Paul Ryan's performance at Friday's Values Voter Summit in Washington — a meeting of hyper-conservative groups organized by the antigay Family Research Council — is getting some bad reviews.
First, the GOP vice presidential candidate was heckled by two women from ACT UP, the activist organization that fights for HIV funding. The women screamed, "Corporations are not people!" before being removed from the event.
Ryan's only line regarding LGBT people in his Values Voter speech was a retread of what he said while praising running mate Mitt Romney during his convention address: "Not only a defender of marriage, [Romney] offers an example of marriage at its best."
But maybe most damaging for Ryan was Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank writing that it was a "mistake" for the candidate to even attend the conference.
"Fifty-three days before the election, this is not the sort of message Mitt Romney and Ryan should be sending to the American public," Milbank wrote.
Milbank deserves added attention because, back in August, he scolded the Southern Poverty Law Center for labeling FRC a "hate group." That description is incendiary, Milbank wrote, and may have contributed to a man shooting a security guard at FRC's headquarters in August. Milbank has since been repeatedly praised for his stance by FRC president Tony Perkins, including in a speech ahead of the Values Voter Summit during which Perkins called Milbank's writing "common sense" and a "call to civility."
The friendship will likely be short-lived, though, as Milbank slammed Perkins and his group in Friday's Post, saying Ryan shouldn't associate himself with such an organization. Milbank compared Ryan's decision to speak before the Family Research Council event with former Republican majority leader Trent Lott's ill-fated decision to speak before the racist Council of Conservative Citizens.
A coalition of LGBT groups had called on Ryan to skip the event, though he obviously didn't take their warning to heart. "We urge you not to lend the prestige of your office to the summit,” they wrote in the letter. “We urge you to decline the FRC’s invitation and not share the stage with and lend your credibility to an organization that spreads demonizing falsehoods about other people.”
Although Milbank called the FRC "mainstream" in his first column, this time he cited the FRC's attempts to link homosexuality to pedophilia and its work to kill anti-bullying initiatives, and he says the FRC is out of step with most Americans. Milbank references Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association, a co-sponsor of the summit, and his comments linking homosexuality with Nazism.
"As the Romney campaign fights for the support from the middle of the electorate, the gays-as-pedophiles theme has limited appeal," writes Milbank. "It would seem to be better to put some distance between the Republican ticket and the sort of people who blame the Holocaust on gay people."
Watch video of Ryan's speech below.