Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins aptly handled an ugly situation

Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins aptly handled an ugly situation
© Greg Nash

Since allegations about his double life surfaced late last week, Ohio representative and former rising GOP star, Wes Goodman, has been silent. Those in the media, however, have not. 

Their fire has been rightly aimed at Goodman for his alleged hypocrisy and deceit — Goodman was a staunchly pro-values conservative who repeatedly voted against LGBTQ issues while reportedly leveraging his powerful position to pursue homosexual activities in secret, brazenly violating his marriage vows and repeatedly lying to his supporters.

However, much criticism has also been directed at one of Goodman’s former mentors, Family Research Council Chairman Tony Perkins.

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Specifically, issues have been raised regarding how Perkins handled an incident in 2015, when Goodman allegedly attempted to fondle an 18-year old young man with whom he was sharing a room. This occurred at an annual meeting of the Council for National Policy (CNP), which Perkins oversaw.

 

Upon learning of this incident, Perkins — who was not Goodman’s boss — withdrew his support of Goodman’s nascent candidacy, severed ties with him, removed him as a member of CNP and urged him to reconsider his run for higher office.

For this, Perkins has been accused of “sweeping sexual assault under the rug” and perpetuating a cover up for which Perkins “owes” some sort of explanation.

I do not personally know Tony Perkins. We have met in a professional capacity only recently, and I do not purport to know what was on his mind, then or now.

But based on what’s been reported, the accusation that Perkins perpetuated a cover up and is thus responsible for Goodman’s current situation is absurd on its face, and wrong in its facts. 

This is particularly true because we now know what actual cover ups look like.

Thousands of people in Hollywood chose to be willingly complicit for decades in Harvey Weinstein’s abusive activities. Indeed, the board of his own company intentionally looked the other way while playing whack-a-mole with the press to keep the stories from becoming public.

Rep. John ConyersJohn James ConyersThe faith community can help pass a reparations bill California comes to terms with the costs and consequences of slavery Democrats debate timing and wisdom of reparations vote MORE (D-Mich.) paid $27,000 in taxpayer money to a former staffer in order to keep her quiet about being terminated for refusing his advances.

Charlie Rose’s own female producer facilitated a pipeline of women to Rose, and deliberately ignored those who tried to speak out.

These are cover ups. The actions Tony Perkins took to distance himself and his organization from Wes Goodman, however, are not. 

There was no conspiracy to hide the allegations about Goodman. In fact, Perkins addressed the situation in what appears to be an ongoing way with the young man, his parents, and with Goodman himself. 

Perkins went on to withdraw his support for Goodman, suspend his membership in CNP, and counseled him against pursuing public office, going so far as to call Goodman’s choice to do so a disappointment. In a letter to Goodman, Perkins also made it clear that he was going to tell the CNP board about the allegations against Goodman, and Perkins’ decision to distance himself from Goodman’s candidacy.

Certainly, Perkins had multiple ways of addressing this. He could have called the police over the allegations against Goodman. We don’t know all the facts, but what we do know is that this situation involved an 18-year-old adult and his parents, any of whom could have at any point chosen to contact law enforcement themselves.

But that said, at this moment it appears that Goodman’s future encounters were with consenting adults. This makes Matt Lewis’s speculation that Perkins “might have made it possible for Goodman to potentially abuse further victims” just that — unfounded speculation, at best.

We are now in a cultural moment where the country is reckoning with years of unspoken sexual harassment, and learning to speak openly about sexual abuse. This is a welcome and positive development. But as we go forward, we must reject the horde mentality which reflexively paints everyone involved in a harassment incident with a similar color.

As the facts are presented now, Perkins handled the 2015 situation involving Wes Goodman with firmness and discretion. When so many were determined to look the other way, Perkins did his best to look directly forward.

Rachel Bovard (@RachelBovard) is the senior director of policy for The Conservative Partnership, a nonprofit group headed by former South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint aimed at promoting limited government.