Former U.S. Senate candidate Craig James goes to work for hate group

Craig.James

Former U.S. Senate candidate Craig James

Former SMU football player and candidate for U.S. Senate Craig James has taken a job with Family Research Council, listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. He will become assistant to the hate group’s President Tony Perkins.

In his Senate campaign, James was best known for his attacks on fellow candidate former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert, who rode on a float with the Dallas City Council in the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade. Leppert participated in Pride until he decided to run for the Senate seat.

Leppert came in third in his Senate bid, ahead of James, who came in fourth. Sen. Ted Cruz won the election.

At a campaign debate at Dallas Country Club attended by Dallas Voice, James made this homophobic comment:

“You have to make that choice, absolutely. … Same-sex marriage, if someone chooses to do that, then that’s them, and God’s going to judge each one of us in this room for our actions, but in that case right there, they’re going to have to answer to the Lord for their actions. We should not give benefits to those civil unions. It should not occur. We have to stay strong on this. This is important, man. I tell you what, we have a fiscal issue in this county, but we also have a moral issue in this country, and as Christians we better stand up.”

After the campaign, Fox Sports hired James, but fired him a week later for comments made during the campaign.

“We just asked ourselves how Craig’s statements would play in our human resources department. He couldn’t say those things here,” Fox told Dallas Morning News at the time.

James is currently suing Fox for religious discrimination based on preserving his right to discriminate.

—  David Taffet

Right-wing groups come to the defense of Craig James

Craig.James

Craig James

We’ve suddenly been getting a flood of emails from right-wing groups asking us to rally around Craig James after his firing from Fox Sports. Maybe Hillary and Benghazi or Obama’s birth certificate aren’t raising the big bucks anymore.

Liberty Institute is representing James after he was fired from his job as a sportscaster by those left-wing liberals at Fox. So Texas Values is asking for a donation for what Liberty Institute is doing.

And of course, Liberty Institute wants your money, too.

Family Research Council wants your money as well, but that’s to defray the cost of your going to its website to send Fox an email while becoming part of their mail list.

All claim James’ firing was religious persecution. Ah, yes, that religious value of the right to discriminate.

James ran for U.S. Senate from Texas and, although he did his share of gay-bashing, he came in fourth. Not that the gay-bashing necessarily hurt his campaign. Ted Cruz did more than his share and he won.

After the election, James was hired by Fox Sports but was fired a week later, apparently because of statements he made during his senate campaign.

“We just asked ourselves how Craig’s statements would play in our human resources department. He couldn’t say those things here,” the Dallas Morning News reported they were told and Texas Values repeats in their email.

Really? Couldn’t say those things at Fox? Does Fox Human Resources ever tune in to Fox?

—  David Taffet

Gay-bashing GOP candidates in TX may face bleak future in private sector

James.Craig

Anti-gay bigotry may still be an effective wedge in Republican primaries in Texas, but apparently it doesn’t always serve losing candidates well when they try to go back into the private sector.

During his campaign for U.S. Senate in Texas last year, former SMU and NFL star running back Craig James spewed rabidly anti-gay rhetoric.

During a debate I attended at the Dallas Country Club, for example, James came out against civil unions. He also said being gay is a choice and said gay people will have to “answer to the lord for their actions.”

“I think it’s a choice, I do,” James said. “You have to make that choice, absolutely.… Same-sex marriage, if someone chooses to do that, then that’s them, and God’s going to judge each one of us in this room for our actions, but in that case right there, they’re going to have to answer to the lord for their actions. We should not give benefits to those civil unions. It should not occur. We have to stay strong on this. This is important, man. I tell you what, we have a fiscal issue in this county, but we also have a moral issue in this country, and as Christians we better stand up.”

—  John Wright

Craig James: I’m not a Nazi

Craig James

A while back Resource Center Dallas’ Rafael McDonnell pointed out that Republican U.S. Senate candidate Craig James had hired an openly gay campaign consultant, the legendary Arthur Finkelstein.

Finkelstein, who married his partner in Massachusetts in 2005, has worked for many virulently anti-gay politicians over the years, including his instrumental role in the rise of former Sen. Jesse Helms of North Carolina.

But James argues that his decision to hire Finkelstein, who’s also Jewish, somehow proves that he’s “tolerant” of both Jews and homosexuals, according to the Dallas Morning News.

