The Republican Senate candidate from Oklahoma warned of "rampant" lesbianism in some schools in the state in a tape released Monday by his Democratic opponent. The remark by former congressman Tom Coburn drew a skeptical response from state educators. "I don't believe that," said Keith Ballard, executive director of the Oklahoma State School Boards Association. He said the group's attorneys "haven't said anything to me about that."
In the tape released by the campaign of Brad Carson, the Democratic candidate, Coburn says a campaign worker from Coalgate told him that "lesbianism is so rampant in some of the schools in southeast Oklahoma that they'll only let one girl go to the bathroom. Now think about it. Think about that issue. How is it that that's happened to us?"
Joe McCulley, school superintendent in Coalgate, chuckled when asked about Coburn's remark. "He knows something I don't know. We have not identified anything like that. We have not had to deal with any issues on that subject--ever," McCulley said. The comment came at a town hall meeting in Hugo on August 31 and was taped by a Democratic campaign worker.
John Hart, spokesman for Coburn, said the remark was made during a broader discussion about the challenges parents face in society "where our kids are getting mixed messages about sexuality." Hart would not say that Coburn misspoke. "I wasn't there," he said. Of the educators' skepticism, Hart said: "If that's what they say, I guess we will have to take their word for it."
Coburn and Carson are vying for the post that Republican Don Nickles is leaving after 24 years. The race could be pivotal in the battle for control of the Senate.