At a time when the marriage-equality movement is gaining unprecedented support throughout the country, the blustering conservative host opened his radio program Monday by comparing same-sex marriage to pedophilia. Limbaugh was speaking about an article in the Guardian newspaper by Jon Henley, who pointed out that there is a growing conviction, particularly in Canada, that pedophilia should be classified as a sexual orientation. Henley’s point was to underscore the lack of scientific research on pedophilia and how shifting attitudes over time will change how society deals with the issue.
Limbaugh’s takeaway from the article was somewhat different. The way he sees it, the left-wing “movement to normalize pedophilia” is going to have an easier time gaining traction now that the gay-marriage movement has paved the way.
“I want to take you back,” Limbaugh told his listeners. “I want you to remember the first time, wherever you were, that you heard about gay marriage, and I want you to try to recall your reaction -- your first gut reaction -- when you heard that some activists or somebody was trying to promote the notion of gay marriage. What was your initial reaction?”
He then answered himself rhetorically: “Aw, come on. It'll never happen. That's silly. What are you talking about?”
Not surprisingly, Limbaugh’s flawed connect-the-dots logic has stirred fierce reactions from media watchdogs and gay-rights groups. In a Tuesday blog post, Think Progress’ Zack Ford balked at the comparison as “demonizing” to the LGBT community. Ford largely drew from the obvious point that pedophiles target children, and children can’t legally consent to sex.
“There is no way to compare two loving consenting adults to harming a child,” Ford wrote. “If there were a valid reason to be concerned that society was no longer interested in protecting young people from sexual abuse, Limbaugh would have a compelling argument to make, and many would surely rally around his cause.”
Media Matters for America, the progressive watchdog group, blasted Limbaugh’s diatribe as “promoting a bogus link between support for same-sex marriage and the acceptance of pedophilia.”
And on Thursday, CNN’s Soledad O’Brien asked the tea party-backed Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.) about Limbaugh’s comments, but even after some forceful prodding, Johnson stubbornly refused to condemn the right-wing host.
To be certain, Limbaugh isn’t the first conservative talk-show host to entertain a possible link between homosexuality and pedophilia. In August, Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly defended a report from the Family Research Council, a conservative Christian lobbying organization, which claimed that a higher percentage of child sex predators are homosexual. However, that claim has repeatedly been debunked, including by noted psychologist Gregory Herek, editor of the Journal of Sex Research, who wrote that current research shows “no inherent connection between an adult’s sexual orientation and her or his propensity for endangering others.”
Read the full transcript to Limbaugh’s show here, but not while you’re eating.