Just when it seemed the controversy over high-tech body scanners and “enhanced” pat-down procedures at airports couldn’t get weirder, along comes Eugene Delgaudio, a Loudoun County, Va., lawmaker who claims federal transportation officials were motivated to implement the new procedures by the “homosexual agenda,” not concerns about terrorism.
Delgaudio, a Republican elected to the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors in 1999 and re-elected twice, made that and other comments Nov. 20 in a widely distributed email he sent in his capacity as president of the conservative non-profit group Public Advocate of the United States. Calling the U.S. Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) non-discrimination hiring policy “the federal employee's version of the Gay Bill of Special Rights,” Delgaudio warned that “the next TSA official that gives you an enhanced pat-down could be a practicing homosexual secretly getting pleasure from your submission.”
Not only that, but any TSA employee who operates what he called “porno scanners” – new high-resolution scanners that can produce an image of a passenger’s body beneath his or her clothes – could be “lusting after the image on his screen.” That thought “makes me sick,” he said. He exhorts readers to call their senators and tell them that any unsolicited touching “is assault.”
Answering his own question as to whether the new procedures were needed to combat terrorism, Delgaudio scoffed, “That’s hogwash, and I won’t stand for it!”
Delgaudio’s claims, which he reiterated in subsequent media interviews (here and here) are strikingly similar to those made Nov. 16 by Peter LaBarbera, president of the anti-gay Americans for Truth about Homosexuality (AFTAH). LaBarbera would like all gay TSA employees barred from performing pat-downs, since they might get "turned on" while patting down a member of the same sex. AFTAH has been listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Sarah Horowitz, a TSA spokeswoman, said in an E-mail to Hatewatch Wednesday, that “pat-downs are an important tool to help … detect hidden and dangerous items, such as improvised explosive devices like the one we saw in the attempted Christmas Day bombing that are concealed on an individual and do not contain metallic components.” She said all passengers have the right to request private screening and TSA officers are trained to work with parents to “ensure a respectful process for the entire family.” Horowitz did not comment on Delgaudio's statements.
On Saturday, Delgaudio donned the persecuted hero’s mantle in responding to critics in a follow-up E-mail. “The Homosexual Lobby’s lackeys in the media hate me” for taking a stand, he wrote. “You see, the Homosexual lobby HATES it whenever anyone challenges their agenda.”
Delgaudio has a long history of anti-gay and conservative activism with Public Advocate, a group that engages in "street theater" antics and protests that generally don't garner much attention. In 2006, for example, Public Advocate conducted "Kennedy sobriety checkpoints" on Capitol Hill as a way to demonize Ted and Patrick Kennedy. In 2009, group members protested Obama's speech to schoolchildren, and demanded that the president stay away “from our kids.” Delgaudio claims President Obama's speech represented a federal takeover of education. He has also performed a “man and donkey wedding” at a protest in support of the Federal Marriage Amendment.
Though he calls his work with Public Advocate a “private job” that's separate from his employment as a public official, Delgaudio has brought his anti-gay comments and sentiments to work as a County Supervisor. In a board meeting earlier this year, he referred to transgender people as “it” and “freaky, bizarre, and fruity,” in reaction to adding LGBT people to the county's equal opportunity policy. Delgaudio's statements brought him lots of negative publicity, including a lambasting by Jon Stewart, host of Comedy Central's Daily Show, and rebuke from five of his board counterparts.
The criticism hasn't fazed Delgaudio, though, and he makes a nice living from both jobs. He told WUSA-9 News he earns $40,000 annually as a supervisor, and $150,000 a year with Public Advocate. He also says voters who have elected him three times are aware of his “private job” with Public Advocate.