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Congressman Barney Frank vs. Family Research Council's Gary Bauer

Larry King Live was Aired on CNN June 18, 1998 - 9:00 p.m. ET
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Trent Lott (R-) Senate Majority Leader: And you should not try to mistreat them or treat them as outcasts. You should try to show them a way to deal with that problem, just like, you know, my father had a problem, as I said, with alcoholism. Other people have sex addiction. Other people, you know, kleptomaniac.

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Jeff Greenfield: Tonight: the fallout from Senator Trent Lott's comparison from homosexuality to kleptomania. We'll here from Democratic Congressman Barney Frank, and the president of the Family Research Council Gary Bauer.

Plus, the death of the tobacco reform bill sparks a full scale political battle in Congress, and we'll hear from both sides. That's all just ahead on Larry King Live.

Good evening, this is Larry King Live. No, I'm not Larry King. My name is Jeff Greenfield, I am sitting in for the king, and tonight we have a genuine miracle.

We have two, authentic, hot, political out of Washington; neither of them involving an ex-White House intern. It's true. Just stay tuned and you'll see. We begin -- we're going to begin with a discussion about what happened when Senator Trent Lott, the Republican majority leader, said on a radio program over the weekend that homosexuality was a sin and he seemed to be comparing it to disorders such as alcoholism and kleptomania.

The White House, and other people, have responded saying that this is an extremist comment and among social conservatives -- the common back, Gary Bauer, one of our guests, who said, and I quote "the White House takes its marching orders, has taken its marching orders from the radical homosexuals from day one.

Later we'll be talking about the death of the tobacco bill, what happened, why it happened, what it means politically and we'll be taking your phone calls. So we begin with the discussion about homosexuality. With us is Congressman Barney Frank, Democrat of Massachusetts for the last 18 years and one of the two openly gay members of the House of Representatives. Also joining us is Gary Bauer, president of the Family Research Council. Also, a man who has been out in Iowa, New Hampshire, and early primary states, investigating the possibility of running for president as a Republican on a social conservative platform. Fair enough?

Gary Bauer, President of the Family Research Council: Absolutely.

Greenfield: Congressman Frank, in terms of the discussion about whether Trent Lott was out of the mainstream -- said something extremist. The last time CNN polled the American public, and asked do you believe that homosexual behavior is morally wrong. By 59 to 34 percent, the public said yes. So on that narrow question, isn't Trent Lott reflecting a majority opinion when he calls it a sin?

Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass): That's never really been to me the best way to look at public policy (INAUDIBLE). You have pollsters and you're free to consult them. I would say, however, it wasn't simply that he said it was a sin. There are a lot of things that the Bible says that were sins. For instance, adultery is a sin. It made it into the Ten Commandments; homosexuality didn't. A year ago, Senator Lott came to the defense of Kelly Flynn (ph), who was being criminally tried in the Air Force for adultery. Here's what he said.

"I'll tell you, the Pentagon is not in touch with reality on this so- called question of fraternization. I mean get real." You're still dealing with human beings. I think it's unfair. I don't understand why she's being singled out and punished. I think she ought to get an honorable discharge." So, the question is not what you think is a sin; it is whether you're politically motivated to try to make some points by attacking some sinners rather than others. Senator Lott's position on sin appears to have shifted some. He went from being somewhat pro-sin to being more anti-sin in a year. And when you compare people who have done no harm to anyone, who have been decent, law-abiding people as a majority of gay and lesbians are – when you compare them to people who are kleptomaniacs, people who steal things. When you compare them to people with alcoholism, that's what we're really talking about, whether or not an individual thinks it's a sin to take the name of the Lord in vain or to work on the Sabbath, all things that the Bible says you shouldn't do. People, obviously have their own views on that. But to go beyond that, to denigrate people, to say a year ago, that a woman accused of adultery, well get real, what are you picking on her for. But some 25-year- old lesbian, who is a hard working woman -- to compare her to a kleptomaniac, I think that's very unfair.

Greenfield: Let's pick that up, Gary Bauer. Because it does seem that if you just take the question narrowly...

