Blogger Mike Ditto confirms that a March 1994 article in We The People quoted former Love In Action participant Tom Ottosen recalling LIA director John Smid favoring suicide over acceptance of one’s same-sex attraction. (Yes, that’s a mouthful.)
Case settled? Not entirely.
As Ditto notes, the recollection is second-hand.
But beyond the potential inaccuracies introduced by one eyewitness’s fallible memory, there is the matter of a given first-hand source’s reputation for accuracy and context.
If we accept Tom Ottosen’s recollection at face value, despite the absence of a track record demonstrating Ottosen’s credibility, then shouldn’t we also accept, at face value, the recent reporting of a Washington Times reporter?
On May 9 The Washington Times quoted PFLAG
deputy executive director Ron Schittler saying, unbelievably, “Our beliefs are superior.” Antigay religious right activists including Exodus president Alan Chambers quickly capitalized on the quotation — not particularly caring whether it was accurate or whether it reflected the context of Schittler’s remarks. In an online message that has since aged off of PFLAG’s web sites, Schittler denied the gist of the Washington Times report. Exodus and its antigay allies declined to pass along Schittler’s denial to their audience.
I spoke today with Schittler via telephone; he again denied the essence of the report and does not recall saying “our beliefs are superior” or words to that effect. He felt that the Washington Times reporter had written his own political spin on Schittler’s message, put the spin in quotes and attributed it to Schittler. I don’t know the Washington Times reporter; I do know the Times’ lousy reputation for accuracy in reporting; and I have no reason to disbelieve Schittler.
My point is this: John Smid also denies an embarrassing quotation.
Like Schittler’s alleged remark, Smid’s remark needs to be assessed within the context of the speaker’s ideology: Does it fit?
And should activists be eager to grab whatever nasty soundbite they can, or should they look at the context of an individual or organization’s overall track record?