Alan Cumming: From 'Cabaret' to a Queer 'Murder, She Wrote'

Alan Cumming is no stranger to breaking ground. The Scottish-American bisexual actor and activist has never held back from expressing his opinions or tackling unconventional roles. Now Cumming is setting a new precedent, playing the first out gay lead character in a network TV drama.

In Instinct, a CBS series premiering Sunday and based on James Patterson’s 2017 book Murder Games, Cumming plays Dr. Dylan Reinhart, a gifted author, university professor, and former CIA operative who is lured back to his old life when New York detective Lizzie Needham (Bojana Novakovic) recruits him to track down a serial killer. The killer, it turns out, is using Reinhart’s book as a tutorial for murder.

Oddly enough, Cumming says he wasn’t a Patterson fan before being cast, and jokes that he “had no idea that one in 17 books sold in this country are written by him.”

“I met him and had a lovely chat with him, actually,” Cumming says. “I was sent a very early draft of [Murder Games] and found it a real page-turner. The combination of the many traits the character Dylan has — and also this kind of page-turner murder mystery, and the aspect that he was gay and how it wasn’t conforming to people’s expectation — I found it all enticing.”

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For an artist as precise and authentic as Cumming, it’s not surprising the most interesting aspect of his researching the role was learning from real CIA operatives what life was like undercover.

“They all shared this idea that what a kind of strange and odd and lonely life it was … living this double life,” he says. “I found that really fascinating. One of the most fascinating things I found out is that somewhere around 30 percent of the CIA are Mormon. Isn’t that crazy? Go figure.”

In many ways, being a CIA operative is no different from acting: Both professions require you to observe human behavior and appear to be someone you are not.

“I always say, observation is the first rule of acting — and I really think it is,” Cumming says. “That’s what’s difficult about becoming more and more well-known, is that it’s less easy to observe people because most people are observing you. But I find it really fascinating to watch people and listen to them. You find out so much by just a hand gesture or a tapping of a foot or an intonation. I think that’s at the root of my study of acting or [Dylan’s] study in abnormal behavior: watching and listening.”

The actor has had a string of hits and projects, from a popular role on CBS’s The Good Wife to his Tony Award-winning turn in Cabaret. There are blockbusters (X2) and thinky films (Emma), a stint on PBS, a memoir, a novel, a kids’ book, and even a cologne called — tongue-in-cheekily — Cumming.

Despite Cumming’s immense success, the actor-activist says that starting his rise to stardom later in life has proven to be a huge blessing. The Scotsman first moved to America at 30 and says, “I had a whole life — really 30 years of my life — in a totally different environment and a totally different culture. I think that stands me in good stead for having a healthy attitude about life now. … If something went wrong and I couldn’t tug it, I’m confident, I know that I existed and was happy in the life I had before. And that’s a really heartening thing to know.”

Now 53, Cumming has been married to Grant Shaffer since 2012.

“The life I have now is so alien to anything I could have possibly imagined in high school,” he admits looking back. “People say to me, ‘Oh, you must be living your dream,’ and I’m like, ‘No, I’m not,’ because I didn’t dream about this. I think that’s why I have a really good attitude — being an outsider in your own life is actually healthy, and I think it gives you a good perspective.”

Why Is Fortune Magazine Honoring Antigay Companies Like Publix?

People love Publix.

For the 20th year in a row, Fortune ranked the Florida chain as one of its 100 Best Companies to Work For. (#47, to be exact). Publix, the nation’s 13th largest retailer, with 1,167 locations throughout the Southeast, has a sterling reputation. In 2016, it was called Florida’s most valuable brand.

But the company known for the motto “where shopping is a pleasure” has an unpleasant secret: It’s not such a great place to work if you’re an LGBT+ person.

As has been extensively reported in outlets, including the Miami New TimesPublix has repeatedly been accused of mistreating its LGBT+ employees. On many occasions, LGBT+ employees and former employees have taken legal action against the company for the discrimination they encountered, including extensive patterns of harassment from coworkers and management.

Just a few weeks ago, Publix came under scrutiny because it refused to offer employees health insurance that would cover pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), a drug regimen administered to prevent transmission of HIV, which is a proven response to one of the most pressing public health crises in the states where it operates. Three of Publix’s most significant markets – North Carolina, Georgia, and Florida – ranked in the Centers for Disease Control’s list of the 10 states with the highest number of HIV diagnoses in 2016.

Observers wondered whether the company was blocking access to the regimen on moral grounds.

The company eventually backed down and started offering insurance plans that cover PrEP – but its long, poor track record on LGBT+ inclusion still stands. Publix does not receive a score in the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index, because it refuses to participate. It’s the only Fortune 1000 company that does so. It also scores a 0/100 in HRC’s Buyers Guide for Workplace Equality, an external assessment of major brands’ policies and posture toward LGBT+ people, which finds that it lags behind its peers in the grocery industry, including by not adopting a nondiscrimination policy that includes sexual orientation.

