The Best of Fringe Factor: A Year in Review
We’ll all remember 2013 as the year political extremes hit the big time, won’t we? From the ‘terrorist’ Wendy Davis to masturbating fetuses and a suit to end homosexuality, a look back.
What a long, strange trip 2013 has been. From attempting to criminalize homosexuality at any cost to preparing for the end times, elected officials, activists, and even past presidential candidates brought the fringe to mainstream politics in a big way. As we get ready to say goodbye to the year that was, let’s take a look back at some of the most outrageous comments, craziest conspiracy theories, and just plain bad legislation proposed by our fearless leaders over the last 365 days.
The state senator’s impassioned—and effective—10-hour filibuster in the Texas Senate elicited a lot of emotional reactions, but perhaps none was more melodramatic than that of Republican state Sen. Bill Zedler. Furious that Davis and her supporters prevented passage of a sweeping abortion bill that would, among other things, have closed almost all of the abortion clinics in Texas, Zedler lashed out on Twitter: “We had terrorist[s] in the Texas State Senate opposing SB5,” he tweeted. Terrorists.
Can fetuses really masturbate? Does it matter? According to Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX), they can and it does. His point, apparently, in making the cringeworthy claim that if you look at an ultrasound of a male at 15 weeks in the womb, you might catch him playing with himself, was to argue that if a baby can feel pleasure at that age, who’s to say he can’t feel pain? Burgess, an OB-GYN by profession, seems to have based his argument on some little-known observations made in a decades-old research paper that female—not male—fetuses touched their own genitalia. Burgess’s objective, of course, was not to make the Internet giggle at the thought of fetuses masturbating (which happened) but to provide yet another example of how fetuses, even at 15 weeks, are people, too. The congressman’s comments were part of his argument in favor of a controversial House bill that passed in June banning abortions after 20 weeks.
Rape was a hot topic this year across the country. Michigan’s state Legislature just approved a citizen-proposed bill requiring women to purchase separate insurance plans for abortions—even in cases of rape, incest, or where the mother’s health is at risk. The state’s Senate minority leader sought to prevent the bill from passing by tearfully revealing on the Senate floor that she had been raped 20 years ago, but her personal appeal was apparently no match for Right to Life Michigan president Barbara Listing’s argument earlier this year that rape and incest are just like car accidents and floods. “Nobody plans to have an accident in a car accident, nobody plans to have their homes flooded. You have to buy extra insurance for those,” she said.
Illinois official Jim Allen wasn’t the only state Republican to step down in June amid controversy. New Hampshire state Rep. Stella Tremblay was forced to resign after insisting that the U.S. government orchestrated the Boston Marathon bombing as an excuse to infringe on American civil liberties. Despite apologizing for causing a stir with her conspiracy theory, Tremblay continued to suggest that not enough questions were being asked about the government’s part in the incident. She even emailed her fellow state House members with links to videos and conspiracy-theory blogs, asking, “Have you seen ANY main stream media doing a follow-up on these stories? I have not. I just connect the dots.” Her colleagues were not convinced, however, and reprimanded her. Just before the New Hampshire House was about to pass a brand-new budget in June, Tremblay called it quits.
Lucky for oral and anal sex fans in the Old Dominion, Ken Cuccinelli was not elected governor of Virginia. But there was a period of time over the summer when a vote for Cuccinelli was a vote, basically, against sex other than the traditional P in V. The Virginia attorney general and gubernatorial nominee announced a campaign pledge to reinstate a Crimes Against Nature law, which had already been deemed unconstitutional by federal courts. His campaign even launched a website, vachildpredators.com, that presented the law banning sodomy as the only “anti-child-predators law” (which it’s not) and said it “is only applied to sodomy committed against minors, against non-consenting adults, or in public” (when that’s not the case). It’s not as if Cuccinelli didn’t realize the law criminalizes the behavior of consenting adults as well as sexual predators; he’s the reason the provision including consensual oral and anal sex between grown people wasn’t removed to make the law constitutional in the first place. Cuccinelli’s explanation for opposing a version of the Crimes Against Nature law that focused on public sex, prostitution, and other nonconsensual acts? “My view is that homosexual acts, not homosexuality, but homosexual acts are wrong. They’re intrinsically wrong,” he said in 2009. “And I think in a natural law-based country, it’s appropriate to have policies that reflect that…They don’t comport with natural law.”
How do you tell a valedictorian from a drug mule? Look at their calves. At least that’s how Rep. Steve King (R-IA) justified making the claim that “for every one who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there that weigh 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.” King was speaking, of course, about young undocumented immigrants who would be eligible for legal status under President Obama’s DREAM Act, and just in case anyone thought he wasn’t serious, King defended his comments a few days later. “It’s not something that I’m making up,” he insisted during an interview with Radio Iowa. “This is real. We have people that are mules, that are drug mules, that are hauling drugs across the border, and you can tell by their physical characteristics what they’ve been doing for months.” He added, “There are valedictorians in this group, and my heart goes out to them, but not to the point where I’d sacrifice the rule of law and legalize a lot of bad elements in the process.”
