Eugene Deguadio, a Loudoun County, Va. lawmaker, told his 100,00 followers in the conservative nonprofit Public Advocate of the United States that the airport feel-up pat-downs (of which Ethics Alarms readers know I am so fond) are really meant to complete a Transportation Security-assisted “homosexual agenda.” “That means the next TSA official that gives you an enhanced pat-down could be a practicing homosexual secretly getting pleasure from your submission,” he wrote to the group, which he leads in his spare time.
People are free to have whatever opinions they choose, and Eugene Delgaudio’s opinions, idiotic as they are on the matter of gays and the TSA, are probably sincere. As a private citizen he, like any of us, also can freely express his opinions, idiotic or not, though he will have to face the consequences. Opinions, by themselves, are not ethical or unethical.
An elected leader’s stated opinions are different, however. His opinions will necessarily carry enhanced credibility and influence because of his position. Even the vilest, most ignorant and hateful opinions, when expressed by an elected leader, gain legitimacy. When a leader’s statements endorse bigotry, prejudice, hate and paranoia, this is more than mere words. It is conduct. And the conduct is harmful.
An elected leader has an ethical and societal obligation not to turn one segment of society against the other by giving apparent validity to ideas fueled by fear, distrust and ignorance. Another obligation of a leader is to know what he is talking about before he gives apparent credibility to hateful claptrap. Wild suspicions about the sinister motives of people who seem strange or different almost always can be dispelled by getting to know some of them, which leads to the surprising discovery that they are more like us than not.
Eugene Delgaudio has not fulfilled any of these obligations of leadership, and is using his position to spread outlandish ideas that can only persuade those as mean-spirited and fearful as he is. Unfortunately, that is not a small population. There are also many fools in all levels of government, and a lot of bigots too. The former can be harmless, and the latter usually control themselves. There is a point, however, where a combination of foolishness and bigotry is too toxic for the body politic to tolerate, and whatever that point is, Delgaudio has passed it. Gay kids are getting beaten up by bullies in school because they hear supposedly smart and respected officials like this man describe gays as if they are a dangerous alien race of sexual predators. The real danger is Mr. Delgaudio, because an irresponsible leader is a dangerous leader.
Get rid of him, Loudoun County. Quick.