In her March 3 nationally syndicated column, right-wing pundit Ann Coulter accused The New York Times of being anti-gay, falsely claiming that a recent Times op-ed "gratuitously outed the children of prominent conservatives." She also claimed that the Times ignored once-prominent atheist William J. Murray's embrace of Christianity in 1980. In fact, the children of conservatives mentioned in a recent Times op-ed had already publicly disclosed their homosexuality, and the Times did cover Murray's conversion at the time.
Dan Savage, who edits the Seattle-based weekly publication The Stranger, authored the February 17 Times op-ed reflecting on the significance of prominent conservatives with gay relatives. Coulter accused Savage of "outings" and claimed that liberals were engaging in "ruthless intimidation" of conservatives by "digging through the garbage cans of conservative's family members." According to Coulter: "Outing relatives of conservatives is nothing but ruthless intimidation: Stop opposing our agenda -- or your kids will get it. This is a behavioral trope of all totalitarians: Force children to testify against their parents to gain control by fear." [Emphasis is Coulter's.]
Savage's op-ed identified three prominent conservatives with homosexual family members: former Illinois Republican Senate candidate Alan Keyes, whose daughter Maya is a lesbian; former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, whose half-sister Candace is a lesbian; and Christian activist Randall Terry, whose adopted son Jamiel is gay. All three had publicly revealed their homosexuality long before Savage's column appeared.
A February 13 Washington Post article quoted Maya Keyes revealing that her parents threw her out of their house and cut her off financially because she was "a liberal queer." The article noted that she "will take her private dispute with her dad into the open. She is scheduled to make her debut as a political animal, speaking at a rally in Annapolis sponsored by Equality Maryland, the state's gay rights lobby." Maya Keyes appeared on CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports the following day, where she discussed her sexuality openly. (Alan Keyes is vociferously anti-gay: during his 2004 U.S. Senate campaign in Illinois, he labeled homosexuality "selfish hedonism.")
Candace Gingrich has been openly gay for many years. A March 6, 1995, New York Times article reported: "With her brother's election as Speaker of the House last fall, Candace Gingrich's homosexuality became a matter of public record. Now, in her first official role as a representative of gays and lesbians, she has come to Washington to lobby Congress to preserve money for AIDS programs."
Jamiel Terry disclosed his sexuality in an article in the May 2004 issue of Out magazine [Associated Press, 4/23/04]. Shortly before the article's publication, Randall Terry wrote an essay titled "My Prodigal Son, the Homosexual," which was featured on several websites, including religion and spirituality website BeliefNet and conservative news website WorldNetDaily. Coulter did not mention Randall or Jamiel Terry by name in her column, but her reference to a "troubled, mixed-race child" adopted at age 15 by a conservative closely follows Randall Terry's description of Jamiel in his essay.
Coulter also falsely claimed that the Times ignored William J. Murray, the son of Madalyn Murray O'Hair, an atheist and the plaintiff in the 1963 Supreme Court case Murray v. Curlett, who became a Christian in 1980. Murray v. Curlett produced the landmark ruling banning organized prayer in public schools.
Referring to William J. Murray, Coulter claimed that there was "[n]o mention of the son of America's most notorious atheist becoming a Christian" in the Times, according to her search of "[t]he Lexis-Nexis library for 1980." Coulter did not provide the details of the scope of her search, but a Nexis search by Media Matters for America of all New York Times articles published between January 1 and December 31, 1980, for "William J. Murray" produced an abstract of a May 10, 1980, article that reported: "William J Murray, son of atheist activist Madalyn Murray O'Hair, apologizes for his part in building what he calls 'the personal empire of Madalyn O'Hair'. Issues apology through letter to editor of Austin American-Statesman. Says in letter that he wasted 33 years of his life without faith and without God." The same search also produced a complete Times article from July 31, 1980, titled "Evangelist Calls for Restoration of Prayer in U.S. Public Schools." It reported:
Among those present in the crowded hearing room was William J. Murray who, as a teenager 17 years ago, was a plaintiff in a suit involved in the Supreme Court's historic opinion ruling out formal Bible reading and recitation of the Lord's Prayer in the nation's public schools. Mr. Murray, the son of Madalyn Murray O'Hair, one of the nation's leading atheists, has said he is now a Christian and realizes that the suit brought in Baltimore in 1963 was a mistake.