This failure to meet industry standards might be one reason why Publix trails peer organizations in terms of its employee satisfaction scores on Glassdoor, where it rates 3.7 stars out of 5. Wegmans and HEB, by comparison, both score a 4.1 by that metric.

And yet in a 2017 survey of 12,000 shoppers conducted by Market Force Information, Publix tied with Wegmans as the most-favored grocery store. Somehow the years of lawsuits and reporting haven’t made a significant dent in public perception. The fact that Publix perennially ranks as one of Fortune’s Best Companies to Work For probably helps.

In its write-up of this year’s rankings, Fortune quotes Publix employees as saying that “our management and other associates are all regarded as family and we would do anything for one another.”

Well … maybe not “anything.”

I can only imagine that Fortune hasn’t done its homework. How else to account for a leading business magazine lauding a company that maintains policies that allow managers to fire LGBT+ people simply for who they are? Fortune says “diversity programs” are one of its criteria for its list. But any company that doesn’t have a nondiscrimination policy inclusive of LGBT+ people ought to be immediately disqualified from a listing of the “best companies to work for.”

What if Publix’s nondiscrimination policy failed to account for African-Americans or women? The company employs 188,000 people, meaning it’s big enough that members of every minority community are well-represented – but not all are protected.

A whopping 62 percent of Americans believe that LGBT people are already protected from employment discrimination by law, but you can still be fired for being gay in 29 states and for being trans in 30 states. One in four LGBT+ employees report experiencing employment discrimination in the last five years.

The fact that Fortune glosses over Publix’s record on LGBT+ inclusion year after year is a reminder that, happy rhetoric about same-sex marriage to the contrary, LGBT+ people are still struggling to have our experiences count.  

Maybe Fortune’s list should come with an asterisk: “100 Best Companies to Work For*” (*Unless you’re LGBT+).

TODD SEARS is the founder of Out Leadership, which fosters and assists LGBT executives across the country.

Sexual Harassment Scourge Extends Beyond Hollywood to Ford and Interior Dept.

Judging from the powerful men whose names have dominated the news since the sexual harassment reckoning that began with the Harvey Weinstein’s downfall, serial predatory behavior would appear to be a strictly Hollywood, Beltway, and Silicon Valley issue. But a New York Times investigative piece into a culture of harassment at Ford Motor Co. and the firing of four senior managers at the decidedly less well-known Department of the Interior are promising indicators that no workplace will be safe that allows an environment of harassment and abuse to fester. 

Following a lawsuit in which Ford settled with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission this August for $10 million over racial and sexual harassment at two Chicago plants, the Times exposed the danger that blue-collar women face daily at Ford. But this summer was not the first time Ford was sued for sexual harassment. A major lawsuit in the ’90s brought attention to the culture of harassment, but women involved with that suit said that Ford didn’t do enough to extirpate the problem and that the local union was often torn between representing the accusers and the accused, according to the Times

Women who worked at the plants describe a situation in which men would shout “fresh meat” when a new female employee arrived on the floor. One woman, Suzette Wright, spoke of an underground at Ford where everything from toys, televisions, drugs, and guns were for sale at work while the men at the plant boasted of wild parties with strippers after work. Wright also spoke of harassment she endured, like being called the offensive name “peanut butter legs,” which a male coworker finally broke down and explained to her when she prodded him. 

‘Well, peanut butter. Not only is it the color of your legs, but it’s the kind of legs you like to spread,” she said he told her. Wright also put up with “lewd comments, repeated come-ons, men grabbing their crotches and moaning every time she bent over,” she told the Times. 

Women who went to their union leaders with stories of harassment were often met with indifference, like Tonya Exum, who said that when she told her rep that she’d been groped, he replied, “It’s not sexual harassment. He only did it one time.” When she pressed the issue, asking how he would like it if it happened to his mother or sister, he just walked away, she said.

While some women spoke to the Times about incidents that occurred ages ago and Ford has worked to implement sexual harassment training, the company abides by a strict policy of proof of harassment that has left many women feeling sidelined by a “she said, he said” scenario. 

More recently, one woman, Christie Van, said that one supervisor, Mike Riese, bragged about the size of his penis. 

“He called himself White Chocolate. He said that he had a black man’s dick,” Van said. Meanwhile, another supervisor, Willie Fonseca, showed her a picture of his penis on his cell phone. 

Sexual harassment complaints at Ford are down since 2015, according to the Times, but women who spoke to the paper said there are men still working at the plants who’ve been accused of harassment. 

