Michelle Goldberg has a devastating and telling article up at The Daily Beast today that offers one more window into Christine O’Donnell’s heart and soul. O’Donnell, as we reported yesterday, is the Republican pick for Joe Biden’s Senate seat in Delaware. Her Tea Party uber-extremism on social issues and string of deceit related to financial dealings made her the surprise winner of Tuesday’s primary.
It’s well known that in addition to being as anti-choice as they come (even in cases of rape or incest), vehemently opposed to comprehensive sex-ed and someone who believes that even masturbation is a sin, O’Donnell is also wholly opposed to gay rights – to homosexuality at all. All the more striking, given her sister is a lesbian living openly in California. In a blatant case of anti-gay fear-mongering, a campaign ad put out by the web site Liberty.com (started by a former consultant to the O’Donnell campaign), baselessly accuses O’Donnell’s Republican challenger Mike Castle of cheating on his wife by sleeping with a man. In the past, she has refused to call those living with AIDS “victims.”
Goldberg now exposes just how deep O’Donnell’s hatred runs in her story about Wade Richards, O’Donnell’s former outreach director for the organization she founded called The SALT (The Savior’s Alliance for Lifting the Truth), and a young man struggling with his own sexuality,
A little more than 10 years ago, Wade Richards, a tormented, deeply religious 20-year-old gay man, took his Bible school tuition money and used it to fly to Los Angeles to join forces with Christine O’Donnell, a budding Christian right activist. O’Donnell, a former spokeswoman for Concerned Women for America, had founded an organization called The Savior’s Alliance for Lifting the Truth, or The SALT, in 1996; it was meant to organize young people around opposition to abortion, sex education, and homosexuality. Richards had just graduated from an ex-gay rehab program and had been interviewed about it on 20/20. Ostensibly cured, he got in touch with O’Donnell and became The SALT’s outreach coordinator and spokesman on homosexuality.
Richards worked with O’Donnell, helping her to spread her anti-gay messages on television,and in speeches around the country. Goldberg writes:
Toward the end of the Clinton administration, she protested the appointment of James Hormel to be ambassador to Luxembourg, a posting the religious right opposed because Hormel was gay. “The SALT was concerned about Hormel’s ties to the pedophile-rights movement,” her website said, though there was not a shred of evidence behind the slur. In 1997, in a clip recently unearthed by Talking Points Memo, she appeared on C-SPAN, where, looking fresh, lovely, and innocent, she objected to AIDS sufferers being called “victims” because the disease is the product of their own actions.
But, all the while, Richards was experiencing his own torment. Though Richards had gone through an “ex-gay” therapy program, he was still attracted to men he told Goldberg. He shared these feelings of confusion and frustration with O’Donnell who, he says, promptly ignored him. Her “heartfelt” Christian calling and messages of religious fervor did not extend farther than the tiny bubble she created for herself. After meeting with O’Donnell’s sister who seemed to be happily – and openly – living life as a lesbian, Richards said he began to see another way.
“By hanging out with her, I saw, wow, she has a pretty normal life.” Being gay, he started to realize, needn’t condemn him to a life of seedy anonymous hookups, drug abuse, and nihilism.
Although it took Richards a lot longer to come to terms with his homosexuality, and Goldberg shares his journey movingly in the article, he did come out in an article in The Advocate in 2000. And O’Donnell? She never spoke to him again.
O’Donnell “totally turned her back on me. I never heard from her ever again. That’s been my experience with the Christian community in general. The minute I was struggling and saying, ‘Hey, listen, I don’t know really where I am with this,’ that’s when everyone really turned their back on me.”