I’m sure by now you’ve heard rumors Gov. Romney is not as conservative as he claims. One allegation bothersome to me was the idea that Gov. Romney somehow prevented the Boy Scouts from participating in the Olympics in Salt Lake to make a political statement. Constitutional lawyer Jay Sekulow sent me an e-mail which addresses this issue–which is just one of the many misrepresentations a group called MassResistance is circulating amongst conservatives:
Brian Camenker’s claim in “The Mitt Romney Deception” that “Romney Barred Boy Scouts from public participation in the 2002 Olympics” is entirely false. There are several articles that directly contradict Camenker’s conclusion. NewsMax.com, Camenker’s source, did not even claim that Romney made the decision to bar the Scouts. In fact, Romney, at least at that time, sat on the Boy Scout’s executive board. The Boy Scouts said that the NewsMax article was false. Even NewsMax admitted that the Olympic Committee said that there was an age restriction of 18 years old and up to be a volunteer. There are also inconsistencies in the two NewsMax articles, only one of which is cited by Camenker. There is also some negative treatment of the accuracy of NewsMax.com, but mostly by liberal critics. Since no major media source ran anything about this story, and the local media directly contradicted it, it appears that Camenker’s claim is false.
I. Camenker’s claim that “Romney Barred Boy Scouts from public participation in the 2002 Olympics” and his source, NewsMax.com.
Camenker does not accurately describe his own source, NewsMax.com. The NewsMax article did claim that the 2002 Salt Lake Olympic Committee refused to let the Boy Scouts participate as a group. However, the NewsMax article states that the spokesperson for the Olympic Committee stated in an interview that the Boy Scouts were not allowed to participate as a group because of an age limit. The spokesperson, Caroline Shaw, went on to say:
I don’t think we’re in a position to give every organization out there official status. There’s the Girl Guides and the Girl Scouts; I don’t know, there must be at least a million youth groups out there . . . . They’re a fabulous organization, but there are a lot of great organizations out there.
She also said that Scout Leaders could apply as volunteers and the younger members “can certainly go on line and apply. That’s the one area where we are looking for younger adults and children to participate, and they can submit requests through going online to be cast members and so forth.” She even said that “I’m sure we have volunteers, a large percentage of them have been former Boy Scouts, including our president and CEO” who was Mitt Romney.
NewsMax made the bold statement that “the Boy Scouts need not apply” to be Olympic volunteers, but the article does not state why this determination was made. While Camenker blames the decision on Romney, NewsMax never states that this was Romney’s decision. It is accurate that Mitt Romney would not respond personally to either the Boy Scouts or NewsMax at the time the article was written. According to NewsMax, Kay Godfrey, professional Scout executive for the Great Salt Lake Council of Boy Scouts, stated, “For us not to be involved is discouraging, considering the Atlanta games. The Scouting council there was extremely involved.” The article did imply that one reason that the Boy Scouts were not included was because of their stance on the homosexual issue, but the Olympic committee spokeswoman denies this. The article does not state if this is the only time the Boy Scouts have not been allowed to volunteer, but it does state that they were allowed to volunteer in the games in Atlanta. NewsMax, 12/18/2000 “2002 Salt Lake Committee Bans Boy Scouts From Olympics,” by David M. Bresnahan, http://www.newsmax.com/archives/articles/2000/12/15/214301.shtml
According to a follow-up article to the earlier NewsMax article:
Earl Armstrong, Director of Field Services for the [Salt Lake City Boy Scout] council, said “our scouts won’t be participating in any official capacity” though some did help erect temporary fencing. He first said that there was a rule prohibiting “political involvement.” When asked if that rule was an Olympic edict, Armstrong replied, “No, there is a Boy Scout rule against getting involved in ‘politics.’”
He went on to state that there was an 18 and over rule to volunteer for the Olympics. The article took a cynical stance that they did not quite believe the arguments. NewsMax, 02/07/2002 “Boy Scouts Not Welcome at Olympics,” by Dan Frisa, http://www.newsmax.com/archives/articles/ 2002/2/7/135258.shtml.
It is important to note that the next issue of NewMax Magazine has Rudy Giuliani on the front cover with the caption “Yes, Rudy Can Win!” in which there will be an article that the website claims “This special edition of NewsMax Magazine may become the playbook for the Giuliani presidential campaign.” See “NewsMax Magazine Get It!” NewsMax.com, available from http://www.newsmax.com/a/nov06/?PROMO_CODE=291F-1. NewsMax.com according to Wikipedia is a “news organization founded by journalist Christopher Ruddy and based in West Palm Beach, Florida. It runs the NewsMax.com website and publishes NewsMax Magazine. Ruddy, who serves as editor-in-chief, describes NewsMax.com as ‘the leading independent online news site with a conservative perspective.’” Wikipedia, s.v. “NewsMax.com,” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NewsMax.com. According to Hoovers.com:
NewsMax Media serves up the news with a conservative slant. The company publishes alternative news and opinion content through its monthly 300,000-subscriber magazine NewsMax and corresponding Web site. Columnists include Reed Irvine (founder of conservative watchdog group Accuracy In Media) and national broadcasting hosts and analysts Bill O’Reilly, Ed Koch, and Dick Morris.
premium.hoovers.com/subscribe/co/factsheet.xhtml?ID=105844&mode=print. Conservative websites tend to defend NewsMax while liberal cites bash it. The reliability of the site is uncertain.
