Andrew Belonsky: So, you’ve compiled these sixty scandals - everyone from Jack Ryan to John Paulk - do you have a favorite of those sixty?
Joseph Minton Amann: I have some favorite excuses. It’s hard to approach some these sex scandals in a humor book. Someone like Ted Haggard is pretty easy. When a pastor is doing crystal meth with a male hooker, that’s ideal. You couldn’t hope for better. But, you get into some of these child molestation things and it’s really hard to find a humorous approach. You’ll often find humors in those excuses: “That girl said I attacked her, but I actually tripped and fell on her”. My whole mentality is if you’re going to trip and fall on a young girl, you should probably pull your pants and underwear up first. Just as a general rule of thumb.
AB: Did you hear about the Reverend Gary Aldridge?
AB: That’s crazy. I’m sorry it didn’t make the book.
JMA: We’re launching a website: conservativesexscandals.com. It will be up next week. It’ll promote the book, but it will also be a way for us to deal with the scandals that we weren’t able to get in.. When we were doing this, we were looking for someone to write the forward and the first person who came to mind was Larry Flynt, because he has really taken a “let’s weed these people out” approach before they take office. When we asked him to write the forward, he said “Yes” right away. One of the notes he made when he was talking to us about it was “This isn’t a finite subject”. It’s not going to be over when we stop writing and it’s not going to be over when it publishes, so we decided to have a website to continually have updates.
AB: We have seen a surprising amount of political outings or sex scandals. Do you think it’s people like Larry Flynt and Mike Rogers who are asking for tips or do you think these people want to get caught? They’re just getting sloppy.
JMA: I think there is a little bit of that finger in dyke - which is a really horrible sounding metaphor. The concept that when repression builds - any kind of repression - when you really repress that, it comes out in a really unhealthy way. I think these people - what’s sad is that this is what they’re teaching their kids: “Don’t want that, don’t do that and everything will be okay”. Well, it’s not okay and it ends up coming out either people get hurt in the process or your family, your constituency… There are certain ones where it’s kind of fun to see the mighty fall. Ted Haggard was so pompous and talking about his “healthy” sexuality. When you have that pomposity about it and you look down on other people, I think a lot of people want to see you fall. I also think a lot of these people are - I don’t know if it’s that they want to get caught, but I think that they’re obviously getting caught up in self-destructive behavior, which catches up with them.
AB: In addition to taking these people’s careers and costing the Republicans elections, these scandals also perpetuate pretty gross myths about gay people.
JMA: Oh, like “That that’s what it means to be gay: to smoke crystal meth with hookers.” I think that helps gay people, because - I used to work for a furniture manufacturing company in Wisconsin and a lot of the people that I worked with, this was their first introduction to a gay person. What they start to see - I think that Ted Haggard-types help, because people who see healthy gay people around them, they start to realize that “Wow, when you don’t lead a healthy life style, you do act out in unhealthy ways”.
AB: But then you have people - like everyone who was in Washington this weekend for the Values Voter summit and people in Ted Haggard’s church - who think “Oh, well, this is exactly why homosexuality’s so wrong! It tempts you to do terrible things!”
JMA: Those people are kind of unsalvageable - really. If you’re going to see it that way. Chances are their kids are salvageable, but there are always going to be certain people that - it’s that way with racism, sexism, homophobia - there are always going to be people who are too far gone. You are not going to be able to show them that not all black people are trying to mug you and all women are trying to control their husbands. They’re always going to have those prejudices. Living in middle America, moving from Chicago back up into Wisconsin, it’s been very interesting to me to live in a town of 60,000 or something people and see that homosexuality is pretty accepted. It really is. You see little pockets of people who feel it’s immoral, but if you allow yourself to spend time with them, it kinds of dissipates when they see that you’re like everyone else.
AB: Do you think gay aspects of scandals matter? For example, nobody cares about Vitter anymore and his hookers, but everyone still cares about Larry Craig. Obviously they’re different cases, but it seems to me that there’s a gay tone to it makes it even more sensational. In the introduction to the book, you talk about what makes a really good sex scandal. Does homosexuality make it more sensational?
JMA: Yeah, it makes it more salacious. Had Larry Craig been a very liberal Republican who said, “Republicans need to lay off the gay issues” and then got caught in a homosexual affair, it wouldn’t be as big of a story as it is. I think the hypocrisy of it makes it big. That’s why I think that’s why Jim McGreevey and Larry Craig are so different. McGreevey got go on Oprah and say “I’m a gay American”. If you’re liberal, people will say, “Oh, he tried to apologize to his wife and -” People got over it. If you’re out campaigning against gays and against gay rights… Obviously guys doing it are more salacious than a man or a woman.
AB: How do you feel about the way the Republicans are treating Larry Craig?
JMA: It’s interesting. One of the key ones is how Romney’s been treating him. He had really done a lot for Romney and for Romney, the first thing to do was assume Craig was guilty and denounce him, because people will forgive that more than if he had supported Craig and then had egg on his face later. He took the safer approach, although it may have been the more callous and mean-spirited approach. I think the majority of Republicans were politically smart to instantly distance themselves and not do what they did with Foley. You know, I don’t know what I would do in their position. It’s hard when someone confesses and support them in changing their story.
AB: Do you think the Republicans have a chance?
JMA: I think everyone has a chance. I think their best chance is Giuliani and they don’t like it. They don’t like they would have to run a socially liberal guy who had done drag a lot and doesn’t want to get involved in gay issues. On paper, he’s probably a true conservative - have a federal government be small and let states deal with all the sex stuff - I don’t think they want that. They’re used to having the federal government push their social agenda. You know, I would like to Hillary to win, but I wouldn’t feel like the Republican winning would be the end of the world, either. I would love to have an election where I got there and say, “This is the guy that I’d like to win, but if the other guy wins I’m not going to puke”. That, to me, would be a victory.
AB: What do you want to accomplish with this book?
JMA: The main thing that I would like to see happen is that when people start - to move away from this party of family values. It’s such a load of bullshit. If projects like this can make it so that when people say that, people laugh at them, “You can say you’re the party of lower taxes, God love ya. You can say you’re the party of fast military action. Great. But don’t come back and say you’re the party of family values, ’cause you’re not.” That’s the best thing that could happen.
And you can find the book here.