Friday night on CNN's Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees, the lead story was on a counseling clinic owned by presidential candidate Michele Bachmann (R-MN) and her husband. Cooper spoke of "allegations that the clinic engages in so-called reparative therapy," described by Cooper as "based on the theory that gay people can be turned into heterosexuals through a combination of prayer and willpower." The host's use of "so-called" set the stage for CNN political analyst Paul Begala to fulminate.
Using the word "crackpot" to characterize reparative therapy no fewer than nine times, Begala insisted Mrs. Bachmann should be interrogated:
BEGALA: She should be asked about this theory. She's a candidate for president. One out of 10 Americans is gay. She should be asked if she wants to lead a country where at least 10 percent of us are gay or lesbian, does she believe in this crackpot, bigoted theory that somehow there's something to be repaired in our brothers and sisters and sons and daughters who happen to be born gay?
Are "at least 10 percent" of Americans homosexual, to use a word that's not politically correct this season? In a word: no.
That figure, long used by activists, has been debunked repeatedly over the years. Obviously, no one can say with certainty what the actual numbers are, but one analysis that gathered data from four recent national and two state-level population-based surveys concluded that about 1.7 percent of the population are lesbian or gay. Another 1.8 percent of the population identify as bisexual.
The research came last April from the UCLA School of Law's Williams Institute, which defines itself as "a leading think tank dedicated to the field of sexual orientation and gender identity-related law and public policy."
So Begala appears quite far afield, as is so often the case. A Democratic consultant, he probably thinks it smart to make every special-interest group to which his party caters appear as large as possible. Still, he should be able to exercise at least a modicum of self-control occasionally.
And Paul, you could use more restraint in tossing around "crackpot." You know what they say about people living in glass houses.