Bauer: Right.

Greenfield: ... that people think it's immoral, acceptable – the majority say no.

Bauer: Right.

Greenfield: But, the comment that Senator Lott made that I think really did kick off, if I may use the cliche, a storm of controversy, was the comparison to, what are not simply matters of private behavior, but disabling disorders.

Kleptomania does involve taking somebody else's property. Alcoholism is the leading cause of spousal abuse and traffic death. So the question is: What is it, if anything, about homosexuality that is disabling, in the sense that those other two things are?

Bauer: Well look, I actually disagree with you, Jeff. I don't think it was his elaboration that got Senator Lott into the controversy this week. Reggie White, a few weeks ago, did not make this kind of elaboration. He merely said the same thing that Trent Lott said at the beginning of his remarks, that his faith teaches him that homosexual conduct is a sin. All the major faiths, basically, embrace that idea. As you indicated, the majority of Americans believe that it's inappropriate behavior. And I think what is so important here is that just saying that in America today, even though an overwhelming majority of the American people agree, brings down upon you the full weight of not only the White House this week, but of organized, the Organized Gay Rights Movement, the ACLU, et cetera. Barney Frank, and others, have come out of the closet. It seems to me that they want people who have traditional values to go into the closet...

Greenfield: (Inaudible) up

Frank: Please Mr. Bauer.


Frank: I want to disassociated myself with the description of my views, because they have nothing to do with my views. Greenfield: All right. What I'm trying to do get to though, if I may...

Bauer: Sure.

Greenfield: ... with respect, is to get to that question. Is there something about homosexuality that it's disabling, in the sense that you wouldn't have an alcoholic who wasn't in treatment flying an airplane. You wouldn't have a kleptomaniac ringing a cash register. But what is there about homosexuality, in your view, that disables someone who is homosexual from some job, from some role?

Bauer: I think it's very destructive behavior. I think that's why most religions have tried to discourage it. There is all sorts of statistical evidence about the problems that unfortunately afflict that community -- health problems and similar situations. There are behavior patterns. You can see it, if you take a look at the major homosexual rights publications in major cities like Washington D.C., New York, Chicago. If the average American thumbed through one of those and took a look at the classified ads in the back, the things being sold in those newspapers, and these are considered mainstream newspapers in the gay community and the major cities. It's horrendous stuff.

Greenfield: But you know what. Anyone else would make that argument if they thumbed through the back of "Cosmopolitan" magazine.

Bauer: Well, there is offensive stuff in "Cosmopolitan" magazine, but it is not the center of heterosexual culture.

Frank: Or the front of supermarket tabloids. It's the (Inaudible) activity that bothers me. First, I'm not asking Mr. Bauer to go back to the closet, indeed. He's my candidate for president for the Republican nomination. I wish Mr. Bauer well. I look forward to debating the views that he represents, and I disagree also that it would have been the same if he simply said it was a sin. What I'm struck by, is first of all, as you point out, the inappropriate comparisons to behavior that is damaging to other people. But secondly, Trent Lott's own flip-flop. A year ago, Trent Lott was defending a woman who acknowledged she committed adultery. And his language was "Get real, she's a human being," and it's a very inconsistent position. There are a number of things that the Bible characterizes as sin. And if you believe, as I said, that this whole bunch of things, various sexual behaviors, any sex outside of marriage, divorce. But I don't hear the Republican leadership trying to appeal to Mr. Bauer, denouncing people who get divorced, which is a sin in the Bible, as I read it, get divorced and remarried, the same as homosexuality.

Greenfield: Congressman and Gary Bauer, I want to pick up on exactly that theme when we come back. But we have to take a break. Back in a minute.

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Trent Lott: You should still try to love that person.