Meanwhile, unlike at the highest level of the government, where accused serial predator Donald Trump has yet to be investigated, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced last week that the department took swift action and fired four senior managers who were accused of sexual misconduct, according to ABC News

“I’ve already removed four senior leaders that were guilty of inappropriate behavior and I will remove four hundred more if necessary. Intimidation, harassment, and discrimination is a cancer to any organization. However deep it goes, we will remove it from Interior,” Zinke said in a videotaped statement. 

Rotten Apples Database Tracks Sexual Predators in Your Favorite Films and Shows

Gone are the days of blissfully consuming content that may or may not be attached to serial predators since the launch of Rotten Apples, a database that allows users to search films and TV shows to discover if anyone in front of or behind the camera is a sexual harasser or abuser. 

So if there’s that one movie you still love despite the presence of say Kevin Spacey or Dustin Hoffman, or the Weinstein Company’s name in the producing credits, search for it on Rotten Apples and the site will tell you if the content you want to consume is either “fresh apples,” meaning no serial sexual predators are attached to it, or if it’s “rotten apples.” Those movies and TV shows that earn a “rotten apples” rating also provide the name(s) of the attached predators with a link to a story about their transgressions and crimes. If you’re a lover of classic cinema who still has a soft spot for Annie Hall, Chinatown, or any number of Alfred Hitchcock’s films, Rotten Apples is there to remind you just which type of monster helped create the content. 

Since The New York Times published its expose that revealed Weinstein’s serial predation, there’s more of a push than ever to completely eschew projects with predators attached. And Rotten Apples is an invaluable tool to boycott the bad guys (and a few women) of TV and film, but it’s also sobering to come face to face with the fact that some of your faves are problematic. 

“The Rotten Apples is a searchable database that lets you know whether or not a film or television show is tied to a person who has been accused of sexual misconduct. In the case of this website, the ‘person’ is defined as a cast-member, screenwriter, executive producer or director,” Rotten Apples mission/about statement reads. “The goal of this site is to further drive awareness of just how pervasive sexual misconduct in film and television is and to help make ethical media consumption easier.” 

The statement goes on to clarify, “By no means is this site meant to serve as a condemnation of an entire project.”  And that’s where it gets interesting. For instance, search Carol, out director Todd Haynes’s Cate Blanchett-Rooney Mara lesbian-themed masterpiece with a screenplay from lesbian screenwriter Phyllis Nagy, which also stars beloved out actress Sarah Paulson, and the “rotten apples” rating comes up over a famous still from the film. The film is cherished for its artistry and its queer representation on and off screen, yet it’s not easy to look away from the names Harvey and Bob Weinstein (the serial sexual abusers who executive-produced the film) and all that they represent.


Despite Rotten Apples‘ eye-opening mission that holds a mirror up to what consumers of content are willing to support, the site is a bit of marvel for its thoroughness, assuming it was created post-Weinstein. Search something recent like Manchester by the Sea and it comes up “rotten” for Casey Affleck’s participation in it. Or toss it back 60 years and search Rear Window and that classic turns up a “rotten apples” rating for Hitchcock having terrorized several of his lead actresses, particularly Tippi Hedren on The Birds and Marnie.

But it’s not just film. The TV section is already rather comprehensive. Searches for Transparent and House of Cards turn up “rotten apples” scores for their predatory lead actors, while a show like the CW’s Arrow gets a rotten rating for producer Andrew Kreisberg’s history of harassment. 

While it seems like an exercise in becoming increasingly disgusted to continue to search content with harassers attached to it, there is a bright side. Searches for new and old popular content like Will & Grace, Queer as Folk, The L Word, Orange Is the New Black, Big Little Lies, Stranger Things, and so on yield a bright green “fresh apples” rating with a line that reads, “This TV show has no known affiliation to anyone with allegations of sexual misconduct against them. If you believe this is an error, please let us know by clicking here and we’ll fix it as soon as possible.” 

For all of the correct results the site yields, there are swaths of content that have yet to be fleshed out for good or bad, particularly in foreign cinema. The site fails to recognize famous foreign films by the greats like Jean-Luc Godard, Federico Fellini, Francois Truffaut and even the early work of Pedro Almodovar, to name a few. 

The site does allow that there’s room for error and correction with some of its results. For instance, search any Mel Gibson project and it comes up with a “fresh apples” rating, which is debatable since he’s well known to be a racist, anti-Semitic misogynist who threatened to kill and rape his wife. For the record, his name has now been submitted for review on several of his films. 

Consumers of content often develop blind spots when it comes to their favorite movies, actors, and shows, but like it or not, Rotten Apples makes it all painfully clear. 

