Accuracy in Media

Did the Department of Health and Human Services help fund a clubhouse for homosexuals in San Francisco? Jeff Sheehy, described as “a long-time gay activist” on the O’Reilly Factor on Fox News on March 28, said that Vice President Al Gore gave a nonprofit homosexual organization called Stop AIDS Project a check for $500,000 at the groundbreaking for its building right before the 2000 California primary.

Sheehy described it to Bill O’Reilly as “your money,” meaning taxpayer dollars. He said, “I’m not a big fan of the $500,000 donation myself. Al Gore dropped it off because he was trying to buy some – -.” O’Reilly interrupted, asking, “Al Gore did this?” Sheehy said, “Yes, you know, I was a big Bill Bradley supporter.”

O’Reilly was mainly interested in how the building was being used. He went over a list of events held there, including a Leather Pride Reception, a QueerYouthapalooza and a Drag King Junior contest. Sheehy said that the QueerYouthapalooza was like a prom, “like a bunch of queer kids,” some of whom were not sure of their sexual orientation.

The fact that the Department of Health and Human Services, HHS, had been giving money to the Stop AIDS Project had attracted the attention of Rep. Mark Souder, R-Ind. last August. In a letter to HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson, Rep. Souder said that the Centers for Disease Control, CDC, had repeatedly denied that any federal funds had been used to pay for a number of questionable events “dubbed HIV ‘prevention programs'” that were sponsored by the Stop AIDS Project. He pointed out that the Project’s program director had admitted that all the questionable events scheduled for August would use funds provided by the CDC.

Two of the grants in the year 2000 totaled $472,883. Jeff Sheehy’s claim that Gore gave the group $500,000 may have represented a rounding of that sum. His claim that it was used to help pay for the clubhouse has not been confirmed. A third grant in 2000 raised the total for the year to $698,000. The questionable events mentioned in Souder’s letter included a “gay fisting event” and a “Booty Call,” where “dildos, plugs, fisting and rimming” were discussed along with “tales of intercourse and orgasm.” Others were a GUYWATCH, “where a guy can make friends and find dates” and a Great Sex Workshop, a “hands-on, clothes-on exploration of intimacy and fantasy.” These and three similar events were advertised on the Stop AIDS Project’s Web site.

Rep. Souder’s letter resulted in HHS’s Office of Inspector General, OIG, investigating the Project’s compliance with its cooperative agreements with the Centers for Disease Control. Its report states, “The CDC basic principles require that all AIDS-related materials ‘include information about the harmful effects of promiscuous sexual activity and intravenous substance abuse, and the benefits of abstaining from such activities.’ They also require that no funds ‘be used to provide education or information designed to promote or encourage, directly, homosex-ual or heterosexual sexual activity or intravenous substance abuse.'” They also bar the use of obscene material in providing information on how to reduce the risk of getting AIDS.

The events sponsored by the Stop AIDS Project and advertised on its Web site last August were strong on promoting homosexual sex and weak on discouraging unsafe sex. The OIG concluded that “some of the information presented in the workshops…could be viewed as encouraging directly…sexual activity in violation of CDC’s guidance.” It said that the Project’s sexually explicit advertisements similarly violated the guidance and could be viewed as “obscene.” Normal people who know what “fisting” is find it revolting, not just obscene.

The CDC grants were made “to provide outreach services, develop and hold workshops and train members of the community as workshop providers.” The Project did not keep records of its expenditures by project and funding source, and the OIG found that CDC funds were used to support all of the Project’s activities. It did not monitor any of the “workshops” or review all training materials, but it promised a more comprehensive review of the CDC’s AIDS program in FY2002. The CDC gave $7.2 million to 28 AIDS-prevention organizations in San Francisco alone in FY2000. It is not likely that HHS will even try to find out how many of those organiza-tions are flouting the CDC guidelines and perhaps doing more to encourage behavior that spreads AIDS rather than preventing it. It is too bad the media have shown so little interest in this story.




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