By Lucas Grindley
Originally published on Advocate.com October 14 2011 6:21 PM ET
The next time Republican presidential candidates debate, they'll be taking questions from Anderson Cooper, who has been on a tear lately about antigay bullying in schools.
Cooper will moderate the CNN debate on Tuesday from The Venetian Resort in Las Vegas. He's just finished a special, "Bullying: It Stops Here,"which will re-air tonight on CNN. It follows a week of reporting on the topic every night on his show, Anderson Cooper 360, including interviews with kids who describe physical and verbal abuse.
Cooper also dedicated an episode of his new daytime talk show, Anderson, to anti-bullying and interviewed the family of Jamey Rodemeyer, the 14-year-old Buffalo, New York student who killed himself last month after incessant taunting at school.
Now Cooper will face a panel of Republican presidential candidates who haven't said much on the topic. Their party has also been largely silent. Not a single elected Republican office holder across the country has recorded an It Gets Better video, for example.
Cooper is looking for ideas on which questions to ask the candidates on Tuesday night.
"I'm moderating GOP debate on Tuesday, what question would you like to ask the candidates?" Cooper wrote on Twitter today. "Let me know!"
Of all the candidates, Rep. Michele Bachmann has done the most to dodge questions on the topic of bullying. Her district was named a "suicide contagion" area by federal authorities after nine teenagers killed themselves in a two-year period. And House Minority Leader called on her to address the problem back in July during an interview with The Advocate.
Instead, she said nothing about it until last month, when she faced a question about the deaths during a campaign stop. CBS News reports that Bachmann said only, "That's not a federal issue," then moved on.
It wasn't until October 3 that Bachmann finally said something. The mother of one of the dead students delivered a petition with thousands of signatures from people calling on Bachmann to denounce bullying, and so she issued a statement.
"Unquestionably, bullying is wrong," she wrote. "I agree that no student should feel belittled or threatened by peers at school…. We all desire to see bullying brought to an end and the best interests of students served in our schools."
Lawmakers in other states have gone much further. In New York, which Rodemeyer called home, a bill is proposed that would criminalize cyberbullying when someone intentionally causes a victim to commit suicide.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed one of the toughest anti-bullying laws in the country in reaction to the death of 18-year-old Tyler Clementi, who jumped off a bridge after being outed when a private sexual encounter was recorded by his college roommate and broadcast online.
Christie requires schools to investigate bullying complaints and to do so within 10 school days, while also enforcing stricter requirements on tracking the complaints. Christie was reportedly wooed by the upper echelon of his party to run for president and has instead endorsed Mitt Romney.
While unlikely a factor in the governor's decision not run, the head of the Family Research Council warned Christie might have lost some votes among social conservatives by signing the antibullying law.
"What is of concern, when it comes to so-called anti-bullying legislation is that it is used to advance a particular view of sexual orientation and leads to the bullying by teachers and administrators of other students, and that’s where there’s a problem," said Tony Perkins, the group's president, in an interview with ThinkProgress.
Like Bachmann, Perkins also said "no child should go to school and be bullied for any reason," including sexual orientation.
Tune in to CNN at 8 p.m. ET on Tuesday to see what Cooper asks the candidates in Nevada, which is an early primary state.
What Should Anderson Cooper Ask the GOP Presidential Candidates on Tuesday? Make Suggestions in the Comments Below.