The media is full of stories of prominent men who are accused of sexual harassment and assault. Most recently, The Washington Post ran a devastating story about PBS host Charlie Rose.
Amid the headlines, a story concerning Tony Perkins, president of the Religious Right organization the Family Research Council (FRC), may have escaped your attention. Perkins is not accused of anything like assault himself, but his actions in a case concerning a Republican candidate in Ohio who allegedly assaulted a teenage boy are troubling, to say the least.
Aside from his day job running FRC, Perkins serves as president of the Council for National Policy (CNP), a shadowy cabal of far-right groups that meets occasionally behind closed doors to share information and plot strategy.
The CNP also vets candidates for public office. In this case, the group, meeting in the Washington, D.C., area in fall of 2015, was holding a fundraiser for Wesley Goodman, a 31-year-old, right-wing evangelical running for the Ohio legislature. After the event, Goodman allegedly lured an 18-year-old boy to his hotel room and, while the boy slept, fondled him.
The boy, who had come to the event with his parents, told them that he woke to find that Goodman had unzipped the boy’s pants. The boy fled the room and reported the incident to his parents.
The boy’s stepfather wrote to Perkins, asserting, “If we endorse these types of individuals, then it would seem our whole weekend together was nothing more than a charade.”
Perkins’ reply was firm. “Trust me . . . this will not be ignored nor swept aside,” he responded. “It will be dealt with swiftly, but with prudence.”
Tony Perkins, president of two Religious Right groups, allegedly did not report a sexual assault made against an Ohio political candidate.
Bob McEwen, executive director of the CNP, chimed in, assuring the stepfather that “strong action is about to take place.”
But is appears that Perkins’ and McEwen’s main concern was not for the young man who was assaulted – it was to get Goodman out of the race. The incident was not reported to law enforcement, and it was never made public. In fact, local Religious Right activists in Ohio knew nothing about the allegations and continued to support Goodman.
Perkins devoted his time to working behind the scenes to pressure Goodman to drop out of the race, which the candidate declined to do. Goodman was also a member of the CNP, and Perkins suspended him from the group. But that’s all he did.
Interestingly, Perkins, in his letter to Goodman, referred to having knowledge of prior inappropriate incidents by the candidate.
“Going forward so soon, without some distance from your past behavior and a track record of recovery, carries great risk for you and for those who are supporting you,” Perkins wrote to Goodman on Dec. 18, 2015.
Goodman continued his campaign and won a seat in the Ohio House of Representatives in 2016. Last week, he resigned after being accused of “inappropriate behavior related to his state office.” It was widely reported that Goodman had a consensual sexual encounter with a male visitor to his office.
Perkins declined to talk to The Post about the incident. I’m not surprised. His group claims to champion “values,” but a group that really cares about decency and justice would have focused on helping the victim, not covering up this matter.