More Wes Goodman Fallout
More news in the scandal involving Wes Goodman, the rising young Christian conservative Ohio state representative who resigned after being caught canoodling with a man in his office. Turns out that not only did the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins know about his closeted homosexuality as well as his tendency to come on to younger men (despite his being married and publicly a conservative, pro-family Christian), but many more people in conservative Washington knew about him too. Caleb Hull at the Independent Journal Review reports that he has talked to 30 people who have had experience with Goodman’s homoerotic derring-do. Excerpt:
Goodman has a reputation of reaching out to those involved in politics via Facebook Messenger — but things tend to quickly turn south, as he has been known to flirt with men, solicit sex, and even send pictures of his genitals, according to dozens of sources. The majority of the people he targets are between the ages of 18 and 24 and have had very little interaction with him personally.
In many instances of his alleged sexual misconduct, Goodman apparently offered to be a “mentor” for those looking to get into politics. Because of the power he had, his victims say they were afraid to report instances of abuse for fear of damaging their own political careers.
This is how it works! Play the game, and you’ll get ahead. If you won’t play the game, then at least keep your mouth shut about the players … if you want to get ahead. Tony Perkins of the Council for National Policy showed how to do it. When he learned from a donor about Goodman (Goodman allegedly sexually assaulted the donor’s 18 year old son), he discouraged Goodman from pursuing office, but as far as we know at this time, did not intervene in any other way when Goodman ran for office and won. Perkins owes a lot of people an explanation. More from Caleb Hull:
While IJR interviewed over 30 sources for this piece, there are many more who choose to remain silent out of fear. One source who was very familiar with the political climate where Goodman worked stated:
“I could give you stories of at least a dozen more young men who have brought stories about Wes Goodman to me, but they don’t want their identities revealed. Their messages with him that they given me screenshots of would reveal their identities, so I can’t share them. But he used his own Facebook account — with a pic of him and his wife next to his name — to regularly contact them. Please don’t hold back in your story about him.”
Goodman’s inappropriate behavior managed to go unreported for a surprisingly long time. It shows that sexual harassment is not a problem only women are currently facing and can impact people of all genders and backgrounds.
Read the whole thing. The editor’s note says that the article’s author was previously sent unsolicited sexually explicit messages by Wes Goodman, and blocked him. Be careful with that story if you don’t want to confront sexually explicit material. There are no sexual images there, but the screenshots of some of Goodman’s texts are disgusting.
Meanwhile, the Cincinnati Enquirer reports today:
Former Congressman Bob McEwen assured the stepfather of a teenager that “strong action” would be taken against the GOP candidate accused of molesting the teen, according to emails obtained by the Washington Post.
But that never happened.
McEwen, executive director of the conservative Council for National Policy, was included in an email chain that detailed allegations against Wes Goodman, then a candidate for the Ohio House. Goodman was accused of fondling an 18-year-old boy at a 2015 event hosted by McEwen’s organization.
According to the emails, McEwen promised the teenager’s stepfather on Oct. 22, 2015, “strong action is about to take place.” The Enquirer reached out to McEwen for comment. He did not respond to the Washington Post for its report.
“There was an allegation of sexual assault against one of our state representatives. (McEwen) knew about it and apparently chose to do nothing,” said Matt Borges, who was chairman of the Ohio Republican Party at the time of the incident. “That’s an unacceptable failure.”
Current Ohio Republican Party leader Jane Timken called on McEwen to resign from his post on the state party’s governing body if he knew about the allegations.
“I think every person has an obligation to say and do something about sexual misconduct or harassment of any kind when they see it. If Bob McEwen knew about this and did not say or do anything, he should resign,” Timken said in a statement.
I spoke this afternoon to a Christian source well-placed in DC conservative political circles. He told me that it’s emerging in conversations among Washington conservatives today that a lot of young conservative men knew about Goodman’s proclivities — he was rather indiscreet — but none of them said anything.
Again, neither did Tony Perkins, so why should they have? Remember, it was only two years ago that Perkins, in his capacity as head of the Family Research Council, got sandbagged by the Josh Duggar scandal. What, if anything, did he know about Duggar’s sex life before he signed Duggar up to be an FRC national leader? Maybe nothing, but the Goodman fiasco is the second prominent example of Perkins’s bad judgment — and in the Goodman case, we have documentation (in the form of a letter from Perkins) that Perkins knew about Goodman’s homosexuality and habit of coming on to young men, and let him go into politics as a conservative, pro-family Christian anyway.
To be clear, Perkins did say in that private letter to Goodman that he (Perkins) cannot endorse his entering politics, given that he had not shown that he (Goodman) had dealt with his sexual disorder. But why did Perkins remain silent when Goodman entered an Ohio statehouse GOP primary — and won? In his 2015 letter to Goodman, Perkins recognized that it would be a disaster for the conservative movement, as well as for Goodman personally, if his past were to be exposed. And yet, and yet… .
As an Evangelical pastor friend texted today, in deep frustration, “This is what people think Christianity is.” Yes, that is what people think of it: overlooking or excusing serious personal sin for the sake of advancing power. But I have to tell you, this is only a partial picture.
