THE BLOG
04/13/2016 02:09 pm ET Updated Nov 24, 2017

How Dennis Hastert Demonized Gays as Predators While He Was the True 'Super-Predator'

ASSOCIATED PRESS

No, it wasn't African-American young men of the '90s -- supposedly feral, "fatherless" and "godless" urban youth hell-bent on murder and mayhem -- who were "super-predators," a myth since exposed and which was created by the Princeton political science professor John DiIulio (who later became George W. Bush's first director of the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives) based on junk science.

The same twisted ideas that led to the "super-predator" myth, which we've seen raised and debunked again during the current Democratic primary race amid discussion of the 1994 crime bill, have been used by anti-LGBT religious conservatives to argue against marriage equality. They promoted the notion that gays would destroy "traditional marriage," which supposedly would contribute to a breakdown in the family, causing deviant and dangerous consequences.

Some of those arguments against marriage equality were informed by a similarly debunked myth that gay men are likely to be sexual predators, the lie perpetuated by anti-LGBT hate mongers for decades, using junk science to exploit and further rampant homophobia in society in same the way the "super-predator" myth used it to exploit and further racism.

Meanwhile, the true example of a "super-predator" appears to have been former GOP House Speaker Dennis Hastert, a man who prosecutors now say molested at least 4 boys, including a 14-year-old and one who years later took his own life. Since the statute of limitations on those crimes, which took place decades ago, has expired, Hastert will only receive up to six months in jail on charges stemming from bank withdrawals of large sums of cash in violation of federal law, in what prosecutors say was for the purpose of "hush money."

Worse yet, through the years, as he covered up the sexual assaults he committed as a wrestling coach back in Yorkville, Illinois, Hastert pushed policies and positions as a House member and as the Speaker of a far-right GOP majority from 1999 to 2007 that demonized gays in part by portraying gay men as sexual predators.

"We must continue to be proactive warding off pedophiles and other creeps who want to take advantage of our children," the Illinois congressman stated in promoting a bill to stop exploitation of children online shortly before he became House Speaker. That was brought to light in a Politico report last year which revealed that Hastert had a file in his office labeled "Homosexuals," which included the sexual predator smear against gay men:

The records show that Hastert's office kept a legislative file titled "Homosexuals," filled with policy statements from social conservative groups like the Traditional Values Coalition and the Family Research Council that criticized same-sex marriage and Clinton administration efforts to prevent discrimination against gays and lesbians. The file also includes a 1996 Weekly Standard article, "Pedophilia Chic" that warned that "revisionist suggestions about pedophilia" were being embraced by the left.

The scurrilous Weekly Standard piece raged on about teens supposedly being lured into sex by adult gay men. The Family Research Council, whose statements filled Hastert's "Homosexuals" file, has perpetuated the lie that gays are more likely to engage in sexual assault against boys -- among the defamatory claims that earned it the label of "hate group" by the Southern Poverty law Center -- and its leader, Tony Perkins, has called pedophilia "a homosexual problem."

It was because of the demands of Family Research Council and other anti-LGBT groups, based on claims about harm to the family and children, that Hastert, who defined himself as a social conservative from early in his career, led the effort as House Speaker to pass a federal marriage amendment, defining marriage as between a man and a woman in the Constitution. He'd also backed the Moral Majority when he was in the Illinois Legislature, voting down an anti-discrimination measure to protect gays.

What was curiously not in Hastert's files, according to the Politico report, was anything about the scandal that enveloped former GOP congressman Mark Foley, who was exposed in 2007 for having sent sexually explicit messages to teenage boys in the House page program. Hastert in fact was accused of dragging his feet in dealing with Foley's activities, his office having known about it for months but either covering it up or simply not acting with the speed expected from the office of a House member who was so concerned about child predators.

The Hastert story is revolting on so many levels. He sexually assaulted boys who trusted him as their wrestling coach, scarring them for life. And while he covered it up over a period of decades, he also assaulted an entire minority group that was under a barrage of attacks from religious conservatives, continually denying them civil rights and demonizing them and pummeling gay people over and over again, with bill after bill, informed by lie after lie. If there's a true definition of a super-predator, Dennis Hastert is it.

Michelangelo Signorile's book, It's Not Over: Getting Beyond Tolerance, Defeating Homophobia, and Winning True Equality, is now in paperback with a new afterword, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.