Ada Calhoun claims that the coverage of the Senator Craig “incident” “rapidly degenerated into a smug homophobia-fest.”
As an example, she notes that on MSNBC “Tucker Carlson bragged that when a man hit on him in a bathroom in Georgetown, he went back with a friend and “grabbed him . . . and hit him against the stall with his head.”
Her view of the matter is that “beating up a gay man for propositioning you was a crime — a hate crime, even.”
She then compared Carlson to Imus and asked if Carlson should be in at “least as much trouble for revealing (with glee!) his past violence against a gay man?”
Tucker Carlson, in a statement, claims that he was actually attacked in the men’s room and he and a friend returned to detain the individual until a security guard arrived. He asserts that “I wasn’t angry with the man because he was gay. I was angry because he assaulted me.”
If events were as Carlson described, then there was no hate crime. After all, restraining a man who has attempted to assault a person is not a crime-hate or otherwise. It is actually a public service. While Carlson could have perhaps told the story in a different way, Ada Calhoun was clearly remiss in leaping to accuse him of committing a hate crime. She should have learned more about the details before allowing her emotions to sweep her towards such an accusation. After all, to act against a person because of a prejudice would be wrong-perhaps even hateful.
But, if Carlson and his friend beat up a man for merely propositioning him, that would be an unjustified response. Naturally, as any feminist will tell you, unwanted sexual advances and propositions are wrong and should be dealt with accordingly. However, a mere proposition does not warrant physical violence-a simple rejection would be a proportional response. Returning with a friend to deliver a beating would clearly be unwarranted in such a case, however offensive the proposition might be. This is because the response would be out of proportion to the offense.
Even if Carlson and his friend attacked the man for a mere proposition, this need not be a hate crime. If Carlson attacked the man because of a hatred for gays, then that would obviously be a hate crime. But, if he attacked him because he propositioned him and not out of a hatred for gays, then it would not be a hate crime as such.
Obviously, such an attack would not be morally justified-physically attacking someone for making a proposition is not a proportional response. However, such acting out of proportion to a provocation does not seem to be, in itself, a hate crime. To see this is so, consider the following analogy: suppose that there is a traffic accident involving Sam (a Caucasian ) and David (a Hispanic). David calls Sam an idiot and Sam runs over and punches David in the face. Obviously, Sam has committed a crime and has acted out of proportion to the provocation. But, if Sam acted because he was angry about the insult and not because he hates Hispanics, then he did not commit a hate crime.
Obviously, it can be difficult to determine a person’s true motives. But the distinction is still morally relevant. So, even if Carlson attacked the man because of the proposition, it need not have been a hate crime.
I would be rather taken aback if a stranger asked me for sex in a public restroom. Such an inquiry would be both presumptuous and rude. Honesty compels me to say that I would be less upset if a woman made the offer, but I would still be disgusted by such a thing. I would not respond with violence. I would either simply leave quickly or suggest to the person that s/he seek help. Anyone who is soliciting sex from strangers in public places obviously has some serious problems that need professional attention.
Treating sex in this way is, on my view, both pathetic and morally unacceptable-it involves using oneself and others as mere means to physical gratification. That sort of behavior is incompatible with respecting oneself and others as persons. But perhaps I’ve taught Kant, feminism, and ethics far too many times.