Politics

Congressman Denies Making Controversial Comments About Gays, Forgets The Entire Thing Is On Tape

CREDIT: AP

Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-NC) is now claiming that he did not make comments supporting anti-LGBT employment discrimination, as reported by ThinkProgress earlier this month.

At a town hall event in Ballantyne, North Carolina, ThinkProgress asked Pittenger: “Do you think businesses should be able to fire someone because they are gay or lesbian?” He replied that businesses should have the “autonomy” to fire workers for being LGBT, and asked rhetorically: “Why should government be there to impose on the freedoms we enjoy?”

The Charlotte Observer picked up the story, and reported that when they called Pittenger to confirm the quotes, the congressman “stood by his comments.”

But after local and national human rights groups began organizing around the comments and protesting at Pittenger’s office in Charlotte, he stood by them no longer.

Local channel WSOC-TV reported: “The congressman’s office insists he never made the divisive statement…Pittinger told [ThinkProgress] he does not support the employment non-discrimination act and the blogger ran with it.”

The office repeated the denial to MSNBC: “His opposition to ENDA was ‘translated’ into ‘firing gays’ by that blogger,” the director, Jamie Bowers, wrote in an email to msnbc on Friday.”

Below is the unedited recording of the remarks, which confirms the quotes originally ran by ThinkProgress.

Pittenger begins by saying, “I believe people are already protected.”

This is false. There are no national protections for LGBT workers, and Congress is unlikely to pass them any time soon. While some states have passed protections, North Carolina is not one of them.

He then says: “We don’t want to micromanage people’s lives and businesses. If you have a business, do you want the government to come in and tell you you need to hire somebody?”

Despite this characterization, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act would not involve the government forcing businesses to hire LGBT workers. Rather, it would bar employers from using sexual orientation or gender identity as a reason to fire, refuse to hire or refuse to promote a worker.

In the remarks he now denies, Pittenger compares the right to discriminate in hiring to the right to smoke on private property: “It’s like smoking bans,” he told ThinkProgress “Do you ban smoking or do people have the right to private property? I think people have the right to private property.”