Sex advice columnist and anti-bullying crusader Dan Savage has made headlines over the past few days after unleashing expletives and harsh rhetoric against the Bible and Christian teens. Now, in the wake of the condemnation he's receiving following his remarks at the National High School Journalism Conference last week, some conservatives are questioning the advocate's close-knit relationship with the Obama administration.
Like many other school districts and organizations on the local level, the Obama administration has been taking on the issue of bullying. In doing so, officials have relied heavily on -- and have promoted -- Savage's "It Gets Better" project. In fact, the relations between the Obama administration and the group are so tight that key government officials have even created videos for the campaign.
The natural question, especially in light of Savage's controversial opinions and his most recent tirade against young Christians, is why the government has opted to partner up with the self-professed youth advocate's group. After all, Savage, who is supposed to be working to help young people learn to better respect one another, called teenage Christians who walked out of his speech "pansy-assed" and has a history of problematic commentary.
While some would contend that these comments come short, in themselves, of constituting "bullying," they certainly showcase the sort of behavior and rhetoric that Savage claims to resent. Here's a clip from the speech he gave last week that has sparked intense controversy and scrutiny (caution: language):
Breitbart.com's Ben Shapiro delves into his own criticisms of the anti-bullying leader, claiming that Savage is, himself, a bully and that his relations with the Obama administration are troubling:
But there’s much more to Dan Savage than just anti-religious bullying. He’s one of the biggest bullies on the planet. And he’s the point person the White House specifically chose – and fundraised for – in order to push their anti-bullying agenda.
Now, it’s not as though the White House was ignorant of the fact that the It Gets Better Project is run by Savage. On the contrary – search the White House website for Savage’s name, and two It Gets Better links come up. Not just that – in June 2011, Savage himself visited the White House and hung out with Administration officials.
In October 2010, the White House posted President Obama's "It Gets Better" video, during which the leader of the free world railed against harassing gay youths (during this same month Senior Advisor to the President Valerie Jarrett spoke out in favor of the project as well):
The issue, of course, isn't the message behind "It Gets Better," which, as Shapiro notes, is certainly a worthy one. But as Savage is coming out with such seemingly hypocritical rhetoric, one wonders how the White House will respond and why, given Savage's history, his group would gain administration support.
After all, the White House has even devoted a portion of its web site to his cause. Numerous administration officials, in addition to the president, have also recorded videos that mirror Obama's.
The relationship, it seems, isn't limited to mere video support.
In June 2011, as Shapiro notes, Savage and his partner Terry Miller made a visit to the White House where they participated in Obama's "Pride Reception." Savage, in an effort to get the president to complete his "evolution" on gay marriage, wore a pin that read, "Evolve Already." Savage told the press at the time that he wanted to help Obama become accepting of gay marriage and predicted that the president will finally embrace it after he's re-elected in Feb. 2013.
While at the event, Savage spent time with administration officials, including Kevin Jennings and Brian Bond, the Deputy Director of the White House's Office of Public Engagement (Bond, as noted, has promoted the "It Gets Better" campaign on the White House web site). At the time, Jennings, a controversial figure to say the least, was serving as Obama's "Safe Schools Czar."
Shapiro provides the following refresher about Jennings' past:
Jennings, of course, was Assistant Deputy Secretary for the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools at the US Department of Education. Prior to his selection by the Obama administration, he was the founder of [Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network] GLSEN, where he famously advised a teenage boy to use a condom after the boy came to him for advice about sex with men in a bus station bathroom. The incident prompted 53 House Republicans to call for his resignation. After the outcry, Jennings admitted he should have “handled the situation differently.”
Back in 2009, The Blaze's Editor-in-Chief Scott Baker, along with an anonymous co-writer, provided an in-depth report on Jennings and some of the disturbing and controversial books his organization (GLSEN) was recommending for youths prior to his White House tenure. Baker and his anonymous source wrote:
Out of curiosity to see exactly what kind of books Kevin Jennings and his organization think American students should be reading in school, our team chose a handful at random from the over 100 titles on GLSEN’s grades 7-12 list, and began reading through.
