Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters.
Before joining President Donald Trump’s administration, right-wing commentator Robert W. Patterson argued against contraceptives because “condom use robs” women of the “remarkable chemicals” in semen; said married women in the workplace have undermined society; and suggested that homosexuality is a mental disorder and sexual orientation can be forcibly changed.
Patterson is now the acting associate commissioner at the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) Office of Strategic and Digital Communications. He has avoided scrutiny despite working in the administration since spring 2017. A notice about his hiring on the SSA’s website touted Patterson’s “wealth of experience in communications and public engagement,” including “as a policy expert, professor and op-ed contributor.”
Patterson also worked in former President George W. Bush’s administration, ran for Congress in New Jersey as a Republican, and wrote for such publications as Breitbart News, Washington Examiner, and National Review. He previously edited The Family in America, a conservative journal dedicated to “subjects ranging from a family-centered Farm Bill to a reevaluation of Friedan-style feminism, and from the continued ill effects of divorce and family breakdown to the positive effects of marriage and child-bearing.”
Patterson’s work with The Family in America led to his resignation as a special assistant in Pennsylvania’s Department of Public Welfare in January 2012. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported at the time that Patterson weighed in on “what he described as a woman’s ideal role in society: married and at home raising children.” He also “wrote about research that he said showed that if women wanted to find ‘Mr. Right,’ they should shun birth control pills; and if they wanted to improve their mood, they should not insist that their men wear condoms lest they miss out on beneficial chemicals found in semen.” The Inquirer explained of Patterson’s views:
In last year’s spring issue of the journal, Patterson co-authored a piece summarizing and reviewing recent studies related to families.
Among them: a recent study suggesting condom use robs a woman of “remarkable” chemicals found in semen that have been shown to elevate mood and self-esteem.
What’s more, the study found that “semen-exposed women” perform better on concentration and cognitive tasks, Patterson reported.
He also referenced a 2004 study that suggested birth-control pills weakened a woman’s “natural sense of attraction to men who would be a good biological match and enable her to conceive easily and bear healthy children.”
After the paper asked the Pennsylvania state government about “Patterson’s side job as editor,” he resigned and then-Pennsylvania Republican Gov. Tom Corbett’s “administration swiftly distanced itself from the views expressed in the journal he edits.” The Inquirer later reported: “Department officials said Patterson had decided to resign because he had been denied his request to remain the editor of the Family in America journal while working for the state.” (Patterson defended himself at the time by claiming “that The Inquirer distorted his views, and that his writings cited respected studies published elsewhere.”)
SSA did not respond to a request for comment.
Media Matters recently examined Patterson’s writings and found additional sexist commentary about married women in the workplace along with anti-LGBTQ bigotry.
Patterson complained that the government “has facilitated the movement of mothers out of the home economy and into the market economy, undermining the family as an economic unit, marriage as a lifelong partnership, and the well-being of children.” Patterson wrote a 2011 Washington Examiner op-ed(which is no longer available on its website) that complained about mothers in the workforce:
Congress incentivized family breakup by creating a child-support system that virtually guarantees divorcing mothers and their children an income stream without requiring those women, who initiate two-thirds of marital disruptions, to demonstrate any wrongdoing on the part of the father.
All this needs to go. As does another policy monstrosity of the 1970s: sex-based affirmative action that favors not just women over men in the workplace but the privileged career woman over the homemaker-wife who depends on her breadwinning husband. According to a 2007 Pew Research Center study, this blatant rent-seeking has resulted in employment patterns that neither American men nor women consider ideal.
Most important, the workplace bias that Uncle Sam sanctions, in collusion with big business, has facilitated the movement of mothers out of the home economy and into the market economy, undermining the family as an economic unit, marriage as a lifelong partnership, and the well-being of children.
Moreover, by advantaging young women over their male counterparts, affirmative action has disrupted the marriage market and helped lead to dramatic increases in cohabitation and single households.
Patterson has worked for two virulently anti-LGBTQ organizations. Patterson has worked for extreme anti-LGBTQ groups Family Research Council (FRC) and the International Organization for the Family (formerly The Howard Center for Family, Religion & Society).
He worked for FRC from 1998-2002, serving as its senior director of publications and the editor of its Family Policy journal. FRC is an influential and extreme anti-LGBTQ group that has tried to prevent equal rights for LGBTQ individuals.
During Patterson’s time at FRC, the group’s website stated that it “believes that homosexuality is unhealthy, immoral and destructive to individuals, families and societies. Compassion — not bigotry — impels us to support healing for homosexuals who want to change their orientation. FRC opposes any attempts to equate homosexuality with civil rights or to compare it to benign characteristics such as skin color or place of origin.”
