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10/02/2008

Did 'liberal' use term liberally?

by Jeremy Hooper

200810021637Last week, you might have caught glimpse of a Los Angeles Times Op-Ed written by David Blankenhorn, wherein the Institute for American Values president presented himself as a liberal Democrat who just so happens to oppose marriage equality. Supporters of Prop. 8 were sending it around left and right, citing it as a sign that their support is far-less partisan than some would have you believe.

Only problem? Mr. Blankenhorn's liberalism might just be as big of a myth as the idea that opposing marriage equality makes one "pro-family." The good folks at Salon have done a little digging, and they've found that Mr. Blankenhorn's organization has "received nearly $4.5 million in funding from a coterie of ultra-conservative Republican foundations, including the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, the Scaife Family Foundation, and the Randolph Foundation." Go read the full piece:

The truth about that "liberal" against gay marriage [Salon]

**UPDATE, 10/6: A rep from the Institute for American Values has sent us a response that Mr. Blankenhorn himself has penned. If you ask us, it unfairly criticizes the author of the Salon piece, Jon Esienberg, for writing an "ugly little hit piece" (funny, coming from a man who is hitting gay people so hard). And, we also think that Mr. Blankenhorn has failed to adequately acknowledge the primary focus of the Salon piece: The uber-conservative funding that fuels his organization, something that most liberals would be wary/resitant to accept.

But hey, don't let us lead you. Go decide for yourself:

David Blankenhorn replies

Personal attacks are now commonplace in our public debate, so I have filed Jon B. Eisenberg's ugly little hit piece ("The truth about that 'liberal' against gay marriage," Oct. 2) in a folder labeled "Disappointing But Not Surprising." But for the record:
- Contrary to what Eisenberg implies, I never wrote that "It's perfectly natural to be a liberal Democrat but against gay marriage, because I am." I don't even believe such a thing! (Suggestion to Mr. Eisenberg: If you want to state accurately what you call my "theme," either tell your readers what I actually wrote, or call me up and ask me to clarify.)
- I'm a life-long registered Democrat.
- I'm an Obama supporter.
- I oppose current leading conservative opinion on many issues, including Iraq, abortion, the death penalty, tax policy, climate change, race and immigration, and others.
- The think tank which I founded and direct receives funding from both left-of-center and right-of-center foundations and individuals.
- Contrary to what Eisenberg writes, my op-ed was not a part of "a larger Republican strategy." I wrote the piece because the editors of the Los Angeles Times invited me to do so. (Suggestion to Mr. Eisenberg: If you want to state accurately why and under what circumstances an op-ed appears in a leading newspaper, don't just take a guess! Call up the editor and ask her to tell you.)
- Contrary to what Eisenberg writes, the main point of my op-ed is to argue that liberal principles, such as respect for human rights and preferential treatment for those who are least powerful, can legitimately support the case for customary man-woman marriage. My personal "political profile," as he puts it, was offered only as a brief introduction to my main argument.
- My wife's name is spelled "Sacks" (not "Sachs").

Your readers might also be interested to learn that, on the same day that Eisenberg's article appeared, the Sacramento-based Capitol Weekly published an interview with me on the same subject. Just like Eisenberg, the Capitol Weekly reporter, Malcolm Maclachlan, wanted to explore whether or not I actually qualify as a liberal Democrat, and which foundations contribute the think tank which I direct. Yet unlike Eisenberg, Maclachlan actually spoke to me -- that's what journalists do, when they want to get a story right -- so that I could respond to the questions being raised. I invite your readers to look at the Capitol Weekly piece, and then compare it to Eisenberg's article. Which of the two is more informative? More civil? More decent and fair-minded?

Finally, I appreciate Mr. Eisenberg noting that my op-ed has attracted much attention and is being "widely circulated." On that, we can agree!

-- David Blankenhorn

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