Well, they certainly bother this one

Over at Slate, there’s an article about the Ron Paul newsletters and what they have to say about us gay folk.  (Yes, another Ron Paul piece around here.  Sorry.)

Here’s the subheader:

Why Ron Paul’s anti-gay newsletters don’t bother liberal gays.

Hmmmm.  It’s been a while since I manned the liberal booth at the annual Gay Agenda convention, so I don’t know what all of my fellows are thinking.  Those newsletters certainly bother the hell out of this liberal(ish) gay.  An excerpt:

Square all of that with the author of the newsletters. In 1989 he approvingly quoted a congressman who said gay rights was not a matter of “political philosophy,” but of “sodomy.” In 1994 he argued that “those who don’t commit sodomy, who don’t get blood transfusions, and who don’t swap needles, are virtually assured of not getting AIDS unless they are deliberately infected by a malicious gay.” The same year, he doubted that older gays worried too much if they got AIDS; “sex is the center of their lives,” he explained, and anyway, “they enjoy the attention and pity that comes with being sick.”

My, my, my.  I was just entering medical school around 1994, and probably meeting my first AIDS patients.  I don’t remember a single one seeming to enjoy it, no matter how much attention was lavished on them.

Now, chances are slim that I would have voted for Ron Paul in any case.  I’m far too big a supporter of the social safety net to vote for someone who’d want to make it disappear.  But there are parts of his agenda that I’d ostensibly support, particularly with regard to limiting executive power and curtailing the War on Drugs.  And yeah, the man voted against the Federal Marriage Amendment and eventually in favor of repealing DADT.  But I’d be a pretty safe Obama vote in any case.

Thus, it may not be saying much to declare that I would never in a million, billion years vote for a man who allowed those words to be published under his name.  Never. 

The calumny about gays deliberately spreading AIDS was something I heard in the fundamentalist church of my youth (in Sunday school, no less).  It’s high on my list of reasons for loathing the social conservative faction today.  I was taught that poisonous little lie sometime in the 80s, and I find it eye-opening to learn that whoever was writing as “Ron Paul” thought it still fit for print in the decade after.

As for the scads of unbothered liberal gays, I wonder how many of them there really are.  The article quotes Dan Savage, who’s apparently the de facto spokesgay these days, and who has decided to take the newsletters in stride.  Fine, but what does that tell us about anything?  I suspect most liberal gays are like most people around the country, and aren’t actually paying that much attention to politics at all.  Insofar as most liberal gays are concerned, I’d imagine they’re somewhat aware of Ron Paul’s political fortunes, vaguely familiar with some kind of controversy surrounding racist comments in his old newsletters, and barely aware if at all about their homophobic content.  This is just a guess, but I imagine most of them would be very bothered if they knew more details.

If Dan Savage is a poor stand-in for Gays Everywhere, the other person they quoted directly is even worse:

Paul says he didn’t write any of this, but another politician couldn’t say that and expect gay writers to back off. Paul gets a pass. James Kirchick, the gay reporter who broke the newsletter story in 2008, didn’t get the sense that Paul cared as much about this as “say, the need to root out the Trilateralist-Bilderberg conspiracy.”

“I do think it’s possible that he views gays personally with disgust while maintaining a belief that the government should not regulate their lives,” said Kirchick. “I actually think that’s the case with a lot of straight people, even ostensibly ‘liberal’ ones who know better not to say what they really think about homosexuality and homosexuals.”

It is relevant to some degree to talk to Kirchick — he’s the one who broke the story in The New Republic, for which he deserves proper credit.  But as anyone who read his TNR writings regularly can tell you, the man has nothing but disdain for liberals.  I am certainly not a big fan of his, and think it’s a little bit absurd that he would be featured so prominently as a representative of people I’m pretty sure he openly despises.

The article wraps up with this:

Nichols [of The Nation] doesn’t think he’s describing a potential president. None of Paul’s liberal defenders do. Savage doesn’t. The Republican primary is a running conversation, and it expands or contracts the definition of “conservatism.” As long as Paul is in the race, it doesn’t matter what he might have thought about gay sex once. He wants politicos—people like himself, really—to stay out of the bedroom. One reason he talks like this is that gay rights, culturally, has won out.

Gay rights has won out.  But that happened in spite of the horrible libel that we were, among other things, out to spread AIDS.  It happened in spite of voices like the one Ron Paul was apparently willing to call his own.  As far as I am concerned, it sure as hell matters what he thought about gay sex once.  He was part of the problem, and there’s no way I would ever support him.