II. Refutation of the NewsMax.com Article By Mitt Romney and the Boy Scouts.
According to local Salt Lake City newspapers, NewsMax’s article is dead wrong. According to Desecret News (Salt Lake City), David Bresnahan posted the story on both NewsMax.com and InvestigativeJournal.com, but Boy Scout Officials and Olympic officials “say the report is inaccurate and maintain they have good working relationship.” Mitt Romney responded to the NewsMax.com article by stating, “it happens to be 100 percent inaccurate.” Romney also said, “We’re very pleased to have Scouts help out.”
Kay Godfrey, the spokesperson who NewsMax quoted as saying he was displeased with the exclusion announced, “We’ve [The Boy Scouts] not been excluded. . . . The report is not accurate and not true.” Both Romney and the Boy Scouts acknowledged that there is an 18 year old restriction as well as a uniform policy which excludes all uniforms. “SLOC denies snubbing Scouts over gay stance,” 12/19/06 by Lynn Arave, Desecret News (Salt Lake City), p. B1.
The same story is told by the Salt Lake Tribune, where Godfrey, spokesperson for the local Boy Scouts is quoted as saying, “This is outrageous! . . . I’ve been on the phone all day because of this. It’s created quite a ruckus, but we’ve never been told we couldn’t participate.” Godfrey claims that he does not remember ever speaking with the NewsMax columnist regarding this issue. Bresnahan responded, “I’ve got him [Godfrey] on tape in telephone conversations with me. . . . The Scouts are either trying to cover their own backsides, or they are extremely forgetful people.” In response to the uniform issue, Romney said, “We have volunteers who work for us, and they all wear the Olympic volunteer uniform . . . so all volunteers will dress the same way.” “Scout’s Honor: SLOC Says It Didn’t Bar BSA From Olympics,” by Bob Mims, 12/19/2000, Salt Lake Tribune (Utah), p. A1. See also “Mitt, Rocky say Games are for all,” 10/28/06 by Diane Urbani, Desecret News (Salt Lake City), p. A14; “Helping Hands: Utah Boy Scouts Ready to Serve During Games,” by Lori Buttars, 11/17/2001, Salt Lake Tribune (Utah), p. A1.
Boy Scouts were, in fact, allowed to help out during the 2002 Olympic Winter Games and the Paralympics. Lori Buttars, Helping Hands: Utah Boy Scouts Ready to Serve During Games, Salt Lake Tribune (Utah), November 17, 2001. For example, in 2001, Boy Scouts helped to get a biathlon venue (Soldier Hollow) ready for Olympic use and, several months later, were allowed to use the facility while Olympic participants practiced nearby. Rodger L. Hardy, Scouts get a taste of the biathlon at Games site, Deseret News (Salt Lake City), February 18, 2001, Pg. B06. The New York Times, in an article regarding the 2002 Olympic games states, “Organizers have even solicited the help of 200 area Boy Scouts as volunteers doing ancillary tasks.” “Swifter, Higher, Stronger, Safer,” The New York Times, January 6, 2002 Sunday, Section 5; Column 1; Travel Desk; Pg. 13. No major newspaper or magazine actually carried a story regarding the “exclusion” of the Boy Scouts from the Olympic Games.
III. Romney’s Statements on Homosexuality and the Boy Scouts.
Aside from the 2002 Olympics, Romney has made public statements about homosexuality and Boy Scout policy. Romney was on the Boy Scouts of America’s 71 member National Executive Board from 1993 to 2002 and served in that capacity while working on the Salt Lake City Olympics. The Associated Press, Romney earned more than $500,000 in 2002, May 27, 2003.
According to the Boston Globe:
In a debate during [the 1994 campaign when he challenged US Senator Edward M. Kennedy], Romney was asked specifically whether he had done anything to change the Boy Scouts’ policy. He said then that he supported local councils’ right to make local decisions, but that he personally opposed the policy. “I feel that all people should be allowed to participate in the Boy Scouts, regardless of their sexual orientation,” he said.
“On Boards, Silence On Gay Concerns,” by Stephanie Ebbert and Benjamin Gedan, The Boston Globe, October 18, 2002, Friday, p. B1. In 1994, the Boston Globe reported that when Romney was asked about the Scout’s policy he said, “I support the right of the boy Scouts of America to decide what it wants to do on that issue. . . . I feel that all people should be allowed to participate in the Boy Scouts regardless of their sexual orientation.” “Kennedy, Romney continue trading charges over facts,” by Peter G. Gosselin, The Boston Globe, October 27, 1994, Thursday, p. 39. The Boy Scouts were not pleased with these statements given Romney’s position on the Boy Scouts’ board: “‘From where I’m sitting, that doesn’t appear to be a consistent statement,” said Richard Walker, the Boy Scouts’ national spokesman. ‘His second statement seems to be inconsistent with our policy and as a member of the executive board he is expected to support our policy.
Thank you, Mr. Sekulow. I’m sure there’s more to be said about MassResistance’s effort to discredit the Governor, but this gives a pretty good insight about their general credibility.