Armstrong Williams : Absolutely

Lott: You should not try mistreat them or treat them as outcasts, You should try to show them, you know, a way to deal with that problem. Just like, you know, my father had a problem, as I said, with alcoholism. Other people have sex addiction. Other people, you know, kleptomaniacs, there are all kinds of problems and addictions and difficulties and experiences and things that are wrong, but you should try to, you know, work with that person to learn to control that problem

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Greenfield: Welcome back to Larry King Live. I'm Jeff Greenfield. With me Gary Bauer, the Family Research Council, Barney Frank of Massachusetts. We are talking about what Senator Trent Lott had to say about homosexuality over the weekends and the implications.

So let's, Gary Bauer, pick up on what Congressman Frank challenged you on. I remember Bill Bennett, a prominent conservative -- social conservative, saying to a group of conservatives, "You know, you ought to be much more worried about divorce, than homosexuality. It's got far more of an impact on American life." Is -- and it does occur to me that whether there is something about homosexuality, that angers or concerns social conservatives in a way that other things don't that you would think would have a far more devastating impact on the country.

Bauer: Yeah, now look Jeff. I'm glad to have the opportunity to address the point. My view of this is that America in 1998 is in deep trouble, not just because of the gay rights movement or whatever Barney Frank may or may not be doing. I think we're in trouble because, on a whole host of issues, we've had a breakdown of reliable standards of right and wrong. You go into a major city, into one of the sexually transmitted disease clinics, and you see 13 and 14-year-old kids sitting around in the waiting room, waiting to be treated with disease.

You've got too many kids in America without fathers at home. You do have an incredible divorce epidemic, and now the research is absolutely clear that kids are devastated by divorce. I, for one, would not single out homosexuality as being any worse or more difficult than any of these other things that together, I believe, are putting the American experiment in danger.

Frank : bfrank.gif - 23.28 KBut that simply doesn't bear out the way people like you behave, Mr. Bauer. Conservatives who are very denunciatory of gay men and lesbians and oppose any legal protection against discrimination follow divorced people as your political leaders. Now, I think that's perfectly reasonable, but I don't think I'm guilty of inconsistency. There are very many prominent divorced, remarried conservatives and that does not appear to hinder your willingness to be wholly supportive of them in the slightest.

Greenfield: Well let me ask you, if I may, about a particular point that Gary Bauer mentioned. When the AIDS epidemic began to explode, there were at least some within the gay community who argued that limitations on sexual experimentation was somehow an attack on gay rights. Now there's an example that one could argue that we went from beyond private behavior into serious public consequences.

Frank: Yes, and they were a minority. As a matter of fact, one of the things that Everett Koop said, and also the former defense secretary who headed up an AIDS commission and I forget the name -- an admiral -- both said on the whole.

Greenfield: Watkins.

Frank: Yes, Admiral Watkins, thank you -- on the whole, they said, the behavior of the gay community in dealing with the AIDS epidemic was a model of social responsibility. You had people, in fact, very actively out there educating people. In any community there're gonna be a minority of people who resist.

By the way, that applies to gay men. I should note that lesbians are equally demonized by Trent Lott and Mr. Bauer, and none of the points about AIDS or sexual behavior or even ads in the paper apply to lesbians, so I think that is a convenient excuse, rather than the real argument. Because lesbians get equally demonized.

But in fact, during the AIDS epidemic, the overwhelming majority response of the gay community and the lesbian community, as Admiral Watkins and Everett Koop said, once people understood what was involved, there was a great deal of self-help, social responsibility, caring for each other, education, and as a matter of fact, the incidence of AIDS now is very substantially diminishing among gay men, as people have understood that, and it's growing in other sections of the population.

Bauer: Jeff, here's a perfect example of the problems I said. At this point, for Americans to oppose the political agenda of the gay rights movement -- same-sex marriage, using the schools to teach that this is an acceptable lifestyle, browbeating the Boy Scouts into accepting homosexual counselors -- or coming to the defense of a Trent Lott of a Reggie White, this is seen by our opponents as demonizing homosexuality, of demonizing folks like Barney Frank. This is the natural debate that you have in a free society and we are not going to be silent. We are going to defend traditional values.

Frank: No one is trying to silence you. You are the least- likely martyr I've even seen. You're running for president. You're raising a lot of dough, this effort by you to claim that you're being picked on by these young gay men and lesbians...

