Wes Goodman & Religious Conservatism, Inc.
Turns out that Ohio State Rep. Wes Goodman, has been leading a secret promiscuous gay life, despite being married and opposing LGBT rights in his career as a conservative activist and legislator. The story is lurid, including allegations (with screenshots) that he propositioned college students who were political activists, inviting them to join him (and sometimes him and his wife) for sex. Excerpt:
Those who received Goodman’s alleged messages were scared to report him for fear that it would damage career prospects.
They also viewed Goodman as a mentor-like figure who could help them find jobs after college.
See? Right there is how it sometimes happens. Turns out that a lot of people in conservative circles knew about Goodman’s behavior, but didn’t want to hurt their own careers.
Look at this:
In 2015, Goodman allegedly invited the teenage son of a prominent Republican donor to his room at the Ritz Carlton hotel.
The terrified teen told his parents, who then demanded that the head of a conservative organization which was hosting a conference at the time remove Goodman.That led to Goodman’s departure from the Council for National Policy.
To me, this is the more important story here: how the religious right organization handled the fondling, which occurred after a fundraising dinner for Goodman. From the Washington Post:
The frightened teenager fled the room and told his mother and stepfather, who demanded action from the head of the organization hosting the conference.
“If we endorse these types of individuals, then it would seem our whole weekend together was nothing more than a charade,” the stepfather wrote to Tony Perkins, president of the Council for National Policy.
“Trust me . . . this will not be ignored nor swept aside,” replied Perkins, who also heads the Family Research Council, a prominent evangelical activist group. “It will be dealt with swiftly, but with prudence.”
The incident, described in emails and documents obtained by The Washington Post, never became public, nor did unspecified prior “similar incidents” Perkins referred to in a letter to candidate Wesley Goodman. The correspondence shows Perkins privately asked Goodman to drop out of the race and suspended him from the council, but Goodman continued his campaign and went on to defeat two fellow Republicans in a hotly contested primary before winning his seat last November.
The Post has a photocopy of a 2015 letter that Perkins sent to Goodman, congratulating him on his therapy, but advising him that he ought not to seek political office until he has dealt with his homosexual behavior. Perkins said that he was “disappointed” by Goodman’s decision to run for state office, and kicked him off of the Council for National Policy.
Here’s the thing, though: Perkins and others who knew what Goodman had done in the hotel room let him continue his rise in conservative politics, knowing that he was a potential time bomb. How many social and religious conservative donors, activists, and voters would have supported an Evangelical rising star had they known that he was at least once willing to commit adultery, with a young man, and by sexually assaulting him? The answer, of course, is none. Worse, Perkins et al. knew that if Goodman could not be trusted to have gotten his behavior under control — and Perkins clearly did not trust him on this, which is why he kicked him out of the CNP — then they had reason to fear the day when Goodman was exposed as a hypocrite.
Worse, they had reason to believe that Goodman, who defied Perkins’s counsel to stay out of politics until he had his private life in order, would be at risk of sexually assaulting other young men, as well as committing adultery.
But they stayed silent as Goodman’s star began to rise, thus passively aiding his rise. More:
In Ohio, supporters of Goodman’s campaign wondered why they were not alerted to his past behavior.
“We are so sick of people knowing and doing nothing. If someone knew, they had an obligation to say something. That’s what you do. That’s how you hold society together,” said Thomas R. Zawistowski, president of Ohio Citizens PAC, a conservative group that endorsed Goodman.
Perkins did not respond to emails, phone calls or a message left at the office of the Family Research Council. Goodman declined to comment as did the stepfather, a member of the council who referred questions about the incident to Perkins. The Post does not identify victims of sexual assault without their consent.
So, Tony Perkins, the most powerful religious right figure in Washington, helped hide from other conservatives, as well as the public, that junior Republican politician Wesley Goodman, despite his façade as a Bible-believing family man, was an adulterous gay groper. Why?
Perkins owes a lot of people an explanation. Are there any other elected Republican officials he and other top conservatives who knew but concealed the truth about Goodman, are covering up for?
Are there more grassroots conservative activists like Thomas Zawistowski who are going to have to learn from newspapers about the betrayal of their trust, because the conservative Washington elite looks out for its own first? What about Republican voters?
And what about potential future victims of Goodman. From today’s Cleveland Plain Dealer:
Another conservative with Ohio ties told cleveland.com that Goodman engaged in predatory behavior toward younger men after leaving Jordan’s office, sending inappropriate material and propositioning them via text message and Facebook messenger.
The conservative operative said he’d target college kids who wanted to have him as a mentor and were scared to report his sexual advances because they didn’t want to damage their own careers. A former co-worker shared screenshots of messages Goodman sent him that the operative likened to the lewd texts that derailed the congressional career of New York’s Anthony Weiner.
