From Stupid to Dangerous

Newt Gingrich's Tennessee campaign co-chair is none other than Tennessee GOP state Sen. Stacey Campfield, which seems only fitting since Campfield, too, appears to fancy himself a historian -- in addition to a public health expert.

Campfield is at the center of much controversy in Tennessee and nationally after he told me that AIDS began with a gay "airline pilot" who was "screwing a monkey" and that it is "virtually impossible" to be infected with HIV via heterosexual sex.

By mid-week a new American hero had emerged in this saga, Martha Boggs, who kicked Campfield out of her restaurant in Knoxville because, as she told a TV reporter, he'd gone from "stupid to dangerous." And hopefully the entire affair has brought much-needed attention to Campfield's notorious "Don't Say Gay" bill, which is being pushed once again through the Tennessee legislature and would ban discussion of homosexuality in schools.

It all began when I interviewed Campfield about the "Don't Say Gay" bill. Campfield claimed homosexuality is harmful, and though he's told the media that I turned the discussion to AIDS, he's actually the one who raised AIDS as one of the reasons why being gay is supposedly harmful.

After I pointed out that HIV, globally, is a pandemic mostly among heterosexuals, he then went into his theories about an airline pilot and a monkey and claimed it was "very rare" for heterosexuals to get infected with HIV.

When listeners to my radio program and readers of Huffington Post sent Campfield emails explaining how false and reckless his claims were, he sent them back his supposed proof: A right-wing tract using bogus science claiming gays died earlier than straights (and which was debunked over a decade ago when blowhard Bill Bennett was pushing these lies) and an advice column from 1988 -- yes, 1988! -- claiming that the risk to heterosexuals was virtually non-existent. Tell that to the millions of heterosexuals who have been infected with HIV since 1988, many of whom are dead.

Campfield is not backing down, still defending his claims and now positioning himself as a victim of "segregation" after being booted from the The Bistro at the Bijou in Knoxville. It shouldn't shock us to realize that bigots are still elected to public office, nor that voters are ignorant enough to back them.

But what is stunning and alarming is how, over 30 years into an epidemic that killed over 600,000 Americans and has has wreaked havoc on the world, a legislator anywhere in the U.S. would seem comfortable not only spouting reckless information that puts lives at risk, but continues to do so even after he's been refuted by public health experts. Our hero Martha Boggs was right when said he's gone from stupid to dangerous.