Greenfield: Excuse me...

Frank: ... in fact, Trent Lott was demonizing people. People do call people names. Trent Lott didn't say that people who got divorced are like kleptomaniacs.

Bauer: He wasn't asked about that.

Frank: Well he's not only responding to people who asked him. He volunteered...

Greenfield: Congressman...

Frank: ... excuse me, just one important point.

Greenfield: No, I've got to silence you. You'll have another chance.

Frank: I just want to repeat this point.

Greenfield: You will, this the market system in action, which we're now all in favor of. We've got to take a break.

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Mike McCurry, White House Press Secretary: This is a case in which, contrary to the fact -- contrary to statements of the medical community and those who are expert -- the majority leader has taken an incorrect view that homosexuality is a disease; it is not. That's an entirely different matter. That's not a position held as a conviction or matter of conscience.

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Greenfield: Welcome back to Larry King Live. I'm Jeff Greenfield. I'm with Congressman Barney Frank and Gary Bauer of the Family Research Council. We are talking about homosexuality, and the political implications thereof. I promised each of them two sentences; we will see how long that will take. Congressman.

Frank: Mr. Bauer said that Trent Lott only attacked homosexuals as akin to kleptomaniacs, alcoholics and sex-addicts because he wasn't asked about other sinners. But in fact he doesn't wait to be asked elsewhere. A year ago, and you keep ignoring this, when Kelly Flynn pled guilty, in effect, to adultery, Trent Lott leapt to her defense; he said, "Get real; she's human." His attitude towards that sin, adultery, was forgiving, and et cetera, and I believe he reads the tea leaves. Politically, the way to appeal to you and your colleagues is for him to demonize some decent young homosexual by comparing him or her to a kleptomaniac or an alcoholic, but then leaping voluntarily to the defense of a woman charged with adultery and I didn't think the Air Force should have criminally prosecuted her.

Greenfield: Mr. Bauer.

Bauer: Let me clear it up in case there's any confusion about it. I think adultery is a sin and that it's a very difficult problem and I'm particularly glad, in view of the last six months we've been through in Washington, that Barney Frank thinks adultery is a sin.

Frank: No, Trent Lott that's an issue, not you, Mr. Bauer.

Greenfield: Now, I promised you each -- I knew this was gonna happen...

Frank: Well it's Trent Lott we're talking about. Mr. Bauer is being a little egocentric here.

Bauer: Can I...

Greenfield: Congressmen, I would like just to move to a slightly broader field. Because I think we're getting to a critical point about trying to understand what separates you in terms of the public implications. For instance, James Hormel has been nominated to be ambassador to Luxembourg by President Clinton. He has the endorsement of a good number of Republicans, including former Secretary of State George Shultz. Is the fact that he is gay, in and of itself, enough to keep him from being ambassador?

Bauer: gbauer.jpg - 5.23 KNow, in my view, it's the fact that he is a homosexual activist; that is, he has presided over gay rights parades in which Catholics have been mocked by the Sisters or something or other, some gay rights group that goes around mocking Catholic nuns. He has shown a insensitivity to the deeply-held religious faith of millions of Americans, and he's being nominated as ambassador to an overwhelmingly-Catholic country. So I think it's a horrible nomination. I'm not surprised this White House made it, because, as we've seen time and time again when Al Gore went out to Hollywood and praised them for forcing Americans to think about sexual orientation, this White House promotes, very much, that agenda. But I would oppose him because he's an activist.

Greenfield: Is Barney Frank's sexuality disabling in terms of whether people should vote for him for Congress?

Bauer: Look, the only people that can make a judgment about whether they want Barney Frank to represent them, is the people of his district. But I believe that Barney Frank's political agenda on gay rights, his support of same-sex marriage, his support of various other things in that agenda, must be opposed, will be opposed, and people like me will not be moved in our opposition to that agenda.

Greenfield: Congressman?

Frank: Well, I'm struck again by Mr. Bauer's need for martyrdom. He won't be moved; he won't be silenced. People aren't trying to discuss this with you. And you do react to criticism as if it was somehow some terrible attack. You can demonize other people, you can justify comparing them to kleptomaniacs, et cetera. As far as Jim Hormel is...

