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The scandal over Sen. Larry Craig’s arrest has ruled the airwaves, the blogs and the papers this week. Covert solicitation of sexual favors... heated denial... a Republican up for reelection... what more could you want?
Catchy though the Craig setup is, here’s a quick roundup of reasons why the coverage is just a wee bit problematic:
- Distraction from Gonzales. Remember Gonzales’ resignation? That was in the news for only a few hours before the Craig story broke. The famed arrest took place months ago. Why did The Record wait until now to break the story? Some have suggested that the media diversion was a parting gift from Karl Rove.
- Focus on the sex, not the hypocrisy. Craig has been a strong supporter of anti-gay policies. Why doesn’t his political record make it into the news coverage?
- Undercover policing. Is this a useful and legitimate use of taxpayers’ money?
- Entrapment. Apparently Craig stared through the gap in the stall door for several long minutes before the interaction proceeded. What’s been conspicuously absent from all reports is an account of what the officer was doing during that time. Undercover officers have been known to expose themselves or masturbate in order to egg their would-be perpetrators on.
- Consent. Craig used established cruising codes — foot tapping, brushing a hand under the stall door — and the officer responded in kind. As Dr. Marty Klein remarked, “The proper response to a single, non-coercive invitation to do something — anything — is ‘no thank you,’ not ‘you’re busted.’” Craig wasn’t trying to rape the undercover officer; he was trying to see whether he was interested.
- Implicit criminalization of homosexuality. There’s a decades-long history of undercover police trying to entrap men seeking sex with other men. For much of that history, same-sex encounters were actually illegal. Now they’re not. The only other pickups undercover cops entrap for are sex work-related. Craig wasn’t charged with public sex. When’s the last time undercover officers arrested straight men who meet women in bars? Which leads us to...
- Gay bashers ahoy. “He came on to me” is a tried and true line for male gay bashers — try that line as a lesbian of color being hit on by a man, though, and you might get 11 years of jail time — and this media ruckus is fueling the fire. Tucker Carlson boasted earlier this week about assaulting someone who came on to him in a public bathroom when he was in high school:
ABRAMS: Tucker, what did you do, by the way? What did you do when he did that? We got to know.
CARLSON: I went back with someone I knew and grabbed the guy by the — you know, and grabbed him, and — and —
ABRAMS: And did what?
CARLSON: Hit him against the stall with his head, actually!
CARLSON: And then the cops came and arrested him. But let me say that I'm the least anti-gay right-winger you'll ever meet —
Here’s my modest proposal. The justice system insists on using undercover officers? Put some of them on the subway or in the park late at night.
Catch rapists, not folks seeking casual consensual sex.