Update:  Andrew Sullivan writes this:

I’m no longer endorsing Ron Paul, because he has failed to take responsibility for the newsletters and because his libertarianism really is too extreme for me. But I think the attacks on his writing over two decades ago – when attitudes toward gays and HIV were extremely different than today – is less important than his commitment to limiting government, at home and abroad, now. And I do not believe that he is a bigot. In fact, I think he is remarkably free of such prejudice for a man of his background and generation. Which may be why opponents have to trawl through material two decades old to get him.

That is some bullshit right there.  Two decades ago the words Ron Paul (or whoever it was writing under his name) were even more powerful and damaging than they would be today.  Whatever the shift in attitudes toward gays and HIV since then, that shift happened in opposition to what Paul wrote.  And a willingness to disseminate the hateful lie that AIDS was deliberately spread by gays was no “attitude.”  It was evil, poisonous bigotry, from which Paul profited personally.

Another swing and a miss from Sullivan, whose writings in favor of Ron Paul now contain all the intellectual rigor of his older posts frothing about Sarah Palin.

Russell Saunders

Russell Saunders is the ridiculously flimsy pseudonym of a pediatrician in New England. He has a husband, three sons, daughter, cat and dog, though not in that order. He enjoys reading, running and cooking. He can be contacted at blindeddoc using his Gmail account. Twitter types can follow him @russellsaunder1.


  1. Mr. Kirchick broke no story. Various libertarians had been speaking out about these problems years before Kirchick discovered the story. I know that Tom Palmer was writing about it and so was the libertarian blog Rightwatch.tblog.com, several years before Kirchick stumbled onto the scene.

  2. I never looked at it from that perspective (which is probably indicative of a problem in its own right). Seeing it like that, I have no idea how to argue against the position. Digging around, I’m pretty sure that I don’t even want to.

    Sigh. I may have to write an essay about… “that man”.

  3. The only thing I can say about Ron Paul as a gay individual is that all his opponents for the GOP primary are worse. I mean Paul, he’s said some utterly crappy things but you never get much of a gist that he’s actually interested in having much to do with the official anti-gay government GOP agenda.
    I mean Bachman you get the distinct feeling you’ll find her husband lurking in a van on the curb trying to lure young gay men to his clinic. Santorum… well there is a man who elevates gay bashing to an art form.
    Newt, he’s Newt.

      • Yes, the Governor of Utah has acquitted himself well. But considering that he’s polling lower than Zombie Regan I left him off the list in favor of actual potential nominees.

  4. The pernicious myth about gay men spreading AIDS has some curious roots. Much of what I do is related to health care statistics and I have worked with epidemiological models.

    HIV/AIDS became associated with the gay community because gay health clinics in LA spotted a cluster of young men who seemingly died of everything at once. Though transplant surgeries have improved over the years, immunosuppresant drugs were how we were keeping those patients alive. We knew immediately these men were dying from a compromised immune system.

    And they were dying of thrush and Kaposi’s Sarcoma, a rare enough cancer to warrant raising alarms when it appeared in what we call a cluster, a statistically significant locus.

    They exhibited the good sense to raise the alarm and get CDC involved. Instead of praise and thanks (for far more heterosexual people have died and will die of HIV/AIDS than gays) they were stigmatized.

    This country put more money into AIDS research than the Apollo moon program and in less time. That research has a happy side effect: in our investigation of the white blood cell, we’ve almost beaten childhood leukemia.

    So thanks, gay people. Thanks for speaking up and doing the needful and taking the brunt of the opprobrium. Sincerely meant.

    • Pernicious myth? From top to bottom, your comments are shockingly and factually incorrect–you actually work in the field of
      “health care statistics with epidemiological models”? Goodness, that’s just alarming.

      It is generally accepted that male homosexuals make up approximately 3% of the population and according to CDC statistics, account for 73% of HIV cases in the United States. 63% of those were contacted through male to male sex the rest were contacted through drug injection use. Now if 3% of the population is accounting for 73% of HIV cases, I’d say we have a problem, especially when unprotected anal sex among homosexual males has ,in the last five years, risen from 23% to 33%.

      It is absolutely inarguable that there are many, many increased health risks associated with male homosexual behavior. How about for starters: Chlamydia trachomatis, Anal Cancer, Cryptosporidium, Giardia lamblia, Human immunodeficiency virus, Human papilloma virus, Isospora belli, Microsporidia, Viral hepatitis types B & C.

