I incredulously watched Rachel Maddow's undressing of Richard Cohen on her show last night and was amazed at how she kept her cool. I wish she had screamed at the guy ala Bill O'Reilly or Keith Olbermann but that is not Rachel's style. The way she handled the interview was much more effective by citing the inconsistencies in his book (ala Tim Russert), thereby exposing him for what he is: a charlatan (Webster's definition: a quack or fraud.)
I have not read the book because I don't want to support it, but I can get an idea of what it preaches via Rachel's reading of certain passages. It's true that this is a free country and people can believe and promote what they want, but in this case it is very dangerous. The Uganda government is preparing to pass an anti-gay bill that will prosecute gays and their families and friends and possibly impose the death penalty for active homosexuals. Even landlords could be imprisoned for renting to gays. The legislator sponsoring the bill, David Bahati, has frequently referred to Cohen's book Coming Out Straight as a resource to justify this legislation.
To his credit, Cohen told Rachel that he is against the bill and that the next edition of his book will not include the passages she noted could inflame anti-gay hatred: "Homosexuals are at least 12 times more likely to molest children than heterosexuals; homosexual teachers are at least seven times more likely to molest a pupil; homosexual teachers are estimated to have committed at least 25 percent of pupil molestation; 40 percent of molestation assaults were made by those who engage in homosexuality." But this re-editing may be too little, too late as the damage is already done.
He also acknowledged that these statistics were taken from a discredited source. My observation of the interview left me with the feeling that Cohen was speaking out of both sides of his mouth. For example, first he used the word choice when referring to those who seek help for "unwanted same sex feelings". Later he denied that he thought being gay was a choice but he did say people were not born that way.
Later he told Rachel that he and his organization were not out to "cure" or "pray away" gay feelings, but then he mentioned psychological reasons involving parent/child issues in his book for people turning gay and talked about change. Rachel called him on it saying "cure" or "change" was just semantics.
Rachel also exposed him for pretending to be a practicing "psycho-therapist" when he is not licensed in any state. He said that his experience as an "ex-gay" man who is now married qualifies him as an expert on the subject. Maddow even undressed him on this subject citing his indiscretions with men after he married the woman of his dreams who was supposed to turn him straight.
If what he said qualifies him to speak for thousands of questioning gays, I would like to share my experience as a gay woman. My relationships with my loving parents had nothing to do with me being a lesbian. My mother who is no longer with us accepted me as I am, and my dad with whom I have a great relationship supports my orientation.
These theories of Cohen's are in my opinion pscho-babble. If he is happy being straight, good for him. But his attempt to "cure" others goes a step too far. Underlying his fraudulent claims about homosexuals being child molesters and psychologically ill (refuted by the American Psychological Association) are the assumptions that it is wrong to be gay and that all gays are unhappy. Both are untrue in my experience.
Therefore, I believe Richard Cohen, as a "reformed ex-gay" is a sell out. I was disturbed by his constant use of the word "love" in his interview. I don't believe he knows the true meaning of the word. He has created a million dollar industry exploiting GLBT youth who are confused by the mixed messages told to them by socially conservative Christians and peer groups. It turns out that this line of thinking is not only hurtful but deadly, not just in this country but in Uganda. I agree with Rachel that if this bill passes, Cohen will have blood on his hands. Doesn't sound much like love to me.