Amid the scandal surrounding former Rep. Mark Foley, Family Research Council (FRC) president Tony Perkins has promoted the falsehood that gay men are more likely than straight men to sexually abuse children.
In recent days, Family Research Council (FRC) president Tony Perkins has used the emerging scandal surrounding former Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL) to promote a falsehood about gay men -- that they are more likely than straight men to sexually abuse children, based on the claim that homosexuals are overrepresented in child sex abuse cases. In fact, a 1995 study released by the American Psychological Association found that "gay men are no more likely than heterosexual men to perpetrate child sexual abuse"; the argument that homosexuals are overrepresented in such cases is based on what John Hopkins University psychiatrist Frederick Berlin has described as the "flawed assumption" that men who abuse young boys are also attracted to grown men.
On October 2, Perkins issued a statement on what he claimed was "the real issue" in the Foley scandal -- the purported "link between homosexuality and child sexual abuse"; the statement was uncritically reported by the San Francisco Chronicle in an October 3 report on the scandal. Similarly, on the October 3 edition of MSNBC's Hardball, host Chris Matthews failed to challenge the claim by Perkins that "there's clear research that shows that homosexual men are more likely to abuse children than straight men." Perkins's claim appears to be based on an article on the Family Research Council's website by Timothy J. Dailey, a senior research fellow at the FRC's Center for Marriage and Family Studies, which asserts that there is a "disturbing connection" between homosexuality and pedophilia because "homosexual pedophiles commit about one-third of the total number of child sex offenses" whereas homosexuals make up only "1 to 3 percent of the population."
However, in a July 2002 report, USA Today noted numerous experts in psychotherapy, psychiatry, and child sex abuse who argued that figures showing "male pedophiles are more likely to molest boys than girls" are not evidence that gay men are more likely to abuse children than straight men, because they conflate men who abuse boys with gay men. For example, the article quoted David Finkelhor, director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire, as saying that pedophilia is "kind of* a separate sexual orientation" from homosexuality, and that pedophiles "often* ... have no attraction to adults whatsoever." The article also reported that Berlin, who is described in the story as an expert on sexual disorders, believes that pedophiles are not "very* attracted to adults of either gender," and that a study by psychotherapist Richard Sipe found "no tie between sexual abuse and homosexuality."
From the October 3 edition of Hardball:
MATTHEWS: OK, tough question: Should the Republican Party nominate gay men or gay women for public office? Is that a problem with you per se, just per se?
PERKINS: Per se? I think that this -- there's an indication, there's clear research that shows that homosexual men are more likely to abuse children than straight men. And when it comes to government, yes, I have a concern that any type of sexual deviancy is a problem. And I think -- I'm not pointing this strictly at homosexuality. I think this is a problem of dropping all sexual restraints in our society, and this is what it leads to. I mean, our kids not even being safe in the halls of government. Is that the America that moms and dads want for their children? I don't think it is.
MATTHEWS: Do you think this should be in the Republican platform for you to continue your allegiance to the Republican Party, that they stop nominating gay men or women for a public office? How strong are you on this?
PERKINS: Well, you know, I mean, I think -- I mean, that's not it. I don't think it needs to be in the platform. I think the question here is, was this action based out of fear of being -- of a backlash from homosexuals as being seen as gay-bashers? I think they have every right to participate in the process, and if they get elected through their local constituents, that's fine. But if the party is giving deference and protection and safe haven to those who are on a path of sexual deviancy and abusing children, that's a problem, Chris.
Correction: This item originally omitted portions of quotes by Finkelhor and Berlin.