November 18, 2011 at 2:53 pm EDT | by Kevin Naff
HuffPo’s shameful, reckless take on PSU tragedy

Huffington Post’s commentary on the Penn State tragedy written by Cindy Abel plays into all the false and damaging stereotypes about gay people that I’d expect to hear from Pat Buchanan and other right-wing homophobes.

I have no idea who Abel is or what qualifies her to weigh in on these topics, but by labeling Jerry Sandusky as “gay,” she engages in reckless, dangerous speculation that should have no place in the Huffington Post, a mainstream site with a wide audience.

Abel refers to homosexuality as shameful and suggests that somehow it’s worse for a male pedophile to target boys rather than girls. Further, Abel reinforces the false notion that gay men can’t be “macho” (tell that to the gay men now openly serving our country in Iraq and Afghanistan).

Abel writes, “in the eyes of a homophobic culture, a gay pedophile is much worse than a straight one.” Really? I thought all pedophilia was equally disgusting and evil.

She continues, “Fear of the gay factor, in a very twisted way, probably protected Jerry Sandusky.”

More likely, university officials feared the shame of pedophilia, not homosexuality, staining Penn State’s reputation. Abel neglects to mention that Sandusky, by all accounts, is heterosexual. He was married with children. Surveying the faces of the Penn State scandal — Sandusky, Joe Paterno, Graham Spanier, coach Mike McQueary, athletic director Tim Curley, vice president Gary Schultz — all are straight men. This scandal isn’t about gay men; it’s about greed and a culture that prized money over doing the right thing.


Abel — and the rest of the misinformed folks at Huffington Post — should do their homework and exercise some informed judgment before publishing their work.

Abel cites “pedophilia,” but that term refers to an “adult psychological disorder characterized by a preference for prepubescent children as sexual partners,” according to medical experts. A preference for children has nothing to do with sexual orientation.

“Many child molesters don’t really have an adult sexual orientation. They have never developed the capacity for mature sexual relationships with other adults, either men or women. Instead, their sexual attractions focus on children – boys, girls, or children of both sexes,” according to experts at University of California-Davis.

Despite Abel’s claims and her references to the Rene Portland scandal, Penn State has made tremendous strides in improving the campus climate for LGBT students. I’m an alumnus and serve on the campus LGBTA Student Resource Center’s board. Campus Pride awarded Penn State its highest ranking for LGBT-friendliness just this year. Only about 7 percent of the nation’s colleges and universities operate LGBT centers on campus and I’m proud that Penn State has emerged as a national leader in this area.

When I asked for Abel’s credentials, the Gay Voices editor told me that “she’s a member of the LGBT community.” Wow, they’re setting a high bar over at HuffPo. Further, the editor there refused to publish my response to Abel’s screed. So, I’m publishing it here instead. Huffington Post bills itself as an “internet newspaper,” yet apparently allows anyone with a keyboard a platform to spout inaccurate, false information. It’s the antithesis of journalism.

Sandusky’s alleged crimes are sickening and the resulting scandal has broken the hearts of Penn Staters everywhere. Let’s not make a bad situation worse by reporting false and reckless speculation and reinforcing long discredited stereotypes. Abel and the Huffington Post should apologize and retract this inaccurate and sloppy piece of error-ridden rumor mongering.


Kevin Naff is the editor and a co-owner of the Washington Blade, the nation’s oldest and most acclaimed LGBT news publication, founded in 1969.

  • the jist of your article appears not to have any association to the victims. “Sandusky’s alleged crimes are sickening and the resulting scandal has broken the hearts of Penn Staters everywhere” Its so much about the “Penn staters”..and if “gay” administrators were at fault enabling abuse to kids – so be it. The adminstration appears to condon the “gay” social bodies, so be it, But we all don’t have to!!

  • While I appreciate your anger, I think it’s misdirected and reactionary. I read the piece by Cindy and think you may have missed the point. She’s on your side, and she’s just as frustrated as you are. She’s making the point that because Sandusky’s case involved alleged man-on-boy sexual abuse (which, to the layman, would likely be perceived as gay behavior) senior staff in the macho football dept may have felt an even greater need to cover it up. She is in no way suggesting that being gay is akin to being a pedophile, or vice versa. Read it again.

  • Mr. Naff,

    It appears you have missed the point of Abel’s op-ed piece. The author wrote the following regarding her intent of her piece “Jerry Sandusky Cover-Up: How the ‘Gay Factor’ May Have Played a Role,” in the comment section of her piece, “…But please, read *carefully­* – the title intentiona­lly has ‘Gay Factor’ in quotes and refers to the possibilit­y that Paterno & Co may have *perceived­* Sandusky to be gay. I totally agree that being gay has nothing to do with pedophilia­: the point of the blog is that the false belief that the two are connected is what caused action to be even slower than it may have been had that perception not existed. ”

    I also think it is important to note that this is an opinion piece. It was never intended as journalism. Abel stated her claim and supported it. It is your right (obligation?) as a reader to consider her argument and form your own opinions. From what you have written here, it appears you disagree.