Bauer: That's Senator Lott. You're getting me confused with Senator Lott.

Frank: No, you were defending Senator Lott.

Bauer: No, I was stating my position.

Frank: I thought you were defending Senator Lott. If you're not defending Senator Lott, I apologize for inferring that you were. But as far as Jim Hormel is concerned, he is a very decent human being. Yes, he has been at parades when other people exercising their free speech rights, have done things that I've criticized. The notion that because you are at a parade, or you're the grand marshal, or you're involved, you're responsible for the free speech activities of other people is very much at odds with this defense of freedom.

Jim Hormel is an outstanding, able individual who ought to be the ambassador, or the people of Luxembourg have no objection, and yes – the other thing I would say is this, when Mr. Bauer defines the gay agenda, he leaves out what is the biggest issue we want. We want a law that says, "you can't be fired," as people have sometimes been fired, "simply because you're gay or a lesbian." That, I think, is a basic question where the American people are supportive if it's as we presented. We're not talking about affirmative action. We're talking about a law that says, "You show up, you do the job, if in fact you happen to be gay or lesbian, and you do that on the off-hours, you can't be fired for that." That's our central point, and that's one of the ones Mr. Bauer hates.

Greenfield: Let's find out. What's wrong -- that sounds well, OK.

Bauer: He's raised a lot of issues, let me respond to a couple of them. First of all, Mr. Hormel did not stand there and look on as a disinterested observer while people were exercising their First Amendment rights. He is on tape laughing at the anti-Catholic...

Frank: Oh, laughing? Oh shocking. You can't have an ambassador that laughs.

Bauer: Bigotry is not laughable.

Frank: People laugh.

Bauer: Bigotry against Catholics...

Frank: People laugh at a lot of comedy that isn't always nice.

Bauer: Bigotry against Catholics is not that funny.

Frank: People who laugh at bigoted remarks should never be appointed. Talk about your political correctness. Now we're being accused of inappropriate laughter.

Bauer: Bigotry should not be encouraged, congressman, even by the gay rights community.

Frank: "Laughed at" is different than "encouraging."

Bauer: On the question at hand, no, I think it would be a terrible disaster to add sexual activity to the list of things protected by the nation's civil rights law. It makes absolutely no sense, and it necessarily -- because of what our courts have done with the federal civil rights law -- it necessarily would lead to quotas and affirmative action.

Frank: That is absolute nonsense. Absolute and complete -- that is a lie. That is not even wrong.

Bauer: That's an opinion, sir.

Frank: No, sir, it's a deliberate lie. Because first...

Bauer: No, it's an opinion.

Frank: You finish and then I wanna finish, 'cause you're now just lying.

Bauer: Well you're talking over me for the last five minutes.

Frank: I'll stop and you talk (Off Mike).

Frank: Excuse me, Jeff, but that's a lie that need not...

Bauer: It's an opinion.

Frank: ... go unrebutted. No, the bill specifically says that there will be no affirmative action. The courts have never taken a provision that specifically said, no affirmative action and no quotas in that regard...

Bauer: In the 1964 Civil Rights Act...

Frank: Not that specific, and...

Greenfield: Excuse me, we are not going to get anywhere with this, except to a break and our last several minutes, 'cause we've got a lot of ground to cover. So we're gonna stop for a second. We'll be back.

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Greenfield: Welcome back to Larry King Live. I'm Jeff Greenfield, our last few minutes congressman Barney Frank and Gary Bauer. Last week, Gary Bauer, the Log Cabin Republicans were told by the Texas Republican Party that they could not have an information booth, and their convention and an official there said we have no room for the Log Cabin Republicans, the Ku Klux Klan, or any other hate groups.

Now, that certainly does sound like a rather excessive description. Whatever you think about gay rights. Does it reflect the fact that among, at least, some part of the Republican Party, that there is as congressman Frank describes a particular antipathy towards the homosexuality that -- in which they can somehow be equated with the KKK?

