Purging the gays, McCarthy style

The scapegoating of gay people in light of the scandal surrounding disgraced former congressman Mark Foley is nothing new. It is a tactic honed in the dark days of the Cold War during the McCarthy-led “purge of the perverts.”



Republicans are scapegoating gay Americans again. Though
their outrage over former congressman Mark Foley is recent,
it employs tactics they honed in the dark days of the
Cold War during the McCarthy-led “purge of the

Only a few days
after Foley resigned in disgrace and news spread of a
possible high-level congressional cover-up, Gloria Borger of
CBS News reported that some Republicans blamed
“a network of gay staffers and gay members who
protect each other and did the speaker a disservice.”
Though Borger initially said it was a story that
“rank and file Republicans [would] only talk
about privately,” they quickly grew bold.

Before long,
Family Research Council president Tony Perkins was asking,
“Has the social agenda of the GOP been stalled by
homosexual members and/or staffers? When we look over
events of this Congress, we have to wonder.”

Even The New
York Times
ran a front-page article revealing
that “the presence of homosexuals, particularly gay
men, in crucial staff positions has been an enduring if
largely hidden staple of Republican life for decades,
and particularly in recent years.” Underscoring
their alleged power and influence, the Times noted
how gay Republicans “have played decisive roles in
passing legislation, running campaigns, and advancing
careers.” Members of this “Velvet
Mafia,” the Times noted ominously, were
“holding their breath” in anticipation
of more fallout from the Foley scandal.

The resignation
of Kirk Fordham, openly gay former chief of staff to
Foley and current chief of staff to New York Republican
congressman Thomas Reynolds, seemed only to whet
conservatives’ appetites to boot out the gays.
Labeling them “operatives” who had managed to
“infiltrate and manipulate the party
apparatus,” right-wing author Cliff Kincaid demanded
that “the secret Capitol Hill homosexual network must
be exposed and dismantled.”

Calling them
“subversives” thwarting the will of the
people, the American Family Association’s Don
Wildmon told The Nation, “they ought to
fire every one of them.” The Traditional Values
Coalition issued an ultimatum to their party:
“Republicans need to make a simple choice
between the innocent children and radical homosexuals
who prey on them.”

Charges of a
powerful gay network, a subversive fifth column that has
“infiltrated” the party, are nothing new. In
1950 Senator Joseph McCarthy charged that Harry
Truman’s State Department had been
“infiltrated” by subversives, a category
that initially included both communists and gays.
However, McCarthy quickly discovered that the charges of
homosexual infiltration were more effective at
stirring up indignation among voters.

advisors warned that “the country is really much more
disturbed over the picture which has been presented so
far of the government being loaded with homosexuals
than it is over the clamor about communists in the
government,” and the State Department’s
admission that it had fired 91 homosexuals seemed to
substantiate McCarthy’s charges. With a midterm
election approaching, Republicans attacked the Democrats for
“harboring” homosexuals. They followed
the advice of New York Daily News editors who wrote,
“If we were writing Republican campaign
speeches, we’d use the word ‘queer’ at
every opportunity.”

Tags: Politics