Pushing Hard and to the Right

Pushing Hard and to the Right June 18, 2012

Jane Mayer has a new article out in The New Yorker in which she profiles the current mouth piece for the American Family Association, Bryan Fisher. This is, I think, the first in-depth coverage of Fisher in the mainstream media.

Mayer’s focus is on the flap over Richard Grenell, an openly gay and committed man who was appointed to a high position in Mitt Romney’s campaign staff. Fisher was one of the first and most vocal attackers who turned on Romney and eventually caused the campaign to drop Grenell.

I’ve know about Fisher for years, largely through the coverage of Right Wing Watch, who are probably the most dedicated group covering the excesses of people like Fisher. They’ve blogged countless clips of Fisher being his extreme, homophobic self.

What I didn’t know is just how much crap Fisher believes. From Mayer’s article:

He began a long disquisition about homosexuals, and suggested that they were more prone to domestic violence than straight people. He then denied, as he does routinely, that H.I.V. causes AIDS, calling it a “harmless passenger virus.” It’s a theory derived from Peter Duesberg, a professor of molecular and cell biology at Berkeley, who has been widely criticized. Duesberg has been a guest on Fischer’s program. (Fischer told me, “He has a seven-hundred-page book—I read that thing through from the beginning to the end of it, and was persuaded.”)

Fischer returned to a favorite theme: that homosexual behavior is “always, always, always a matter of choice.” He told his listeners that a scientific study had shown the concordance of homosexuality between identical twins to be only six per cent. “If one of them is gay and it’s genetically caused, the other one ought to be gay one hundred per cent of the time!” he said.

Fischer cites such evidence with ease; he has impressive recall for everything from Bible quotations to academic articles. Yet he draws his information almost exclusively from like-minded sources, and ignores contrary statistics. For instance, in 2003, psychologists at the University of London performed a meta-analysis of six studies involving the concordance rate of homosexuality between identical twins, and reported a range from thirty to sixty-five per cent—far greater than the average occurrence of homosexuality in the population at large. The evidence, they concluded, strongly suggested a “heritable component.”

Fischer has similarly cited a 2001 study by Robert Spitzer, the retired Columbia psychiatrist, suggesting that homosexuals could successfully undergo “reparative” therapy. But Fischer has not mentioned that the American Psychiatric Association publicly disavowed the study at the time. Spitzer himself recently renounced the paper, and apologized for making “unproven claims.” (Fischer dismissed this, saying, “He just caved to the gay lobby.”)

Basically, if it’s even remotely anti-gay, then Fisher believes it. Mayer’s point, which she also lays out in a Fresh Air interview, is that Fisher has managed to push Romney’s campaign farther to the right. In this quote, Mayer sums up the Romney campaign’s relationship to Fisher:

“They don’t love him. They view him to some extent as a pest, but the reason they have to pay attention to him is because of the listenership that he’s got and the voter bloc that he’s a part of. They are playing with fire when they play with somebody like Bryan Fischer because he’s so radical. But the Romney campaign needs to get evangelicals to the polls in November. In the Republican primaries so far this year, according to Ralph Reed, over half of the voters in the Republican primaries so far this year have been self-described as ‘white, evangelical Christians.’ This is a tremendously important voting bloc in the Republican Party, and Romney cannot get elected without them.”

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