BREAKING: Doug Jones Defeats Homophobe Roy Moore in Alabama

Democrat Doug Jones has pulled off a stunning upset of notorious homophobe Roy Moore in the race for U.S. senator from Alabama.

Jones was leading Moore, a Republican, by 49.7 percent to 48.7 percent when The New York Times and CNN called the race for him. Jones will serve the remainder of the Senate term of Republican Jeff Sessions, expiring in January 2021. Sessions left to become U.S. attorney general.

Jones will be Alabama’s first Democratic U.S. senator since the 1990s. The last Democrat the state elected to that office was Howell Heflin, to whom Jones was once an aide.

In the end, what derailed Moore was probably not his extreme-right views on LGBT rights, abortion, gun control, and more. During the Senate campaign Moore became the subject of allegations that he sexually abused teenage girls when he was in his early 30s, about 40 years ago. He was accused, among other things, of molesting a 14-year-old and sexually assaulting a 16-year-old. He denied all the allegations, but they likely cost him votes. With 96 percent of precincts reporting, there were about 21,000 write-in votes for other candidates — more than the difference between the totals for Jones and Moore. 

“On this day Alabama stood for victims. It stood for women. It stood for compassion,” John Archibald wrote on, a website for several Alabama newspapers. He noted, “Roy Moore and his supporters called [his accusers] liars and whiners. And some Alabamians joined in the disdain, calling them sluts and worse, insisting that it was once the Alabama way to find mates too young to drive, and that once upon a time, groping was an acceptable act. But Alabama, against the odds and conventional wisdom, stood and rejected that behavior.”

The former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, Moore has long been known for his extremely anti-LGBT views, saying marriage equality will destroy the nation, that homosexual “activity” should be illegal, and that transgender people have no rights. He is also an abortion opponent and a gun rights absolutist. He once said that Keith Ellison shouldn’t be seated in Congress because he is a Muslim, and suggested that President Barack Obama wasn’t born in the United States. 

He was twice removed from the court for defying federal court orders — in 2003 for refusing to take down a Ten Commandments monument at the state courthouse, an unconstitutional establishment of religion, and in 2016 for ethics violations related to his efforts to block marriage equality in the state. (He appealed the latter decision to a special court, and it was upheld in 2017.) After the latest removal, he decided to run for Senate.

Jones, who has taken pro-LGBT stances, is a former U.S. attorney. After finishing law school in the late 1970s, he was staff counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee under Howell Heflin, the last Democrat Alabamians sent to the U.S. Senate.

Later, Jones worked as both a prosecutor and a defense attorney. In 1997, President Clinton appointed him U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama. In that capacity, he led the prosecution of two of the men who bombed a black church in Birmingham in 1963, killing four young girls and injuring 16 other people. Thomas Blanton and Bobby Frank Cherry were both convicted of murder, in 2001 and 2002 respectively. They were two other suspects in the case — Robert Chambliss, who was convicted of murder in 1977, and Herman Frank Cash, who died in 1994, before he could be tried.

Kentucky Southern Baptists Consider Expelling LGBT-Affirming Churches

A Baptist group is considering whether to lift a ban on LGBT employees, putting it at odds with more conservative Baptists and putting some Kentucky churches in the middle.

The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, which formed in the 1990s as an alternative to the ultraconservative Southern Baptist Convention, has formed a committee, the Illumination Project, to study the anti-LGBT policy and recommend changes, due in February, reports The Courier-Journal of Louisville, Ky.

But some Kentucky churches affiliated with the fellowship are also affiliated with the state’s Southern Baptist branch, the Kentucky Baptist Convention, which is monitoring the fellowship’s actions and is open to expelling churches that don’t conform to the Southern Baptists’ anti-LGBT dogma. To hire “practicing homosexuals” would be “redefining sin,” Paul Chitwood, executive director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, told The Courier-Journal. R. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, added that “a church that endorses homosexuality is no longer cooperating with the Kentucky Baptist Convention and the Southern Baptist Convention.”

The fellowship, a national group with about 1,900 congregations, began reconsidering the anti-LGBT policy after leaders offered a prayer for victims of the mass shooting at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando last year. Some activists thought it was hypocritical in light of the fellowship’s homophobic policy and called for change.

Maurice “Bojangles” Blanchard, a volunteer who leads an LGBT ministry at the fellowship-affiliated Highland Baptist Church in Louisville, was one of those activists. But a problem with the Illumination Project is that it has no LGBT members, he told The Courier-Journal. “They’re discussing our inclusion without including us,” said Blanchard, who was also one of the plaintiffs in the Kentucky marriage equality case.

Chitwood said he doubts that many of the fellowship churches will OK hiring LGBT clergy or other employees. “I don’t think [the Illumination Project] will have a big impact,” he told the newspaper. 