From The DMN’s profile of James that ran Sunday (subscription only):

James says his Christian faith informs his fiscal conservatism. “God talks about not being irresponsible with money. He talks about debt not being a good thing. He talks about people going to work and being responsible.”

He believes homosexuality is a choice and opposes gay marriage and civil unions but said that doesn’t mean he’s intolerant. As evidence, he specifically singled out two top campaign advisers who he said are Jewish, one of them openly gay.

“My actions are solid proof that I’m not judgmental,” he said.

—  John Wright

WATCH: Craig James suggests his opposition to civil unions is rooted in the Ten Commandments

James.Craig

Craig James

U.S. Senate hopeful Craig James suggested during a televised debate Friday night that his opposition to legal benefits for same-sex couples, including civil unions, is rooted in the Ten Commandments.

During a debate sponsored by the Belo Corp. in Dallas, moderator Sarah Forgany of KENS-TV Channel 5 in San Antonio asked James how much his personal faith would affect his ability to represent all Texans.

A clip was then played from a recent interview James did with the Texas Tribune, in which James doubled down on his previous statements that gay people will have to “answer to the lord” for their actions, that being gay is a choice, and that same-sex couples shouldn’t be entitled to any legal benefits, including civil unions. James previously made those statements during a forum at the Dallas Country Club in February, as part of a group attack against candidate Tom Leppert for appearing at gay Pride while mayor of Dallas.

This time, Forgany pointed to recent polls showing that 61 percent of Texans support civil unions for same-sex couples. “In this case, would your personal religious faith be in the way of supporting that issue?” Forgany said. Here’s James’ response:

James: “You know, I have said also, as I start every speech that I’ve done now for four months, my goal in life is that when I meet my maker, he says, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant, period.’ It’s not to become a United States senator. So whenever I make the decisions and the things that I just talked about there [in the clip], all of us are free to make decisions in this country, and all of us will be accountable to God for those, including me. I do support the marriage between a man and a woman, and my faith is my core, and anyone who doesn’t support their core and what they believe … This country was founded on the principles of Christianity, and I’m never gonna back away from that.”

Forgany: “So you’re saying that there are times when your personal religious faith will get in the way of that?”

James: “Never gets in the way. The moral fiber of this country is in trouble, and I will stand and honor the Ten Commandments, always will, and I’ll never be apologetic for that. I will always look and seek what the light put at my feet from the lord has provided for me, absolutely. In regard to being judgmental or discriminating, absolutely not. Everyone’s free to make their own decisions, and at the end of the day we all will be accountable to our lord and maker.”

None of the other candidates at the debate — Leppert, Ted Cruz and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst — was asked to weigh in. However, all four major candidates in the Republican primary have indicated in the past that they oppose both same-sex marriage and civil unions. The exchange with James begins at about the 11:45 mark in the video below:

—  John Wright

Leppert least anti-gay of GOP Senate hopefuls?

Tom Leppert at gay Pride in 2007

Last month we reported that GOP Senate hopeful Craig James, the former SMU football star, stated during an Eagle Forum debate at the Dallas Country Club that he believes being gay is a choice.

“I think it’s a choice, I do,” James said. “You have to make that choice, absolutely.” (Watch video of James’ comments here.)

Peggy Fikac at the San Antonio Express-News reports that James — who happens to be a member of Prestonwood Baptist Church, otherwise known as “Six Flags Over Jesus” — later repeated his claim that being gay is a choice during a candidate forum in Austin.

Fikac decided to follow up with James and other Texas Senate candidates to get more detail about their views on the issue.

She reports that former solicitor general Ted Cruz believes that “engaging in homosexual conduct is a choice,” while Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst is “persuaded that the gay lifestyle is a choice.”

Former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert, who’s been under attack by the other GOP candidates for appearing at gay Pride as mayor, told Fikac: “I think it’s likely a combination of factors and these may differ by individual, but I’m not going to hold myself up as an expert.”

It’s pretty sad to think that Leppert, a member of the notoriously anti-gay First Baptist Church of Dallas who threw the community under the bus when he stepped down as mayor to run for Senate, is arguably emerging as the most progressive on LGBT issues among the major candidates in the GOP field. Of course, given that Leppert’s website states he opposes all forms of relationship recognition for same-sex couples, including civil unions, this isn’t saying very much at all.

