Photo by Keith MayAs the flap/firestorm/"Ah, no one gives a fuck" involving Newsday columnist Jimmy Breslin—arguably the nation's best-known daily journalist—and Anaheim's own Reverend Lou Sheldon—certainly our foremost clerical authority on degenerate sex—entered its second week, it became clear that Sheldon, head of the right-wing spew tank Traditional Values Coalition (TVC), is either lying or agrees with Breslin's assessment that he is completely nuts.
The controversy came about after an April 7 Breslin column critical of New York Cardinal Edward Egan. In it, Breslin recounted that Egan had sunk so low as to be standing shoulder to shoulder with the likes of Sheldon at the White House, the two of them watching as George W. Bush signed a partial-birth abortion bill.
Breslin told readers that this was the same Sheldon he'd met at the 1992 Republican National Convention in Houston, who, among other things, said, "Homosexuals are dangerous. They proselytize. They come to the door, and if your son answers and nobody is there to stop it, they grab the son and run off with him. They steal him. They take him away and turn him into a homosexual," to which Breslin claims to have answered, "You're a fruitcake."
Now, being called a "fruitcake" is certainly not the worst Sheldon has heard; many would consider being dubbed the nation's foremost clerical authority on degenerate sex far more damning. And Sheldon has not only been called worse, but also claims to be "marked for death by the homosexuals." But in this case, he maintained the conversation with Breslin never took place; a few days later, Newsday management said that Breslin had summarized Sheldon't words instead of capturing them precisely.
Still, he said the conversation never happened, calling it "phony" on the TVC website.
"In this column," Sheldon writes, "Breslin looks brilliant, and he is right—mouthing the lines he puts in my mouth, I do sound like a 'fruitcake.'"
That last bit was the true stunner to come out of this little scrap because anyone who has paid any attention to Lou Sheldon over the years—get a life—knows that, whether Breslin's quotes were precise, they were accurate: Sheldon has been saying (and fund-raising off) just such statements for years. In fact, just three days after the Breslin column, Sheldon wrote on the TVC website that the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) has "hundreds of Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) clubs on campuses and is using these clubs to recruit children and to silence all opposition to the homosexual agenda. . . . One goal of GLSEN is to push for same-sex marriage on junior high and high school campuses."
Is there an appreciable difference between the two statements? Tomato, tomatotally crazy.
Sheldon also denies telling Breslin this: "A homosexual is not a way of life. That's just an underdeveloped stage of heterosexuality." But anyone who witnessed the Feb. 22, 2000, debate between Sheldon and then-Democratic Chairman Jim Toledano on the merits of the Knight Initiative heard him say exactly that. "It [homosexuality] has to be refined, tamed and brought into commitment and brought into love," Sheldon said (as reported by the Weekly's R. Scott Moxley in "Lou Sheldon's Nightmare," March 3, 2000). "Homosexuality is only an underdeveloped stage of heterosexuality."
Which just goes to show that Sheldon either has a poor memory or is a liar; either way, he is clearly redundant.
As shocking as Sheldon admitting to being a fruitcake is the fact that he would do it over statements so relatively tame. This is the same Sheldon who blamed American immorality for the Sept. 11 attacks; who called for a quarantine of AIDS patients; and who, in response to Bravo's popular Queer Eye for the Straight Guy series, suggested Bravo "consider airing a series called AIDS Hospice, featuring homosexual men who are in various stages of dying from this wasting disease as a result of engaging in anal intercourse with numerous sexual partners. This would far more accurately portray the end results of homosexual sodomy."
The TVC website (traditionalvalues.org) is in a state of constant gay siege—battling what Sheldon calls the Sodomy Lobby—as well as a fertile discussion host of not only gay porno, but also necrophilia, urophilia, klismaphilia (sexual pleasure from enemas) and coprophagia (sexual gratification from eating feces). Not surprisingly, if you mistakenly type in TraditionalValues.comyou're taken to a porn site. Well, actually, either way . . .
It was that combination of filth, hatred and bald-faced looniness that Breslin says first attracted him to Sheldon and why he has remembered him lo these many years. Speaking by phone from New York, Breslin said he had long intended to use Sheldon as a recurring religious Frankenstein character in columns, deciding on Sheldon because "you can't write about Billy Graham that way; everybody loves him."
Breslin doesn't have to explain to us about Sheldon's effectiveness as low comic relief—one part Ed Norton, one part Father Coughlin, one part Roy Cohn (and those who know Sheldon know which part). This article is the 74th since 1998 that has at least mentioned him, and many of those were stories with Sheldon as their main subject. We've written so much about the guy that in February 2002—appropriately enough, our Sex Issue—I strung together a series of Sheldon quotes that read like a randy Unabomber Manifesto.
"'If you ever want to hear about me and the homosexuals, I could fill your ear. It's in their homosexual papers and magazines'—The [Washington] Blade, The Advocate.'You can find anything you want—all you have to do is look in their want ads. When will the homosexual/pedophile assault against children stop? The CDC [Centers for Disease Control] should be spending its time on preparing this nation to deal with bio-terrorist threats—not paying for fisting seminars or self-esteem seminars for homosexuals.'"
It goes on like that for 800 words.
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As firestorms go, this one is pretty cool. Breslin says the only angry mail Newsday has received regarding the article came from Sheldon himself.
"He sent a telegram to the newspaper," Breslin says. "Can you believe that? That was the first telegram sent to this paper since D-Day."
Who you believe is up to you: Breslin, one of the fathers of New Journalism, who inspired thousands to go into the news business, or Sheldon, who inspired thousands, make that one—his daughter, Andrea—to go to work for the TVC, where she one day informed a conservative action group that doctors were using fetal tissue to put "human livers in monkeys to make monkey-humans."
The decision is yours, America . . . not that you care. Asked if anyone else had mentioned the incident to him, Breslin summed up not only the situation but also Sheldon's career by saying, "Ah, no one gives a fuck."