Roy Moore's Lawyer Uses Racism to Justify Pedophilia

While Republican leaders denounce Senate candidate Roy Moore after accusations of him sexually assaulting and dating teenage girls, the judge’s attorney, Trenton Garmon, has defended his client by utilizing coded racism.

When Garmon appeared on MSNBC Live With Velshi & Ruhle, he was grilled on the accusations and the weakness of Moore’s defense that he only approached minors after asking their mothers’ permission to pursue them. 

“Why would he need permission from any of these girls’ mothers if they weren’t underage?” Stephanie Ruhle asked, with co-host Ali Velshi nodding by her side. Garmon pivoted the question towards Velshi, replying, “Culturally speaking, I would say there’s differences. I looked up Ali’s background there and, wow, that’s awesome that you have got such a diverse background. It’s really cool to read through that.” 

Velshi is Canadian; he was born in Kenya and raised by his Gujarati Indian parents in Ontario. He is also Muslim. 

“What does Ali’s background have to do with dating a 14-year-old?” Ruhle instantly asked. “Please answer. What does Ali Velshi’s background have to do with dating children, 14-year-old girls?”

“In other countries, there’s arrangement through parents for what we would refer to as consensual marriage.” Garmon said, likely referencing child marriage, which is widely recognized as a human rights abuse. Ruhle continued to question Garmon’s line of thinking, responding, “Ali’s from Canada.” 

“I understand that,” replied Garmon. “And Ali’s also spent time in other countries.”

When Ruhle made the point that she had lived and studied abroad as well, Garmon concluded, ““To answer your question: [Moore] said… his process would be — before he’d date anybody, whether they’re 25, 35, or whether he doesn’t know their age — he would ask the mother’s permission.”

Watch the full interview below.

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MMA Fighter Conor McGregor Caught Casually Firing Off Homophobic Slurs

Irish MMA fighter and well-known braggart Conor McGregor, who recently squared off with boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr., opened up his notoriously big mouth and was caught on tape using anti-gay slurs in casual post-fight conversation at an MMA match in Poland this weekend. 

“Do you know what I’m saying? He was a faggot, and everyone knew he was a faggot,” McGregor, who has a history of saying bigoted offensive statements and slurs, was caught saying, according to OutSports

McGregor’s proclivity for being publicly racist, homophobic, and misogynistic hit a fever pitch during his promotional tour for his match against undefeated Mayweather. The ring wasn’t the only place for pulling punches. The two traded offensive barbs during the lead-up to the fight.  McGregor referred to Mayweather, who is a man of color, as “boy,” a common racist terminology used to belittle of black manhood, MMA Fighting and SB Nation reported at the time.  In defending himself McGregor then said that it was ridiculous that he could be racist because he said he was “half-black from the belly button down,” invoking the stereotype of the oversexualized black male body. Other words common to McGregor’s parlance are “boy” and “bitch.” 

McGregor made headlines for his most recent homophobic remarks in Gdonsk, Poland on Sunday, but he wasn’t even competing in the fight. Even without the atrociously insensitive remarks, it’s likely that McGregor would have made some sort of press circuit anyway considering that it was his first return to a UFC event since losing to Mayweather in August. McGregor was a little too vocal in cheering on teammate Artem Lobov, who was fighting in the cage, according to CBS Sports MMA division.  A video posted to Instagram by SportsCenteshowed referee Marc Goddard seating Conor McGregor for attempting to be a fourth cornerman and yelling instructions to Lobov cageside. McGregor was eventually ejected from the cage area.

It’s unclear why McGregor casually tossed around homophobic slurs but it it is clear that it appeared to come naturally to him. He may have been attempting to encourage his teammate, Lubov, or he might have been throwing a temper tantrum to elicit a response for his first appearance in a UFC ring since August. Either way, it might be time to call someone who exhibits racist, sexist, and homophobic behavior what they are. 

Reading the Far Right: Blaming the Sexual Revolution for Weinstein

With sexual harassment, assault, and rape in the headlines daily due to allegations about film mogul Harvey Weinstein, some commentators in the far-right media are longing for a highly moral and largely mythical past.

They’re blaming the sexual revolution, loss of religious faith, and even, to some degree, feminism for opening the door to misdeeds like those Weinstein is accused of committing — when, in truth, sexual abuse has been happening since time immemorial in all cultures, and societal policing of consensual sexual relationships was oppressive and fraught with hypocrisy.

That’s one of our major takeaways from our recent reading of the far right, which we do so you don’t have to. Also, we’re still seeing a lot of crazy theories about the mass shooting in Las Vegas, plus praise for the Trump administration’s latest repressive actions.

Bill Murchison, a Townhall contributor who wrote a few weeks ago there was no campus sexual assault crisis when traditional morality ruled, dealt with the Weinstein allegations last week.