—  John Wright

Gay GOP leader calls attacks on Leppert over gay Pride ‘repugnant’

Tom Leppert at gay Pride in 2007

Senate rivals rip former mayor for appearing in Dallas parade

JOHN WRIGHT  |  Senior Editor

One local gay Republican leader called attacks against GOP Senate hopeful Tom Leppert for appearing at gay Pride while Dallas mayor “reprehensible” and “repugnant.”

And another said the attacks have actually prompted him to support Leppert over tea party favorite Ted Cruz — despite the former mayor’s perceived betrayal of the LGBT community when he stepped down to run for Senate last year.

Cruz, the former Texas solicitor general, along with  ex-pro football player Craig James and longshot candidate Lela Pittenger, ripped into Leppert for twice appearing at gay Pride during a debate luncheon hosted by the right-wing Eagle Forum at the Dallas Country Club on Wednesday, Feb. 22.

The exchange featured some virulently anti-gay language, with James saying he believes homosexuality is a choice that goes against the Bible and Pittenger comparing the Pride parade to a drunken orgy.

“There was much that was said at the senatorial debate about gays and lesbians that was reprehensible and, at times, repugnant,” Thomas Purdy, president of Log Cabin Republicans of Dallas, said in a statement Thursday. “In an instance such as this, it would be easy to throw in the towel, but it really is a testament as to why Log Cabin Republicans must exist: to ensure the Party of Abraham Lincoln remains so and does not become the Party of Anita Bryant.”

Former Log Cabin President Rob Schlein, who now heads the gay GOP group Metroplex Republicans of Dallas, said Cruz’s attacks against Leppert for appearing at Pride — which began last month at a forum in Fort Worth —  have prompted him to support the former mayor.

“In terms of a personal favorite, even though I was very disappointed with his tweet six months ago, I would probably look beyond that and choose Tom  Leppert,” Schlein said. “I eliminated Ted Cruz when he came out and attacked Leppert. That was enough to dissuade me from supporting his campaign.  … All else being equal, then I will support the candidate that doesn’t attack the gay community. ”

Leppert appeared at gay Pride in 2007 and 2009 as Dallas mayor. He also employed an openly gay chief of staff — Chris Heinbaugh — and repeatedly expressed support for the community.

But when Leppert stepped down to run for Senate, he sent out an anti-gay message on Twitter, and came out against both same-sex marriage and civil unions on his campaign website.

But Leppert’s position on those issues appears similar to the other candidates in the GOP race.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, whom polls show is the frontrunner, didn’t attend Wednesday’s debate. But Dewhurst has been touting his support for Texas’ 2005 marriage amendment, which enshrined a ban on both same-sex marriage and civil unions in the state’s Constitution.

Earlier this month, Dewhurst told a Houston radio station that marriage has been between a man and a woman “from the origins of the Bible, and this is a Christian nation, this is a Christian state, and that’s what we were reflecting.”

Cruz, meanwhile, has played up his role several years ago, when he worked for Attorney General Greg Abbott, in blocking a gay couple from obtaining a dissolution of their Vermont civil union in a Beaumont court.

And James said during Wednesday’s debate that same-sex couples shouldn’t receive any federal benefits from civil unions.

The fireworks began when debate moderator John C. Goodman, president and CEO of the National Center for Policy Analysis, noted that Cruz had attacked Leppert for appearing at gay Pride last month.

Goodman then asked Cruz, “Do you have something against gay people?”

“I have something against gay marriage,” Cruz responded. “I don’t support gay marriage. I think there is an onslaught right now in this country to tear down traditional marriage, and I don’t think it’s right.”

Goodman asked Cruz whether he was suggesting that Leppert supports same-sex marriage.

“When the mayor of a city chooses twice to march in a parade celebrating gay pride, that’s a statement, and it’s not a statement I agree with,” Cruz said.

Leppert then responded by referring to himself in the third person: “The mayor is against gay marriage. He believes that marriage should be defined as one man and one woman.

“My job as mayor was to represent everybody in this city,” Leppert said. “I visited with groups that didn’t agree with what I said. I talked to groups that I didn’t agree with what they said, but it was my obligation to represent everybody. I engaged everybody, and I will continue to do that.”

When Cruz attacked Leppert for appearing at gay Pride last month, Leppert responded by comparing himself to Jesus. This time, although he took a similar approach, he stopped short of invoking the lord’s name.