I want to be clear on this point. You cannot judge an entire religion — any religion — entirely by the worst behavior of its adherents, any more than you can judge it entirely by the best behavior of its adherents. Nevertheless, it’s a dodge when Christian leaders say, “Oh, Billy Graham is who Evangelicals are, not Wes Goodman,” or “St. Teresa of Calcutta is who Catholics are, not Father Geoghan.” All of us are the best and the worst of our communions. You, with all your sins and all your virtues, are who Catholics/Orthodox/Protestants are, or who Jews are, or Muslims, and so forth. We are both our ideals and our failure to live up to those ideals.
One reason why it is so important for religious believers to police our own ranks well is because we live in a world in which so many people are eager to find the worst among us, and hold them up as an example. They aren’t entirely wrong to do this, we have to admit. If we claim to live by a higher standard, then we should be held to that standard. We know that we will eventually fail, but when we fail, we should own up to it swiftly, and make it right.
I was talking to some Evangelical friends today, and we were discussing how it turns out that so many young conservative men knew about Wes Goodman, but nobody said a thing. I told them that one of the shocking things to me as a Catholic covering the Catholic abuse scandal was how many laymen knew about particular priests, but said and did nothing. Yes, the greatest responsibility lay with the bishops who knew, but quite a few laymen knew.
In fact, I was talking with a lapsed Catholic friend who went through New Orleans Catholic schools in the 1960s, and he said that it was common knowledge among the guys at his all-boys school which priests had a taste for young men. If you weren’t into that, you knew which ones to avoid. If you wanted some action, you knew which ones to go to. I was Catholic when he told me that, and it genuinely shocked me. He was shocked that I was shocked. That was just what it was like to grow up Catholic in New Orleans in his day, he told me. You just took certain things for granted.
So, it’s not all that hard for me to imagine that a large number of young conservative men involved in Republican politics knew that Wes Goodman was a closet case desperate to get laid, and eager to use his position within the conservative hierarchy to advance these studs’ careers, if they would put out for him — and that they told nobody about it. They just assumed that this is how the system works, apparently. I heard from a DC Republican today who told me that if he had to police everyone in Washington politics who was sexually compromised, it would be overwhelming — and that the same is true with the Democrats.
I understand that. I’m not naive. But Christians ought to be different, because we say that we are. When we are revealed to be hypocrites, we deserve what we get. The same is true with feminists and other idealists on both the Left and the Right. Yes, men and women fail all the time to do the things we ought to do, and fail to refrain from doing what we should not do. That’s the human condition. The more important test of our character is how we respond to that failure.
I moved to Washington to work as a journalist for The Washington Times when I was 25. I lived in a group house on Capitol Hill with five other people, including a couple of Democrats. We all got along well. When the GOP took over Congress in the historical 1994 sweep, I taunted my Democratic housemates (in a friendly way) with jibes about “Speaker Gingrich.”
One of my housemates, who worked for a Democratic House member, told me, “We’re not worried. We know that Gingrich is having an affair. If he pushes too hard, we’ll drop the bomb on him.”
My roommate was right. Gingrich’s mistress at the time was a Congressional staffer who later became his third wife. She is now the US Ambassador to the Vatican. Ain’t politics grand?
I was a journalist who reviewed television, not a political reporter. Gingrich’s sex life was neither my beat nor my business. But if I had been a young Republican working on the Hill, or otherwise involved in Republican politics, what would I have done with that information? I’ll tell you: nothing. I would have understood that there was no point in it, that if I, as a peon, knew about it, then certainly people much higher up the Republican hierarchy knew about it. They chose not to do anything about it, for whatever reason. If I wanted any kind of career in conservative politics, I too would have had to stay quiet about it. After all, who would I have told? Even Gingrich’s enemies knew about it. They chose to stay silent for their own strategic reasons.
I wonder, though, how many Christian conservatives in the Washington right-wing hierarchy knew about Gingrich’s adultery back then, and what, if anything, they did about it. Did they care? Did they think it mattered? Or was gaining and maintaining access to power what really mattered to them? In which case, where did they get off trashing Bill Clinton for his immoral behavior?
An Evangelical I talked to today suggested that maybe Tony Perkins, as a Christian, was trying to be decent to Wes Goodman, and not expose a brother in Christ’s sin publicly. Maybe so. But if so, Perkins ought to be a pastor, not a leader of a political organization. The Council for National Policy is not the church. Nor is the Family Research Council. Nor is the Republican Party. It seems to me that as a matter of maintaining professional credibility, Tony Perkins should have done everything he could to have halted the rise in Republican politics of a lying, adulterous, sexually predatory hypocrite who advanced his political career by propagating the façade that he was a Bible-believing man of God.
To whom much is given, much is expected. I still think Tony Perkins and select others in the conservative hierarchy have a lot of explaining to do about their judgment in the Wes Goodman affair. If I were a donor to their causes and their candidates, I would be mad as hell. But then again, what do I know? These days, conservative Christians don’t seem to have much of a problem cauterizing their consciences as the price of being political players.