“The movie industry was never a monastery, but its better days went on before the moral crumbling of 40 to 50 years ago,” he wrote. “In other words, there used to be rules — sociocultural rules. There were things you did out of feelings of obligation and duty; for the same reason, there were things you didn’t do.”

He allowed that during Hollywood’s classic era, “there weren’t many things that the likes of Errol Flynn and any number of studio moguls wouldn’t essay for personal gratification,” but they “toiled within a larger cultural understanding that had effects of restraint.”

“The rules were protective in nature,” he continued. “A woman wasn’t a target; she was a woman. You had to show a little respect. Even if you didn’t show such respect, you were supposed to.”

Oh, please. This set of rules, which was still having some effect when yours truly was coming of age in the 1970s, held that women lost their respectability for merely having consensual sex outside the bounds of marriage. There was much talk of men losing their respect for any woman who joined them in bed without being safely wed; never mind that the women were doing the same thing as the men, and supposedly weren’t losing respect for the guys. And same-sex relationships? Sick! Perverted! Illegal!

Also, before the latest phase of feminism got going, sexual harassment was often excused as “boys will be boys,” and assault as “she must have led him on.” Unfortunately, that sometimes still happens. And not that women can’t be perpetrators of sexual abuse and men can’t be victims — but of course, traditional gender expectations made it even harder to report cases involving female abusers or male victims and have them taken seriously.

David French of the National Review was likewise on the “good old days” bandwagon in discussing Weinstein. We don’t often feature that conservative publication here because it’s more mainstream than the likes of Breitbart or World Net Daily, but French’s column, calling for a return to the “Christian sexual ethic,” mirrors the things being said in extreme-right outlets.

He blamed sexual abuse scandals on the “ethic of the sexual revolutionary,” which is that “Except in the most extreme circumstances (such as incest), consenting adults define their own moral norms.” Uh, the whole problem is that abuse, by definition, is something that happens without the abused party’s consent.

“Consent is determined by the request,” French continued, “and in a completely sexualized culture, the request can come at any time, anywhere, and from any person you encounter — regardless of the power imbalance or the propriety of the location.” He apparently thinks it’s too much to ask that people consider factors like power imbalance and propriety before making the request. And no one is exactly saying that people like Weinstein, former Amazon Studios chief Roy Price, and, yes, Donald Trump simply “requested” sex.

Michael Brown, who’s carried on several far-right sites, used the recent scandals to defend Mike Pence’s practice of never dining alone with a woman other than his wife. “Vice President Pence, being aware of his humanity, knows all too well how easy it is to fall,” Brown wrote in a World Net Daily column.

He went on to make the argument that men are essentially uncontrollable sexual beasts (although any time a feminist says something resembling that, she’s accused of hating men). “It’s true that most men are not sexual predators,” he wrote. “But I’m pretty sure that if the secret thoughts of most men could be revealed, they wouldn’t be all that wholesome. And in a sexually charged culture like ours today, where women are expected to wear suggestive and skimpy attire (and some love to do so), where seductive images greet you on countless websites, where your junk folder is filled with invitations to chat rooms, where prostitution and stripping are glorified, where 8-year-olds access porn on their cell phones, we need to be all the more vigilant.” Yes, blame those women for skimpy clothing! Blame the porn! Blame anyone but the abusers!

Brown did admit that sexual abuse is “as old as the human race,” which is more than John Nolte did in a Breitbart column that ran before the Weinstein scandal broke, being occasioned instead by the death of Playboy founder Hugh Hefner.

“By taking pornography out of the backroom and mainstreaming it into urban chic, Hefner forever altered our view of women,” Nolte wrote. “Before Hefner, mainstream American culture idolized and idealized women, placed them on pedestals as goddesses, never went beyond presenting them as the precious objects of our dreams.”

Again: Oh, please. Women have been subject to sexual abuse forever (and some men have been as well). This reporter has no love for Hefner — his version of sexual freedom was one in which men still held the advantage — but although he engaged in the sexual exploitation of women, he certainly didn’t invent it. Plus, the pedestal wasn’t exactly an empowering place to be, and it was ridiculously easy to fall off of. (See the earlier passage on “respect.”)

And back at WND, in the wake of Weinstein, Jesse Lee Peterson worried that “the left is politicizing and weaponizing this issue to attack all men.” Really. “Leftists hate the order of God (God in Christ, Christ in man, man over women and women over children), and they will not rest until it’s turned upside-down. … Feminists and LGBT activists are attacking and degrading anything that is good, tough and independent,” he continued.

The Boy Scouts of America also came in for some of Peterson’s wrath for the recent decision to admit girls to some programs. “This is not about helping girls or making them ‘stronger’ — it’s about weakening and destroying masculinity,” he contended.

