ThinkProgress filed this report from Concord, New Hampshire.
When former Minnesota Governor and likely presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty (R-MN) appeared at a presidential forum sponsored by the FAMiLY Leader — an anti-gay social conservative group in Iowa — in February, he was asked about the organization’s insistence that homosexuality is a public health risk akin to second hand smoking. The group’s President Bob Vander Plaats stepped in to shield Pawlenty from the question and said that the group has not made such a connection. He has since doubled down on the smoking claim and the Leader conceded that its website did direct users to SecondHandEffects.com.
Last Friday, during an event in Concord, New Hampshire, I asked Pawlenty if he agreed with the group’s message. Despite hearing the ‘second hand effects’ meme during his trip to Iowa, Pawlenty still seemed surprised by my question, but did not fully endorse the Leader’s claims:
VOLSKY: Governor, you spoke to the FAMiLY Leader in Iowa in February and that group has said that homosexuality is a public health risk. They’ve linked it to second hand smoking. Do you agree with that?
PAWLENTY: Well, my view in terms of the FAMiLY Leader questions is that we have a country that has traditionally respected things like traditional marriage, which I support. But you know, I have my own views on these matters.
VOLSKY: Do you think homosexuality is a health risk?
PAWLENTY: Is it a health risk? … Well, we have some evidence to indicate that if you engage in unprotected sex you might increase the chance of getting the HIV/AIDS. But you know, that’s also true, can be true in heterosexual community as well.
Recently, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) also failed to endorse Vander Plaats’ beliefs, even as she spoke at an event organized by the Leader. “Um. I — I don’t have an answer on that. I don’t have an answer,” she said, when I asked her if she agreed with the ‘second hand smoke’ argument.
Republicans may be hesitant to agree with the Leader’s outrageous claims, but they have no problem courting and associating with the controversial Plaats in the hopes of winning over conservative Iowa caucus goers. During a recent interview with ThinkProgress, Plaats said, “If we’re teaching the kids, ‘don’t smoke, because that’s a risky health style,’ the same can be true of the homosexual lifestyle.”