Last month, the Associated Press revealed that one of the cogs in Newt Gingrich’s vast network of business enterprises and front groups, ReAL Action, provided $125,000 to the American Family Association Action, an anti-gay activist organization that has been officially labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The group’s outspoken policy directory Bryan Fischer has “proposed criminalizing homosexual behavior” and has even advocated forcing gays into “reparative” therapy.
This morning, ThinkProgress reminded Gingrich of his donation and asked him if he would condemn Fischer’s remarks. The former speaker of the House initially attempted to dodge the question by explaining his support for recalling judges who supported same-sex marriage in Iowa and only recanted Fisher’s extreme rhetoric after being pressed on the issue. Gingrich insisted, however, that AFA is not a hate group, but a “Christian” organization:
VOLSKY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The Associated Press recently reported that one of your groups gave money to the American Family Association. This is a group that has been labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. They’ve said that homosexuality should be criminalized, that gays should go into reparative therapy and I was wondering if you would be willing to condemn that kind of thinking today.
GINGRICH: Well, okay. You’ve just made a whole series of assertions that I’m not going to automatically accept your description of an organization that has a million and five hundred thousand members or more…The only thing I’ve done, which I was perfectly happy to defend, is I did help raise resources for a campaign to defeat three judges in Iowa. [...]
VOLSKY: But you’re not willing to condemn the fact that homosexuality should be criminalized?
GINGRICH: I’m not in favor of criminalizing homosexuality. But you didn’t ask me about my personal opinion.
VOLSKY: I was just asking why you were funding a group that has said such statements. You’ve appeared on Bryan Fischer’s radio show, who has made all of these allegations.
GINGRICH: You bring a series of allegations that I can’t check about a group that is largely a Christian based membership group, that is fairly widespread in its membership and I suspect most of those people do not in any way think of themselves as a hate group even if that’s how you would characterize them.
Gingrich is slow to condemn Fisher’s rhetoric because he himself seems to agree with it. For instance, the Iowa judges campaign that Gingrich is “happy to defend” was organized by the anti-marriage equality group Iowa for Freedom — which was also being funded by AFA Action — and was run by Bob Vander Plaats, who claims that homosexuality is a “public health risk.” During a very recent appearance on Fisher’s show, Gingrich also promised to “slow down the homosexual agenda” if he were elected president and told Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly in 2008 that “there is a gay and secular fascism in this country that wants to impose its will on the rest of us is prepared to use violence, to use harassment.”
Moreover, the Southern Poverty Law Center notes, “[g]ays aren’t the AFA’s only enemies.” “In late 2009, Fischer suggested that all Muslims should be banned from joining the U.S. military” and has repeatedly called “for a ban on immigration by Muslims and for local communities to ban the construction of mosques.” But according to Gingrich, this kind of sentiment should not reflect poorly on “a Christian based membership group.”