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Bogus Numbers Undergird Attacks on Gays, Immigration

Arkansas State Sen. Jim Holt's claim that '10,000 studies' showed gays make bad parents went unchallenged on NPR. Holt later said he got the number from Focus on the Family founder James Dobson.

Arkansas State Sen. Jim Holt (R-Springdale) likes to demagogue. In 2005, Holt targeted undocumented immigrants, partnering with a man with anti-Semitic views and ties to white supremacist organizations in an effort to pass hard-line anti-immigrant legislation. (Holt later distanced himself from Joe McCutchen of Protect Arkansas Now.) Now, Holt's target is gay people. Holt told National Public Radio in August that there "are thousands of studies, actually I've got over 10,000" of them that show "the homosexual family or the environment is problematic for the child."

As pointed out by Media Matters for America, a reputable watchdog website, the 10,000 figure would only be possible if a such a study had been released every day for the past 27 years.

Holt was reacting angrily to the July decision by the Arkansas Supreme Court that overturned that state's ban on gay foster parents. The court ruled that the ban was based on a particular morality rather than science, and that no research on sexual orientation had found a negative effect on foster children's welfare. Scientific studies from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Psychological Association support the ruling.

Holt said he picked up the 10,000 number from another anti-gay demagogue, Focus on the Family founder James Dobson. Dobson made that remarkable claim in his 2004 book, Marriage Under Fire: Why We Must Win This Battle. According to Media Matters, Dobson provides no source whatsoever.

The national immigration debate is also suffering from propagandistic number inflation. Robert Rector, a senior research fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation, issued a report in June alleging that the immigration reforms then being considered by the U.S. Senate would add at least 100 million people to the United States over 20 years, ballooning the size of the population by a third.

Rector's study seemed to defy the most elementary logic. As critics later pointed out, his minimum figure of 100 million is equal to almost the entire current population of Mexico. His high-end estimate of 190 million over the next 20 years would require that the equivalent of the current population of Central America be added, too. A series of leading demographers told the San Francisco Chronicle that Rector's projections were vastly overstated, ignored the effects of emigration and used unreasonably high estimates of legalization and naturalization.

Nevertheless, based on his report, two Democratic senators changed their positions and the Senate then passed an amendment sharply limiting a future guest worker program.