Bauer: Well, Jeff I can't say this too many times, the antipathy that there is at the grassroots of the Republican Party is not to homosexuals. It is to the political agenda of the homosexual rights movement.

Greenfield: It's a hate group? Are they hate groups?

Bauer: The Log Cabin Republicans and others have put out statements that, I think, border on religious bigotry. And millions of Americans, including many in the Catholic community and even the Anglican community agree with that. Barney Frank astonished me a little while ago when he endorsed me for president. Obviously he was being factitious. But I think it's going to be great to have a debate in this country between a Republican Party that is standing for traditional values – marriage between a man and a woman, kids being taught reliable standards between right and wrong and a Democratic Party which the congressman and Mr. McCurry and the president represent that is really pretty much in line with the demands of the gay rights movement.

Greenfield: Congressman, the point I was going to ask you about is in 1980 when the religious right began the movement in the Republican Party -- that was also a time of Republican ascendancy, at least at the presidential level. Are you at all considered that as a political matter that this could reignite a Republican coalition that won more than it lost in that era?

Frank: No, not given the extremism and the anger with which they're doing it. Mr. Bauer misunderstood me, he's not my candidate for president. he's my candidate for the Republican nomination.

Bauer: I understand.

Frank: Because I think the anger he exudes toward people, the distortion, this denunciation of the gay rights agenda which is in its primary assertion that people shouldn't be fired, that 15, 16, 17- year-old gay men and lesbians should be treated with compassion and not demonized and beaten up. I don't think the American people like that. People can have their own views and do have their own views about whether it's good or bad to be gay or lesbian.

But the anger, the lashing out -- what I think people resent is the use of religion as a stick. When Pat Robertson says there are going to be meteors hitting Orlando, Florida because they raised flags (ph), that is not only nuts but it's angrily nuts and yes I do welcome a debate on those kind of issues. Religion as a means of compassion, of guidance, of helping people. Religion is a stick to beat people, to make people feel bad, to demean them. That's what Trent Lott did in his comment. That's what Mr. Bauer does and I do welcome a debate on those issues.

Bauer: I have tremendous compassion for people that are wrestling with this problem, as well as all the other problems that fall on men and women including myself -- wrestle with. But I think anybody watching this show tonight would certainly have not seen any anger by me, but they will see a determination that millions of us have to resist the radical agenda that Mr. Frank and allies...

Frank: Except, Gary you talk only about gay men. The divorced people, the other people...

Bauer: I talk about others.

Frank: No you don't, in fact, you follow them politically.

Bauer: No.

Frank: People understand and can see where you are, what you are. Pat Robertson wasn't talking about meteors hitting Las Vegas because people get abortions there.

Bauer: Jeff you can have us back on and talk about adultery.

Greenfield: Can I assume that you're not warning the people of Orlando -- I think it was Orlando that they are not in danger of hurricanes.

Bauer: No, I'm not. But I tell you this Jeff, in the middle of the Civil War, Lincoln asked how long it would go on and he said, he feared it would go on until enough blood had been shed to equal all the blood shed by the slave masters lashes. I think what Lincoln was saying, and perhaps Pat said it, artfully (ph) is that God has played a role in he history of the United States.

Frank: No that's not what he said.

Bauer: His blessings, I think are on this nation and I hope that we don't lose those blessings.

Frank: Well, if this was a hockey match, I guess you would get a good save on that. But that's not what Pat Robertson said. He said a crazy, mean thing, threatening the because they were showing the flags, they were going to get hit with meteorites and you can't clean that up anymore than you can clean up and see through the other bigotry.

Greenfield: Unsurprisingly, we're out of time. I want to thank...

Frank: The market comes back, we sell some more.

Greenfield: C-Span you can go on forever. Congressman Barney Frank of Massachusetts I appreciate you coming. Gary Bauer, I guess we'll be seeing you tromping through Iowa and New Hampshire in the weeks, months ahead. I thank you for both.

Bauer: Thanks for the opportunity.

Greenfield: You bet, both of you.