Some others on the right blamed Hollywood liberalism for sexual abuse or tarred all liberals as corrupt. “We all know that Hollywood is a sewer; Weinstein is just the latest sewer rat to be nailed,” WND contributor Brent Smith wrote. “But, as I said — it’s not just Hollywood. Hollywood is a mere subset. For the left, immoral and amoral behavior is common. Harvey is a just another product of the system — the progressive leftist system.”

And at Breitbart, the reliably inflammatory James Delingpole called out the left for hypocrisy, although that’s certainly not lacking on the right either. “You could point out, correctly, that there are plenty of examples of prominent conservatives who have behaved badly too,” he wrote. “But here’s the difference: conservatives are not in the business of trying to appease their consciences by creating a year zero and remaking the world according to a warped ‘progressive’ philosophy which seeks to deny human nature.” Not that the right ever tries to deny human nature…

The recent tragedy in Las Vegas is still much in the news, and some far-right commentators are still spreading fact-challenged conspiracy theories about it. A certain Pastor David Whitney wrote on BarbWire that shooter Stephen Paddock, who committed suicide after killing more than 50 people and wounding hundreds in Vegas, had ties to the Antifa movement, a loosely organized network of antifascist groups — but there’s no evidence to that effect, reports

Whitney also claimed that “leftists” including Michael Moore and the moderate centrist Al Gore had predicted a violent revolution would come to America in October of this year, the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution. No truth to that either.

Alex Jones of Infowars has kept on promoting “irresponsible — and often contradictory — conspiracy theories” about the mass shooting, notes watchdog group Media Matters. He has variously claimed that Paddock was “a left-wing extremist who attended anti-Trump rallies, a patsy, ‘an Islamist,’ and a spy who ‘got set up and double crossed,’” the group reports. And he has linked various people and groups to the attack, including “ISIS, supporters of the Bolshevik Revolution, ‘deep state Democrats,’ former Vice President Al Gore, former high-level CIA officials, ‘the shadow government,’ antifa, globalists, the Democratic Party, the owners of the Mandalay Bay Resort, and supporters of restrictions on guns,” according to Media Matters. It sounds like he’s been reading Whitney, or Whitney’s been listening to him. That’s how these things gain traction.

Also at BarbWire, a minister named John Barber (no relation to site founder Matt Barber) defended Pat Robertson’s comments blaming the shooting on “disrespect for authority,” including “profound disrespect of our president,” and lack of a “vision of God.” “Now, I am not a fan of Pat Robertson,” Barber wrote. “However, I understand his point. And there is a great deal of Scripture in support of his point. … I don’t find Robertson’s musings out of line with the historic tradition that has wrestled with the whole of God’s Word.”

And Jeffrey Lord, the conservative commentator who got kicked off CNN for making a Nazi salute, went on Sean Hannity’s syndicated radio show to talk about the Vegas attack and blamed it on … legalized abortion. “How many millions of babies have lost their lives here because of a ‘right to choice’ that was written by the Supreme Court out of thin air?” Lord said. “If we have a culture that disrespects human life and teaches people to have disrespect for human life, how else are we going to wind up than we did with this guy in Las Vegas who had no respect for human life?” (Thanks to Media Matters for originally spotting this.)

Meanwhile, far-right activists and media are thrilled with the Department of Health and Human Services’ new rule offering virtually any nonprofit or for-profit employer an exemption (previously available only to a narrow group) from the Affordable Care Act’s mandate for contraceptive coverage, saying it’s about “life” and conscience rather than putting up barriers to vital health care. There might be room for a discussion about whether it’s appropriate to have a co-pay for contraceptives, except some on the right make it clear they just hate contraception altogether — and they contend that it’s really abortion.

“It was an absolute abomination for both people of faith and of no faith when President Barack Obama’s administration ordered that institutions, service organizations and businesses must pay for drugs that induce abortions and that chemically prevent conception,” wrote Rebecca Hagelin on Townhall.

Well, actually, they don’t induce abortions, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which studies reproductive health. “The campaign to conflate contraception with abortion is based on the assertion that certain methods of contraception actually end — rather than prevent — pregnancy,” reads a paper the institute published in 2014. “That assertion, however, contradicts what science says about how pregnancies are established and how contraceptives work.” Intrauterine devices and emergency contraceptives (the latter popularly known as the “morning-after pill,” a drug given after an incident of unprotected intercourse) are usually in the cross hairs of the right, but “none have been shown to disrupt an existing pregnancy — meaning that none can accurately be called an abortifacient,” according to the institute. They either prevent ovulation, fertilization, or, rarely, implantation of a fertilized egg — but a majority of fertilized eggs naturally fail to implant, so pregnancy is defined as beginning after implantation.