Enough attempting to suppress homosexuality by banning gay marriage from state to state. Tea Party leader Rick Scarborough is focused on the bigger picture. At a Tea Party Unity gathering on Thursday, ++Scarborough chatted with Americans for Truth About Homosexuality president Peter LaBarbera about his grand scheme for taking on the homosexuality lobby with a class action lawsuit like the one pursued against the major tobacco companies. “The whole issue of a class action lawsuit, you and I have talked about this a little bit,” Scarborough said. “Obviously, statistically now even the Centers for Disease Control verifies homosexuality [is] more likely to lead to AIDS than smoking leads to cancer. And yet the entire nation has rejected smoking, billions of dollars are put into a trust fund to help cancer victims, and the tobacco industry was held accountable for that.” His argument doesn’t really stand up to the facts, as The Huffington Post points out: The CDC reported in 2008 that “more deaths are caused each year by tobacco use than by human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), illegal drug use, alcohol use, motor vehicle injuries, suicides, and murders combined.” But who can keep track? At least LaBarbera agreed with Scarborough’s suggestion and said he’d “love to see” a class action lawsuit against…gays? “We always wanted to see one of the kids in high school who was counseled by the official school counselor to just be gay, then he comes down with HIV,” said LaBarbera, because one thing inevitably leads to the other. “But we never really got the client for that.” And another thing! LaBarbera would like to see more stories about “ex-gays” on Fox News. “We need to work on our conservative, alternate media and say, ‘Look, don’t do the pro-gay thing, why don’t you rather step out and support these ‘ex-gays’? We should encourage Fox News to tell their stories,” he said.
With Texas’s state Senate once again debating restrictions on abortion, security at the state capitol was tightened to prevent disruptions from the gallery like those that occurred during state Sen. Wendy Davis’s filibuster of the abortion bill on June 26. The Texas Department of Public Safety searched the bags of anyone entering the gallery to watch the debate and confiscated any tampons or maxi pads found. Apparently there was concern that those female-hygiene products could be used as projectiles and thrown at state senators. Of course, visitors could still bring guns into the gallery if they had a concealed-carry license.
2) The U.S. Military Is Too Gay, Feminine to Strike Syria
More than anything, Fringe Factor has unintentionally become a collection of outrageous, offensive, and just plain ridiculous ideas about homosexuality. Fox News announced “The End of Free Enterprise” when a Colorado judge decided that a baker had no right to refuse to sell a gay couple a cake for their wedding celebration. American Family Association spokesman Bryan Fischer declared homosexuality as much of a health hazard as trans fats, arguing that it, too, should be banned. And the Pennsylvania Department of Health said a marriage license issued to a gay couple is just as valid as a marriage license issued to a couple of 12-year-olds. But of all the homophobic statements made this year, nothing beats the argument that the U.S. military is too gay and too feminine to strike Syria. As you’ll remember, lots of people from both ends of the political spectrum made compelling arguments for and against a U.S. intervention in Syria. This was not one of them. American Family Association radio host Sandy Rios said she thinks “the homosexual takeover of so much of our military” and the increased number of women serving in key roles make the U.S. Navy incapable of carrying out a strike against Syria. “When I looked at those battleships getting ready for battle in Syria, I couldn’t help but think about all the stories I’ve read about how women now are in the ranks of the Navy, getting pregnant at exponential numbers,” she said on air. “When I think about the folding in and the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and the homosexual takeover of so much of our military, I’m not sure how effective those naval ships will be.”
Thousands of truck drivers did not, as promised, block traffic on the Beltway, causing mayhem and, as a result, somehow end the government shutdown this fall. But, amid all the fuss leading up to the D.C. trucker rally that wasn’t, the public had the pleasure of getting to know Zeeda Andrews, the lovely conspiracy theorist co-organizing the protest. When Andrews took to Fox News and Glenn Beck’s The Blaze to promote the rally, she also revealed that she is of the belief that President Obama and Osama bin Laden are the same person, that the president is a secret Muslim—likely related to his secret identity as bin Laden—that journalist Michael Hastings was murdered by the CIA, that the Department of Homeland Security is stocking up on weapons to kill American citizens, and that the Boston bombings were a carried out by the government. According to her Facebook page, Andrews enjoys 9/11 conspiracy theory movies, including one based on the teachings of David Icke, a British conspiracy theorist known for his belief in a secret race of lizard people who run the world.