One issue of Family Policy that Patterson edited included a piece by Frank York and Robert Knight arguing that “parents, teachers, social workers, and clergy need to challenge the nonsense set forth by homosexual activists that homosexuality is simply an alternative lifestyle or a harmless diversion. They need to view homosexuality in a more realistic fashion, seeing it for what it really is: a life-controlling addiction like smoking or drug abuse.” In a section about “available resources,” the Patterson-edited issue also recommends conversion therapy, a dangerous and discredited practice that seeks to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of LGBTQ individuals.
FRC’s website today still states that the organization “believes that homosexual conduct is harmful to the persons who engage in it and to society at large, and can never be affirmed.”
Patterson was also the editor of The Howard Center for Family, Religion & Society’s The Family in America journal from 2009-2012. In 2016, the organization retooled and became the International Organization for the Family (IOF).
The Howard Center was openly anti-LGBTQ. A statement from its 2011 website read: “The complementary natures of men and women are physically and psychologically self-evident. These differences are created and natural, not primarily socially constructed. Sexuality is ordered for the procreation of children and the expression of love between husband and wife in the covenant of marriage. Marriage between a man and a woman forms the sole moral context for natural sexual union. Whether through pornography, promiscuity, incest or homosexuality, deviations from these created sexual norms cannot truly satisfy the human spirit. They lead to obsession, remorse, alienation, and disease.”
Patterson criticized the American Psychiatric Association for removing “homosexuality … from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders” and pushed false and dangerous propaganda that sexual orientation can be forcibly changed. Patterson co-wrote in a 2010 piece for The Family in America: “When homosexuality was deleted from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) in 1973, the American Psychiatric Association was motivated not by the scientific evidence but by a therapeutic desire to weaken prevailing social attitudes that allegedly damage the self-esteem of homosexuals. Consequently, much of the discussion of homosexuality by public-health officials and professional associations ignores the large body of empirical literature that casts homosexual behavior in an unfavorable light.”
Patterson then cited purported research from the discredited anti-LGBTQ and conversion therapy advocacy group National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH; the group has since been folded into The Alliance for Therapeutic Choice and Scientific Integrity), which concluded, “Homosexuality is not innate, immutable, or without significant risk to the medical, psychological, and relational health,” adding:
The review of 600 reports and studies contains three review essays, two of which refute claims of the American Psychological Association that sexual orientation is fixed and that attempts to change it can be harmful. The third review finds that the literature demonstrates, contrary to another claim of the APA, that “problematic behaviors and psychological dysfunctions are experienced among homosexuals at about three times the prevalence found in the general population—and sometimes much more.”
In contrast to the junk science cited by Patterson, major medical associations have rejected and discredited conversion therapy and stated that gender identity and sexuality cannot be forcibly changed. Further, such organizations have concluded that conversion therapy leads to dangerous consequences, including suicidal ideation.
Patterson said same-sex marriage goes against “nature, history, and reason.” Patterson wrote for National Review in 2009: “Because it predates society and the state, wedlock actually creates, builds, and renews society. Same-sex marriage — a construct that depends on the state for its very existence — can never duplicate these functions. Of course, insisting that marriage law should reflect what nature, history, and reason affirm risks offending not so much homosexuals as cultural elites who care little about America.”
Patterson: “Gay marriage, like all the liberal ideas of the 1970s–including no-fault divorce, abortion on demand, cohabitation, and daycare–does not and cannot serve the common good.” Patterson complained about same-sex marriage in a 2004 piece for Human Events Online (which is no longer available on its website):
[The] communal dimension is virtually nonexistent when it comes to same-sex relationships, evidence that such relationships should never be deemed equivalent to, or even an alternative to, marriage. Unlike marriage, same-sex relationships are static, self-focused, and center almost exclusively on what the relationship delivers for the two partners, not what it represents to the supportive families or to society. Does a homosexual partner even solicit the blessing of his prospective partner’s family? Do his aunts and uncles travel cross-country to celebrate the occasion? Who are the third parties to these pairings? Rarely conducted in a community setting like a church or synagogue, these new-fangled arrangements are essentially private affairs with no organic ties to anything. Ironically, this private identity is praised by advocates like Andrew Sullivan who assert that gay marriage can’t possibly impact the traditional marriages of others because it concerns only the two persons involved.
What this comes down to should be obvious: Gay marriage, like all the liberal ideas of the 1970s–including no-fault divorce, abortion on demand, cohabitation, and daycare–does not and cannot serve the common good. When elected officials, like the minister in a wedding ceremony, ask whether the public objects to what is being proposed in Massachusetts and San Francisco, the American people need to rise up and speak their minds for the sake of the children, for the sake of women, and for the sake of the Republic.
Header image by Melissa Joskow / Media Matters