“It was suggestive ‘I am here in my underwear’ kinds of stuff,” the longtime GOP operative recalled.
Goodman was seen as a rising conservative star and a good networker who could help young people get jobs in conservative organizations, the Republican activist said.
“People never really wanted to come forward against someone in power,” the operative added.
Chris Donnelly, a former GOP staffer on Capitol Hill, says he and Goodman had sex. And:
Donnelly said he warned Ohio Republicans that Goodman’s behavior in D.C. didn’t match his socially conservative platform. Emails show Donnelly shared this information with Kenny Street, political director for the Ohio Republican House Republican Caucus, after Goodman won his district primary in May 2016.
Donnelly said Street told him he would take the matter to Speaker Cliff Rosenberger and later that the caucus planned to confront Goodman.
Rosenberger spokesman Brad Miller said the speaker had not heard the allegations published by the Post until Friday and had not heard allegations about Goodman sending inappropriate messages to younger men. When asked whether Rosenberger had heard the rumors of Goodman’s past, Miller said they can’t chase down every rumor.
“Until someone comes forward with a substantial allegation — and when that occurs there is immediate action to make sure the proper protocols are followed,” Miller said.
Miller’s statement makes sense by itself. But what did senior Ohio GOP officials know substantively about Goodman? Was there any communication between them and Perkins about Goodman? Perkins was plainly aware that Goodman was running for state office in Ohio, and told him he wishes he weren’t doing it, in light of his sexual problems. Did Perkins tell anybody in the Ohio GOP? If so, what did they do with that information?
On his now-removed campaign website, Wes Goodman wrote, “Healthy, vibrant, thriving, values-driven families are the source of Ohio’s proud history and the key to Ohio’s future greatness. The ideals of father and mother, a committed natural marriage, and a caring community are well worth pursuing and protecting.”
Leaving aside the moral aspect of all this, if the Ohio GOP — and Tony Perkins in Washington — knew what Wes Goodman was really about, and saw that this is how he was promoting himself to voters, as a matter of simple self-preservation, why did they let him continue?
Who else in state or national Republican politics knew the truth about Wes Goodman, and were in a position to stop him, but said nothing? I can understand young men aspiring to careers in GOP politics not reporting him. They ought to have done so, because it was the right thing to have done, but Goodman was in a position to harm them professionally. What about those Republicans and conservative activists like Perkins who knew the truth about Goodman, and who could not be hurt by him? Was it the case that young men propositioned lewdly by Goodman, who was well-connected in Republican politics, were afraid not so much of Goodman but his protectors?
Goodman has resigned his state office, and he’s done for in politics. But there’s more to this story that needs to come out. How complicit was Religious Conservatism, Inc., in this debacle — and why? Maybe there are good explanations for these actions, or lack of action, and if so, let’s hear them. Because right now, the conservative grassroots has to be wondering how much it can trust its Washington leadership.
UPDATE: Ian Lovett of the Wall Street Journal reports that Roy Moore’s campaign is built around Evangelical turnout. Excerpt:
A Fox News poll, conducted between Monday and Wednesday, found although Mr. Moore now trails his Democratic opponent overall, 65% of white evangelicals planned to vote for him, the highest percentage of any demographic group.
In a poll conducted by JMC Analytics after the allegations were publicized, 37% of self-identified evangelicals—a plurality—said they were more likely to vote for Mr. Moore after the allegations that he pursued relationships with an underage girl decades ago were publicized.
Brett Doster, a spokesman for the Moore campaign, said they had been focused on evangelical voters since the primaries, and remain so now.
“His roots go very deep with that community, because of battles over the Ten Commandments, the sanctity of life,” Mr. Doster said. “For anyone to win in Alabama, they have to have that commitment by that evangelical base. He’s got it. They’re not going to leave him, and that’s why he’ll win.”
Last year, Mr. Trump—who didn’t have Mr. Moore’s longstanding ties to evangelicals—won the presidency in part because evangelical voters stuck with him after he was accused of sexual assault. More than 80% of white evangelicals voted for Mr. Trump, according to exit polls.
Was Tony Perkins’s decision to stay silent as Wes Goodman’s political star rose in any way related to a desire to have a reliably conservative vote in the Ohio statehouse, even though he knew the man was a groper? I find it hard to believe that someone of Perkins’s national stature would worry so much about the Ohio statehouse, but given that Evangelicals (like Perkins) have established a reputation of overlooking credible accusations of sexual predation for the sake of supporting politicians who vote as they wish, the question remains.
UPDATE: A reader recalls this Tweet from a few days back:
The allegations reported by the media against Roy Moore are beyond disturbing and, if true, would disqualify him or anyone else engaged in such behavior from holding a position of public trust.
— Tony Perkins (@tperkins) November 10, 2017