      “They exhibited the good sense to raise the alarm and get CDC involved”. Unfortunately, they continued to practice excessive, reckless, sexual promiscuity and didn’t have the good sense to protect themselves and their sexual partners from HIV infection which is why thousands and thousands have died and will continual to die from HIV. Surely, being an “expert” in this field, you know that anal sex is an extremely efficient method of transmitting pathogens and micro organisms that quickly get a strong foothold in the rectum because of its ability to retain dangerous foreign bodies.

      Why in the world should “praise and thanks” be extended to the gay community when the scourge of HIV/AIDS continues, unabated?
      If gay men aren’t spreading AIDS to other gay men, the who is?

      It’s just astonishing that you are in any position of any kind of authority and can write such absolute, utter crap. It couldn’t be more obvious that you haven’t the faintest idea of what you’re talking about.

      • Well, Heidegger, you can look at the above comment any time you wonder why henceforth there will be no more space on my blog for your comments. I don’t care how many times you sneak through my ban from now on, I will delete everything you post as soon as I come across it. On topic, off topic — it doesn’t matter. Gone.

        Your welcome has expired permanently, and will not be renewed.

      • I’d add only that if you lopped the homosexual out of this screed and substituted in heterosexual it’d have precisely the same salience.

  5. “Gay rights has won out.”

    Not quite.* But soon. Very, very soon.

    * (As I said to Jason regarding gay characters on TV: I think we’ll know we’re where we need to be when you see a dating or married gay couple in a show that isn’t making a statement, or where the fact that they’re gay isn’t part of the plot line. We’ll know we’re there when there are just gay couples because, hey, some couples are gay.)

  6. To those who want to scapegoat the gay community regarding HIV with badly reasoned logic, there are things to remember.

    An STD had to travel through sexual partners. That does have a tendency to limit it to one community or the other. In the West some of the first people infected were gay. But not so for the world. I live in AFrica and the overwhelming majority of cases are heterosexual and transmitted that way, with the gay community being the minority of cases. To focus on the exceptional West and ignore the routine in the rest of the world, is either bad logic or selective interpretation in order to push a bigoted agenda.

    A Kaiser fact sheet on AIDS says: “The major route of HIV transmission worldwide is heterosexual sex.” Two-thirds of all AIDS cases are in Africa with infections rates continent wide being around 6% with some regions up to 33%. If you think 1/3 of the people in Swaziland are gay then you need psychological help. Infections are overwhelming heterosexual there. Second, is the Caribbean area in terms of infections, again overwhelming heterosexual. Russia is facing a crisis, almost entirely from sharing needles and heterosexual sex. Compared to areas with major HIV problems North America and Western Europe are relatively untouched. North America only has 3.4% of all the HIV cases in the world. In Western Europe it is under 2% of all world cases.

    So, when someone points to the two regions where homosexuals are the main victims of HIV, and then makes generalized statement about how dangerous being gay is, they are skewing the sampling in order to do that. They are focusing on 5% of the world HIV cases and pointing to the prime method for infection there, while ignoring the 95% elsewhere which don’t confirm his prejudices.

  7. Dan Savage may be among most fashionable “spokesgays” out there, and indeed he is often quite amusing to read. But I would no more assume he speaks for all gay people than I would have others assume that Richard Dawkins speaks for all atheists or Gerry Spence speaks for all lawyers.

      • He certainly should not be assumed to.


        If Ron Paul runs for President and a large number of Libertarians support him to the exclusion of supporting anyone else, it’s fair to ask about the freaking things that Ron Paul has freaking said to people that he was hoping to milk for cash.

      • I’m not sure if this comment was directed my way, but if so, I would inquire where in my post I direct any criticism at libertarians as a whole. My beef is with Paul, and with Paul alone.

  8. It’s not just Ron Paul own ideas that bother this lesbian, it’s (some) of his supporters–like Phil Kayser: “a Nebraska pastor with an Iowa following who calls for the execution of homosexuals.” See the link for more info.

    Ron Paul’s Christian Reconstructionist Roots
    Jan 3, 2012 4:45 AM EST — The Daily Beast
    The surging libertarian is no stranger to the religious right’s fringe. Michelle Goldberg on his Christian Reconstructionist fans—and what they have in common with the Taliban.


  9. News regarding the newsletter flap. James Kirchick just released the name of the only by-lined author from his pdf files of the newsletters. Why didn’t he do this 4 years ago? Paul isn’t believed by many when he says he didn’t exercise sufficient editorial control. New Republic and Stephen Glass, anyone? The irony is that the original piece was written by Kirchick for, you guessed it, The New Republic.

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