“I will tell you my role as a Christian is to reach out and touch everybody,” Leppert said. “I wish I could have made stands only when I was in a courtroom, but I didn’t. I was criticized time and time again for showing my faith and being open with it, and standing pro-life. In fact, The Dallas Morning News criticized me for taking a position of pro-life. It was the right thing to do, I will continue to do it. But I did it when I put my neck on the line as a leader standing up for what exactly was right. I was pro-life unabashedly, and I said it.

“I am against gay marriage,” Leppert said. “I believe marriage should be defined as one man and one woman. It is very clear. But I had a responsibility to represent everybody, and everybody understood exactly where my faith was, and if there’s any question you can see pastors like Robert Jeffress and David Dykes and those folks, who don’t understand me from the business standpoint, but they sure understand who I am, and they have stood unabashedly and endorsed me for this office.”

Goodman then noted that gay couples are denied more than 1,000 rights because the federal government doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage. Goodman asked the candidates whether, in lieu of legalizing same-sex marriage, the federal government should merely grant gay couples those benefits by recognizing civil unions or other partnerships.

That’s when James, the former SMU football star, chimed in.

“I think right now this country, our moral fiber is sliding down a slope that is gonna be hard to stop, if we don’t stand up with leaders who don’t go ride in gay parades,” James said. “I can assure you I will never ride in a gay parade. And I hear what you’re saying, Tom, but leaders, our kids out there and people need to see examples. Now, I’m a guy that believes in a man and a woman being the greatest governance occurring in a home at night between a husband and a wife, Adam and Eve and what the Bible says. And the backbone, and I know you’re a Christian, I’m not doubting that, Tom, but man you’ve got to stand up, if you are chosen as our senator, and be a leader, and not do things like that. We need examples for our kids.”

Goodman then asked James and the other candidates whether they think being gay is a choice.

“I think it’s a choice, I do,” James responded. “You have to make that choice, absolutely.… Same-sex marriage, if someone chooses to do that, then that’s them, and God’s going to judge each one of us in this room for our actions, but in that case right there, they’re going to have to answer to the lord for their actions. We should not give benefits to those civil unions. It should not occur. We have to stay strong on this. This is important, man. I tell you what, we have a fiscal issue in this county, but we also have a moral issue in this country, and as Christians we better stand up.”

Pittenger, a longshot candidate, was next to weigh in.

“I think what you see on the stage pretty much explains why we have so many denominations in the church,” Pittenger said. “Everyone kind of has a different perspective on what they think Christ would have done and how he would have acted. Now, I respect what Tom was saying, that he felt like he was to engage the entire community. I personally disagree with his approach, just because if there was a Republican club that was openly homosexual, and they wanted to talk issues, any number of issues, I’m happy to go visit with them about the issues. But I’m not going to walk down the street with them celebrating what I believe to be a sin. But I respect Tom’s approach. Christ reached people in many different ways. The Pharisees hated him because he ate dinner with sinners. And Jesus said, ‘The doctor doesn’t come for the well, he comes for the sick.’ And we just have to, each one of us has to stand before God, and make sure our heart is right with God about how we engage those who are living in sinful ways. Now while he ate dinner with them, I don’t believe he marched along with them as they were going down to have an orgy or have any sort of drunken revelries. But they came in his space, and he engaged with them there. This is about different perspectives on how we engage people we believe are lost, and you just have to decide which one’s better.”

Finally, Leppert was given an opportunity to respond to James and Pittenger.

“I’ve addressed the issue,” Leppert said, and the debate moved on to the topic of illegal immigration.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 24, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

WATCH: Tom Leppert’s GOP Senate rivals again attack him for appearing at gay Pride in Dallas

Former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert walks alongside the city float at gay Pride in 2009.

Republican Senate hopeful Tom Leppert again came under fire today for his decision to appear in two gay Pride parades while mayor of Dallas.

Leppert was attacked by fellow candidates Ted Cruz, Craig James and Lela Pittenger during a debate luncheon hosted by the right-wing Eagle Forum at the Dallas Country Club.

The exchange featured some strong anti-gay language, with James saying he believes homosexuality is a choice and Pittenger comparing the Pride parade to an orgy. It began when the debate moderator, John C. Goodman, president and CEO of the National Center for Policy Analysis, noted that Cruz had attacked Leppert for appearing at gay Pride during a recent candidate forum in Fort Worth.

Goodman then asked Cruz, “Do you have something against gay people?”

“I have something against gay marriage,” Cruz responded. “I don’t support gay marriage. I think there is an onslaught right now in this country to tear down traditional marriage, and I don’t think it’s right.”

—  John Wright