Group Rails Against Bush's 'Homosexual Activism'

CNN Inside Politics

May 31, 2001 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Blogger Tumblr

JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Is the administration a little too diverse for some Republicans? We'll find out why one conservative group is taking aim at the White House over the appointment of two staffers.

A conservative group called the Concerned Women for America's Culture and Family Institute issued a report today accusing the Bush administration of, quote, "pursuing a gay Republican agenda." The White House has rejected the report's claims.

Just a short time ago, I spoke with Bob Knight, an author of the report, and with Rich Tafel. He is the executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans.

I began by asking Bob Knight why his group would issue such a report.


BOB KNIGHT, CWA CULTURE & FAMILY INSTITUTE: If things were occurring in isolation, it wouldn't bother us, but over the last few months we have been disturbed by a number of developments, particular appointments, the fact that the Bush administration has not rolled back any of the Clinton homosexual activism that was very evident in the eight years of the Clinton administration, and the rhetoric coming from some Bush administration officials.

It all adds up to us as a move to either make the Republican Party silent on this very pressing social issue or to join the other side, to actually promote homosexuality as something good and normal and decent and up there with ethnicity and skin color as a civil rights category. We think that's wrong. We think laws that add sexual orientation actually have the effect of putting people with traditional values outside the law.

I'm really concerned for the freedom of my children if the gay agenda succeeds.

WOODRUFF: Rich Tafel, what about the idea that they have issued this report in the first place? Are you comfortable with that idea?

RICH TAFEL, LOG CABIN REPUBLICANS: Well, I'm comfortable that the president said he would govern from the middle, and that he – I'm sure he has been criticized for the last two weeks from people on the left saying he was not moderate enough, and now he is being attacked by people on the right for not being conservative enough. I think he's right in the middle, and that's where he should be.

I think that if you are going to govern from the middle, you will be criticized from both extremes.

WOODRUFF: But I mean, the fact that this organization, the Culture and Family Institute, which is an affiliate of Concerned Women for America, that they have taken the time and the trouble to put this report together, you don't have any problem with the fact that they have done it?

TAFEL: I have a problem in a sense that I just don't think the American public really cares about that report. I think they care about education reform, tax cuts, reform in the military, so this issue, I think, is an attempt by groups on the right and the left to create a cultural war and keep it alive.

And the public is not concerned. I think the public wants solutions. I think this is just name-calling from one extreme, and we have heard it from both sides.

WOODRUFF: Cultural war. Is that what the point of this was, in the first place?

KNIGHT: The point of the report is to point out to the American people that there have been some very serious developments in the Bush administration that would surprise the pro-family supporters of President Bush.

WOODRUFF: Give us just a couple examples of what disturbs you.

KNIGHT: I think the appointment of Stephen Herbits over at the Defense Department to vet personnel applications is an amazing development. The guy is an outright gay activist, contributor to the Democratic Party and the original founding member of GLAAD, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, and a fierce opponent of the gays in the military policy that President Bush espouses.

Why would you put somebody like that in a sensitive position determining who is going to be in manpower positions at the Pentagon?

WOODRUFF: Rich Tafel, do you...

KNIGHT: That kind of thing just doesn't make sense.

WOODRUFF: ... want to comment?

TAFEL: I've got one example: here's a guy who is the former vice president of Seagram's, he is a corporate leader, he does human relations. He came out of...

(CROSSTALK) TAFEL: Excuse me. Comes out of retirement to help old friends in the interview process, which is very Byzantine in this town when it comes to trying to get people into the administration. Attacking him how is he very qualified is ridiculous. It discourages people from public service. He's basically just doing good citizenship. This wasn't something he needed money-wise or career-wise. He was going back to help because he is very well-qualified.

Well, President Bush said in the campaign, I will have the most qualified people in qualified positions. And that...


KNIGHT: You put people in positions that directly oppose your views on that issue?

TAFEL: They oppose Robert's views, but not the president's views.

KNIGHT: Oh, no, wait a minute, the president said he was for "don't ask, don't tell." Mr. Herbits is against even that. He wants gays in the military. He has made no bones about it. So, why put a guy in a job that disagrees with you fundamentally?

WOODRUFF: So, you are saying, Bob Knight, you are saying somebody like Mr. Herbits, somebody like Mr. Evertz at the White House are not the most qualified people?

KNIGHT: Well, Scott Evertz was appointed AIDS czar because he is a homosexual activist, not because he has special AIDS knowledge, not because he has been active in AIDS circles. Just one criteria, just that he is a gay activist.

WOODRUFF: How do you know that?

KNIGHT: Look at his resume. That's the only thing he's got going. He was very active in the Log Cabin Republicans in Wisconsin, and the good old boy network of gay Republicans, that got him the job. And you know, you think somebody would have better credentials than that if they are managing a health crisis of this proportion.

WOODRUFF: Rich Tafel, how do you respond?

TAFEL: Scott Evertz is a conservative Republican who has been his whole adult live involved in nonprofit work and health care field, and they cannot find a reason but to say that he is gay. It's the only qualification...

KNIGHT: No, it's not because he's gay, it's that he got the job because he's gay. There's a very important distinct, Judy.

TAFEL: He's very well qualified.

KNIGHT: You know, I have been asked often, like, are you against President Bush hiring anyone who is gay? No, that is not our position. Our position is that he should not go out hiring people because they are gay. That should not be a criterion. Having a sexual problem like that should not be a reason to get hired.

WOODRUFF: I think Mr. Tafel is saying, in his view, that's not the reason these people were hired.

KNIGHT: Well, why else was Scott Evertz hired?

TAFEL: Well, if you want to talk about his involvement in Log Cabin Republicans, for example, we've been in the Republican Party a group that has led the battle against AIDS, and the gay community has championed this issue for years before it was even a mainstream issue.

Right now, we are involved with AIDS in Africa. That's not a gay issue, it's a humanitarian issue, but our expertise in being involved in this health crisis comes to bear, and Scott Evertz has those qualifications, and that's why he was hired.

WOODRUFF: Bob Knight, you talked to somebody like David Mixner who was a former adviser to President Clinton, a gay – has been a gay rights activist. He looks at the Bush administration, and says: "On a scale of one to 10, he rates them number two," when it comes to gay rights issues.

KNIGHT: Well, of course...

WOODRUFF: But you are coming at it from a very different perspective.

KNIGHT: Well, sure, he is a partisan Democrat, a Clinton friend. No matter what President Bush did to promote homosexual activism, the left-wing Democratic homosexual activists would say that's not enough, I'm sorry, it's still a homophobic administration.

So, he is never going to please the gay activists. What he ought to do is please pro-family voters who put him in office in the first place. The largest single voting bloc was pro-family Americans who believe in marriage and family and think two men having sex, there's something wrong with that.

WOODRUFF: Rich Tafel, how do you respond to that from someone in your own political party?

TAFEL: Sure. My answer to that is that he should not try to please anybody, he should do what's right, and what's right is that discrimination is wrong, and that's what he has been doing. And David Mixner and Robert Knight are never going to agree, because they are both engaged in a debate they want to perpetuate.

And the president has said, it's time for us to come together as a nation, let's bring ourselves together, let's find common ground, let's stop calling names and let's work on solutions, and I think that's what he has accomplished here, and that will never please the extreme left or the extreme right.

KNIGHT: Well, talk about name-calling...

(CROSSTALK) WOODRUFF: We are going to have to leave it there. Rich Tafel, the Log Cabin Republicans, Bob Knight, of the Culture and Family Institute, an affiliate of Concerned Women of America, thank you very much. We appreciate you both being here.

KNIGHT: Thanks for having us.