Marcus Bachmann, husband to Minnesota congresswoman and G.O.P. presidential candidate Michele Bachmann, runs a Christian counseling center in Minnesota that has come under fire from liberals for allegedly promoting 'reparative therapy' for homosexuals. Several days after a hidden-camera investigation from a gay activist group was played on ABC and NBC, the story was prominently displayed on the front page of the Sunday New York Times.
Washington reporter Sheryl Gay Stolberg filed two stories from Minnesota, yet didn't add much to the less-than-earthshattering original revelations: 'For Bachmann, Gay Rights Stand Reflects Mix of Issues and Faith.'
Stolberg insisted Bachmann's 'political rise has its roots in her dogged pursuit of an amendment to the State Constitution prohibiting same-sex marriage - 'her banner issue,' said Scott Dibble, a Democratic state senator who is gay - and her mixing of politics with her evangelical faith.'
Mrs. Bachmann's strong stance on homosexuality - she once likened it to 'personal bondage, personal despair and personal enslavement' - and her anti-abortion views have appeal for some Republican primary voters. In Iowa this month, she delighted conservatives by signing a pledge opposing 'any redefinition of marriage.' (Her fellow Minnesotan and presidential rival, Tim Pawlenty, a former governor, was left explaining why he did not.)
Yet her position has also become a distraction for her campaign, drawing critics and subjecting her family to the kind of scrutiny once reserved for the relatives of nominees. It has exposed a longstanding rift between the congresswoman and her stepsister, who is a lesbian. It has also raised questions about whether her husband, Marcus, who runs two Christian counseling centers, practices 'reparative therapy,' or gay-to-straight counseling, derided by critics as an effort to 'pray away the gay.'
Stolberg rounded up old anecdotes on Bachmann's religiosity and some fiery old quotes. An accompanying article by Stolberg focused on the center itself: 'Christian Counseling By Hopeful's Spouse Prompts Questions.'
The receptionists at Bachmann & Associates, the Christian counseling center run by the husband of the presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann, were polite but firm in turning a reporter away the other day. A new sign was on the door. 'Bachmann & Associates,' it said, 'prohibits all soliciting, filming and photography in this building. NO MEDIA.'
The skittishness was not surprising. All week, Mrs. Bachmann and her husband, Marcus, a therapist, had been caught in a swirl of media attention over whether the clinic practices 'reparative therapy,' or so-called gay-to-straight counseling. On Friday, in an interview published in The Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Dr. Bachmann finally defended himself.
Questions about whether Dr. Bachmann offers reparative, or conversion, therapy have been percolating for years, fueled partly by his friendship with Janet Boynes, a Minneapolis minister who says she was 'called out of homosexuality' by God, and partly by his argument that children are at risk when parents and educators tolerate homosexuality.
Yet the actual findings from the hidden-camera investigation (a technique the Times and the rest of the media loathed when done by conservative activists against liberal icons ACORN and Planned Parenthood) don't sound all that disturbing.
The group also sent its communications director, John Becker, who is gay, to Bachmann & Associates to pose as a patient seeking to become heterosexual. He recorded his conversations with a therapist on two hidden cameras and an audio device.
The group shared its recordings with The Times and other news organizations; they depict Timothy Wiertzema, a licensed marriage and family therapist, as willing to work with Mr. Becker but not aggressively pressing him to change his sexuality.
Their conversations touched on faith and God; Mr. Becker volunteered that he was raised Roman Catholic. Asked about the possibility of 'getting rid of it completely,' Mr. Wiertzema replied that some people had, but that for others homosexuality simply 'becomes manageable.'
Wayne Besen, the founder of Truth Wins Out, said, 'What we found was reasonably professional with a skewed point of view toward homosexuality being a negative and no offering of hope that it is something positive.'