexual orientation should be treated with dignity and respect. He has been a leader in fighting for anti-bullying legislation at the state and federal level. His main focus is creating jobs and getting the economy moving again. In this case, the individual behind the video has made vile and sexually crude comments about Senator Brown. It's reprehensible for Senator Brown's opponents to associate with this person in order to score cheap political points," said Eric Fehrnstrom, a political adviser to Brown.
Savage's February 2010 column joked about shoving a "Coke bottle, Oscar statuette, [or] Scott Brown action figure" up "someone's ass and/or twat."
"If, as the old saying goes, you're known by the company you keep, than the voters of Massachusetts deserve to know who Democrat party operatives are teaming up with to spread outrageous attacks on Scott Brown's character," added National Republican Senatorial Committee Communications Director Brian Walsh, who also pointed to the fact that Savage once said he wished all Republicans were "f*cking dead." (He later apologized.)
"It's truly reached a new level of desperation in their efforts to tear down Scott Brown, but we look forward to hearing whether state and national Democrat leaders agree with Dan Savage's long history of lewd, violent and anti-Christian rhetoric. Given their press conference call today, one has to presume at this point that they do."
Savage and his partner started the It Gets Better project in September 2010, in response to the disturbing number of suicides by teenagers who had been bullied for being gay or perceived as gay.
"We're proud so many elected officials are working to make it better for struggling LGBT youth and hope other leaders from both sides of the aisle will join them," said Scott Zumwalt, a spokesperson for It Gets Better.
"I would like them [LGBT youth] to get the message that not only does it get better, but that he [Brown] gets better, and he will get better on the issues," said Jennifer Chrisler, executive director of the Family Equality Council, who was also on the Democratic call on Thursday.
UPDATE: 6:15 p.m. -- Statement from Dan Savage:
I am not the IGB project. The project has had the reach and impact that it's had thanks to tens of thousands of people from all over the world who've participated. [A]nd no one who participates is required to crawl into bed with me. ..:
It is interesting, though, that not a single GOP elected official can bring himself or herself to make a video, or participate in the creation of one. No GOP elected official can risk being seen letting bullied LGBT kids know that life isn't high school and that it will get better for them. it doesn't require signing off on the entire gay agenda (the president made a video, and he doesn't support gay marriage). No GOP elected can back the seemingly radical notion that LGBT kids shouldn't kill themselves, that they should have hope for their futures.
No GOP elected official can do even that -- David Cameron, meanwhile, made a video months ago. Which tells us a lot about the noisiest part of the GOP's base — lewd (have you seen their websites?) hate groups like Focus on the Family and Americans for Truth About Homosexuality — and how feared they are by even "moderate" senators like Scott Brown.