To anti-abortion (and anticontraception) absolutists like Townhall contributor Terry Jeffrey, though, these drugs and devices extinguish the lives of “newly conceived human beings.” He called on the Trump administration to lift the contraceptive mandate altogether, as insurance subsidies for low-income people buying plans under the ACA “will still force taxpayers, regardless of their own moral or religious beliefs, to underwrite this coverage for others.” Trump’s now rescinding the subsidies, but Jeffrey will undoubtedly find another argument against the coverage.

There was a curious dearth of commentary on far-right media about the guidance Trump’s attorney general, Jeff Sessions, issued the same day as the HHS rule, allowing business owners and even federal employees a broad license to discriminate against those who offend their religious beliefs, such as by being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. Many right-wing groups, however, issued press releases praising the action.

And the few commentaries we did find were over the moon, such as Arthur Schaper on BarbWire lauding both the so-called religious freedom guidance and the contraceptive exemption. “Instead of going along with these corrupt, perverse LGBT and Abortion lobbies, President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have taken a stand for life and liberty,” he wrote.

And Tony Perkins, president of the anti-LGBT Family Research Council (which recently hosted Trump at its Values Voter Summit), gave an exclusive interview to Breitbart saying Trump had kept “the most important promise that he made” with those two actions. Oh, we can hardly wait to see what he does next.

That’s all for now — we’ll be back soon with more information gleaned from reading the far right so you don’t have to.

At Values Voter Summit, Trump Boasts of Homophobic, Sexist Victories

Donald Trump told his religious right supporters what they wanted to hear today at the Values Voter Summit — that he’s protecting religious freedom and bringing Judeo-Christian values back to America.

The first sitting president to address the gathering, he took the stage this morning at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C., to applause and chants of “USA!” and then praised Tony Perkins, president of the event’s sponsor, the Family Research Council, as a “tremendous guy.” (The far-right, anti-LGBT organization is classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.)

Trump noted the frequent invocations of God by the nation’s founders, then said, “How times have changed. But now they’re changing back again.”

He touted the “religious freedom” guidance issued by his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, last week, which gives federal employees and contractors a wide berth to claim religious objections to their duties, constituting a broad license to discriminate against LGBT people and others who might offend their religious sensibilities.

He boasted of reinstating the policy of denying U.S. funds to any overseas family planning organization that so much as mentions abortion and of broadening exceptions to the contraceptive coverage mandate under the Affordable Care Act. (His latest action concerning the ACA is announcing an end to subsidies that help low-income Americans buy health insurance, yet he told the gathering, “We’re gonna have great health care in our country.”)

He spoke proudly of the appointment of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, a man “in the mold of the late, great Antonin Scalia.” And he noted that with the holiday season approaching, “We’re saying Merry Christmas again,” as if anyone had been prevented from saying that.

He said he hoped that Congress would pass his proposed tax cuts “as a Christmas gift to hardworking families,” although the cuts would overwhelmingly benefit the most wealthy. He bragged of his administration’s response to natural disasters, ignoring that the response to hurricane destruction in Puerto Rico is widely seen as inadequate and that relief workers treated themselves to a “spa day” there.

He hit other expected points — about respecting the flag, our history, law enforcement, and military members (not mentioning, of course, that he is drumming transgender people out of the military), and that in foreign policy, he is standing up to “radical Islamic terrorism” and bad actors around the world.

“Above all else, we know this,” he said. “In America we don’t worship government. We worship God. Inspired by that conviction, we are returning moral clarity to our view of the world and the many grave challenges we face.”

He also said, “When America is unified, no force on earth can break us apart” — but in reality, his presidency has been extremely divisive.

Other speakers this morning included Kellyanne Conway, his former campaign manager who has continued as an adviser, who was introduced as “the woman who saved the world” by helping prevent a Hillary Clinton presidency.

Among the others scheduled to speak at the conference, which continues through Sunday, include former Trump adviser Sebastian Gorka; religious right activist brothers David and Jason Benham; former Congresswoman Michele Bachmann; current members of Congress Mark Meadows, Mark Walker, Chris Smith, and Vicky Hartzler; Roy Moore, the anti-LGBT, anti-abortion former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, now the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate from the state; Newt Gingrich, former speaker of the U.S. House; Steve Bannon, executive chairman of Breitbart and a former Trump campaign chairman and White House adviser; Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson; longtime religious right leader Gary Bauer; Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel; Fox News host Laura Ingraham; Fox News contributor Todd Starnes; Edwin Meese, U.S. attorney general in the Reagan administration; and former Army officer Oliver North, known for his involvement in the Iran-Contra scandal of the 1980s.

Trump’s full speech is below.

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