UPDATE: Banfield clarified her remarks on Friday's edition of CNN's Early Start. Her statement, via Mediaite:
I made some comments yesterday that ended up getting a lot of traction out there, not only on Twitter but elsewhere. And I want to be very, very clear about what my comments were about. I probably misspoke and mangled words, but I want to be very clear.
When I said that incest and pedophilia involve people who don't have a choice -- victims who don't have a choice -- and then said a gay relationship, you do have a choice, they are not crimes. Gay people involved in relationships are not committing any crimes at all. However, those who perpetrate incest and perpetrate pedophilia are committing crimes. I don't know that my comments were taken in that light and I certainly hope they were, but in no way did I ever want to suggest that being gay is a choice. It is not. And I probably used the word "lifestyle choice" -- not what I meant to say at all. Being gay is not a choice; being in a voluntary gay relationship is a choice. It is not a crime. So I hope that at least clears up any of the comments I made after that story of the pastor. And in no way do I agree with or stand by any of the comments that that pastor made either.
During the Thursday edition of CNN's Early Start, co-anchor Ashleigh Banfield reported on comments made by Kansas Pastor Curtis Knapp, who recently called for the government to kill gays and lesbians. In an exclusive CNN interview, Knapp clarified his comments, stating:
We punish pedophilia, we punish incest, we punish polygamy and various things. It's only homosexuality that is lifted out as an exemption.
Banfield wasn't pleased by Knapp's attempt to compare homosexuality to pedophilia and incest. In her attempt to discredit Knapp's explanation, however, she claimed that, unlike pedophilia and incest, "homosexuality is a lifestyle choice by people. It is voluntary":
BANFIELD: Pedophilia is not by choice, last I checked. In his sermon, Pastor Knapp blamed the Bush administration for its tolerance of gay people. Says that he claims that set the stage, in fact, for the Obama administration to endorse same-sex marriage. Like I said, you can't make this stuff up. Unbelievable. Speechless, right?
BANFIELD: Again, we gotta outline here, when he says "they punish incest and pedophilia," please. Those things are often not by choice and are crimes. Homosexuality is a lifestyle choice by people. It is voluntary.
While Banfield was clearly trying condemn Knapp's anti-gay remarks, she ended up doing a lot more harm than good.
A person's sexual orientation is not a "lifestyle choice" or voluntary - it is an immutable part of their identity. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), "most people experience little or no sense of choice about their sexual orientation." Scientific research has demonstrated that a person's sexual orientation is not a matter of choice but rather "primarily neurological at birth." According to molecular biologist Dean Hamer, sexual orientation is regarded in the scientific community as a phenotype and is "deeply rooted in biology."
More importantly, the claim that gay people can simply choose to not be gay is a favorite talking point of some of the country's most notorious anti-gay organizations. Groups like the National Organization for Marriage, Family Research Council, American Family Association have all used the idea that gay people can voluntarily change their sexual orientation as a justification for denying equality to gays and lesbians. The "lifestyle choice" myth is also at the heart of efforts to "cure" gay people through "ex-gay" therapy, which has been discredited as ineffective and potentially harmful by nearly every major professional medical organization in America.
In other words, in her attempt to mock Knapp's extreme anti-gay remarks, Banfield ended up reinforcing one of the right's most damaging myths about LGBT people.
"Unbelievable" is right.