    Personally, I disagree with one of your statements. The editors at Huffington Post do their best to ensure their op-ed contributors have done their homework. I also contribute to Huffington Post and know, from experience, that any facts/statistics used in opinion pieces need to be supported. I write about LGBT Homicide/Crime and have been asked on several occasions to provide sources for my writing.

    I sincerely thank you for your commitment and passion for the LGBT community, but felt your critique of Abel and the Huffington Post were inaccurate.

    Phillip M. Miner

  • Sorry, WashBlade and Mr. Naff, but your hatchet job on Ms. Abel’s piece is way off target. Contrary to your misleading claims, nowhere does she personally describe homosexuality as “shameful” – she cites that as an common attitude where sanctioned anti-LGBT discrimination and prejudice were long the norm. She does not herself perpetuate any anti-LGBT stereotypes; she merely notes that such stereotypes have long existed at Penn State — and uses that fact to (I think) reasonably opine that homophobia impacted responses at the school. She does not herself call Sandusky gay; she says that is what he would have been perceived as in Penn State’s homophobic, apparently ignorant environment. I generally expect well-reasoned opinion pieces from the Blade’s writers. I hope that this is not a sign of the quality of work that is to come from this writer and teh Blade in general.

  • Kevin, your point is on target. Abel’s piece did nothing but fuel the misconception that there is a tie between homosexuality and pedophilia. She fed the Fox News hysteria. The fact that she had to explain her motivation, demonstrates that it was poorly conceived and written.

    As for her credentials, she tried for a period of time to make a living as a PR Consultant and Strategist in Atlanta. She was the go to person for gay rights groups like Georgia Equality and the Victory Fund but with little success to show for it. Fortunately for her, she had some powerful city and LGBT patrons that propped her up. Cathy Woolard, the former Atlanta City Council President and HRC Staffer, a name you would likely recognize, was an “Abel” promoter. You having no idea who she is, when she was for years the darling of your former sister publication, Southern Voice, and is the current go to person for the newly reincarnated “Georgia Voice,” speaks volumes about her credibility to opine on the topic.

  • Fear of being labeled “gay” may have prevented more boys from coming forward.

    But otherwise, this article is worse than the one it responds to. I don’t know if Sandusky was abusive or not – at least the most notorious “victim” has claimed that nothing happened, and we know that scandals like this bring out false allegations in hope of a pay-off.

    But that said, abuse is different from loving relationships, regardless of age – and the claim that pedophilia is not a sexual orientation is patently false, and the hatred directed toward people because of who they are attracted to is shameful.

    If anyone really wants to stop the abuse of children, then stop the police from dragging runaways back to their abusive homes; let young people find legitimate work; allow children to declare their independence at age 16 as in most of Europe, or perhaps even lower; allow children of any age to choose their own guardian if their own parents are abusive; let children make more decisions for themselves; eliminate the laws that relegate children to second-class status; and grant children the same legal protections that adults enjoy.

  • Kevin, you mistakenly wrote “…Abel neglects to mention that Sandusky, by all accounts, is heterosexual. He was married with children…” I know tons of men on the down low who are married with children for societal reasons, but they’re gay and readily acknowledge it. I suspect Jerry is in this category, and that he’s gay. As tragic as the PSU situation is, don’t attempt to minimize/overlook the possibility that Abel is correct in alleging Jerry’s gay.

    And, by the way, why are you reading the HuffPo? Don’t you now it’s a left-wing, liberal, loony rag that’s worthless??

  • Kevin appears to have misread Cindy Abel’s piece. Then he was off to the races. That being said, Abel’s update with its clarification would have been helpful to include in the first place, given the sensitivity of the subject and the popular misunderstanding of these issues. Daniel Mendelsohn has a better-written piece on the subject in the NYT.

  • Dr Brian Neil Talarico North Bay Has been convicted of child molestation, an
    possession of child pornography on his computer. Sexually molesting a young boy.
    He had prior convictions for child molestation in 1990 and 2001. After his
    parole in 2006. Dr. Talarico Brian. Works for north east mental health centre,
    despite his background, and numerous complaints against him of abuse, fraud,
    negligence, and imprisonment. Address: North East Mental Health Centre
    North Bay Campus Highway 11 North North Bay Ontario P1B 8L1, and now works for Act 2, North Bay.

  • It is sad to see how the once-respected Washington Blade has deteriorated into a tabloid under the so-called leadership of Kevin Naff. Rather than being a credible source of news and information for the LGBT community, the publication has become nothing more than a forum for Naff and his cohorts to push their own political agenda. I used to look forward to picking up a paper copy of the Blade every Friday back in the day, but I am increasingly disappointed with the quality of work that the owners try to pass off as journalism.

  • You misunderstand Ms. Abel. She was stating that the homophobic beliefe that pedophiles are gay is what prevented people from taking the action they should have. She was not stating in any way that Sandusky is gay. I believe she is correct. I have read many articles that assert that homophobic people think that all male pedophiles who prey on boys are gay. They associate pedophilia with being gay. My own sister, who is completely supportive of me (a lesbian), thought that pedophiles were gay. It is simply lack of education. Ms. Abel was simply stating this.

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