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Scott Walker Backtracks on Implying Boys Scouts' 'Gay Ban' Protects Kids

Scott Walker Backtracks on Implying Boys Scouts' 'Gay Ban' Protects Kids


Under fire from gay rights groups, Walker tried to distance himself from claims that he had implied gay men and youth are predatory.

Republican presidential hopeful Scott Walker has clarified comments he made Tuesday that seemed to imply that gay Boy Scouts and leaders are predators, shifting his target to the media that surrounds the issue instead.

The Wisconsin governor took heat from gay rights groups after he publicly weighed in on Monday's news that the Boy Scouts of America's national executive committee had voted unanimously to move toward rescinding the organization's long-standing ban on out gay adults serving as Scouts, volunteers, or troop leaders.

Speaking to the conservative Independent Journal Review on Tuesday, Walker explained his reaction to the news by saying, "I was an Eagle Scout, my kids have been involved, [my wife] Tonette was a den mother. I have had a lifelong commitment to the Scouts and support the previous membership policy because it protected children and advanced Scout values."

He initially refused to explain what he meant when asked at a Las Vegas campaign stop later that day, instead repeating his statements that his family has long been involved with the Boy Scouts and adding that, "I think their previous policy was personally fine." It remained unclear whether he referred to the ban on openly gay youth scouts that had remained intact until 2013 or the ban on the organization's openly gay adults discussed Monday.

Whichever the case, LGBT rights groups came out strongly against Walker's stance. The Human Rigts Campaign president Chad Griffin slammed Walker in a statement Tuesday:

"Scott Walker's suggestion that the Boy Scouts of America's current discriminatory policy somehow 'protects' children from gay adults is offensive, outrageous, and absolutely unacceptable. His comments imply that we represent a threat to the safety and well-being of young people."

The next day, HRC sent out another e-mail blast to supporters, calling on Walker and his campaign to answer the inevitable question raised by his contentious comment. "He and his campaign should answer this simple, straightforward question: Does he think we pose a threat to the health and safety of children? Yes or no? His campaign's attempt to duck this simple question is unworthy of a candidate who is seeking an office that is responsible for representing all Americans -- including LGBT people," said JoDee Winterhoff, HRC's director of policy.

Walker finally answered the "simple question" himself during a short Wednesday news conference in South Carolina, reports the New York Times. Explaining that the decision to end the "gay ban" is "up to the Boy Scouts" he stated:

"The 'protection' [I referred to] was not a physical protection ... [but rather about] protecting them from being involved in the very thing you're talking about right now, the political and media discussion about it, instead of just focusing on what Scouts is about, which is about camping and citizenship, and things of that nature."

Though the response from gay rights groups remains unseen, when Walker first attempted to frame his initial comments this way earlier that day through his campaign spokesperson AshLee Strong in the Washington Post, the criticism from LGBT advocates went unabated.

The conflation of sexual predators with gay adults has been repeatedly debunked, but that hasn't stopped right-wing pundits and politicians, including Walker's rival presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, from claiming that the BSA's long-standing ban on out Scouts was a protective measure to thwart pedophiles.

SUNNIVIE BRYDUM contributed to this report.

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