What we discovered shocked us. We were flabbergasted. Rendered speechless.
We were unprepared for what we encountered. Book after book after book contained stories and anecdotes that weren’t merely X-rated and pornographic, but which featured explicit descriptions of sex acts between pre-schoolers; stories that seemed to promote and recommend child-adult sexual relationships; stories of public masturbation, anal sex in restrooms, affairs between students and teachers, five-year-olds playing sex games, semen flying through the air. One memoir even praised becoming a prostitute as a way to increase one’s self-esteem. Above all, the books seemed to have less to do with promoting tolerance than with an unabashed attempt to indoctrinate students into a hyper-sexualized worldview.
You can read more about these disturbing texts here. While these elements cannot be attributed to Savage, the idea that the two interacted does, indeed, create some questions (specifically when it comes to ideology). Additionally, their connection to the White House, as it did at the time of the initial reports about Jennings, causes pause.
Now, it's important to note that "It Gets Better" is likely helping millions of youths get through the challenges they face on a daily basis. But when the group's founder is acting in contradiction of the organization's values, certain discussions regarding the non-profit's viability are warranted.
Some may look at the current situation and defend the administration's connections to Savage and "It Gets Better" by claiming that the roots of the relationship were set far before Savage's most recent verbal lambasting of Christians youths. While this is certainly true, Savage has consistently been a controversial voice, thus troubling language is something that Obama and his officials should have (or possibly were) aware of.
Back in July 2011, we covered his comments that monogamy holds the potential to destroy "more families than it saves." Around the same time, he said of Republicans, "I wish they were all f**king dead," during an appearance on "Real Time With Bill Maher."
Watch the segment below (caution: language):
Shapiro also dug up some of the other controversial statements that Savage made -- and highly documented -- before the Obama administration became cozy with his organization:
During 2009, Savage tried to coin the term “Saddlebacking” in order to target pro-Proposition 8 Saddleback Church Pastor Rick Warren; he defined the term as “the phenomenon of Christian teens engaging in unprotected anal sex in order to preserve their virginities.” Savage also said, “F--- you, Utah,” since Mormons largely backed Proposition 8.
In 2006, Savage said that Green Party Senate candidate Carl Romanelli, who was running against Democrat Bob Casey (the eventual winner), “should be dragged behind a pickup truck until there’s nothing left but the rope.” Casey was so offended he refused Savage’s campaign donations.
In an article Savage wrote for Salon.com back in 2000, he outlined his sinister methodology -- at least when it came to dealing with then GOP presidential Candidate Gary Bauer. In simply reading Savage's own words, it seems as though he's justifying bullying for the sole purpose of fighting against those he believes have mistreated the gay community:
In my Sudafed-induced delirium I decided that if it's terrorism Bauer wants, then it's terrorism Bauer is going get -- and I'm just the man to terrorize him. Naked, feverish and higher than a kite on codeine aspirin, I called the Bauer campaign and volunteered. My plan? Get close enough to Bauer to give him the flu, which, if I am successful, will lay him flat just before the New Hampshire primary. I would go to Bauer's campaign office and cough on everything -- phones and pens, staplers and staffers. I even hatched a plan to infect the candidate himself. I would keep the pen in my mouth until Bauer dropped by his offices to rally the troops. And when he did, I would approach him and ask for his autograph, handing him the pen from my flu-virus incubating mouth.
My plan was a little malicious -- even a little mean-spirited -- but those same words describe the tactics used by Bauer and the rest of the religious right against gays and lesbians. The amount of gay bashing that goes on during Republican campaigns is staggering, so pervasive that the mainstream media tunes it out like so much white noise.
With all of this information in mind, it's certainly warranted -- at the least -- to question the Obama administration's connections to Savage. The president didn't tolerate Rush Limbaugh's comments about Sandra Fluke, so one wonders how he and his administration are able to overlook these glaring issues (apparently MTV, too, ignores these incidents, as Savage was given his own show on the network geared toward young people).