Wednesday was a difficult day for The American Independent News Network, which is the larger entity that operates The Iowa Independent. Our chief executive and founder announced two of our sister sites would close and their content would be moved to The American Independent.
Vander Plaats remains closed-mouthed
More than 1,300 people have signed a petition seeking an explanation from Bob Vander Plaats in connection to his reaction to an off-color and homophobic joke. Despite the outcry, however, Vander Plaats has remained silent.
“Rarely does Vander Plaats shy away from the spotlight,” said Troy Price, executive director of One Iowa, the state’s largest LGBT advocacy group.
“If Vander Plaats truly feels that this sort of language is appropriate, then he should come out and say so. But, if he feels — like so many Iowans do — that derogatory and shameful language like this does not belong in this discussion, he should apologize, and apologize quickly.”
Vander Plaats is head of the religious conservative organization The Family Leader and, in video recently obtained by liberal advocacy group Think Progress, was caught openly enjoying and laughing at a statement by an attendee at an event hosted and organized by TFL: “Iowa, the state where you can’t smoke a fag, but you can marry one.”
“Shoot, that’s pretty good,” Vander Plaats responds while laughing.
One Iowa began its petition for an apology Tuesday, shortly after the video surfaced, and had garnered 1,000 signatures within the first 24 hours. According to Price, that’s the most responses the group has ever received in a single day.
“The bullying tactics of Bob Vander Plaats and the Family Leader have gone too far,” said Price. “The overwhelming response we have seen shows just how Vander Plaats’ actions have hurt loving, committed couples and their families across the state. This type of language has no place in the conversation about marriage. Bob Vander Plaats must apologize to the thousands of Iowans he has offended with his actions.”
The Iowa Independent reached out to The Family Leader for comment on the video prior to the petition drive. To date no response has been forthcoming. Price notes that organizational leaders have also neglected a similar request for comment from KCCI-TV in Des Moines.
On Wednesday, Think Progress released a second video from May in which Vander Plaats praises real estate mogul Donald Trump’s “birther” theories during a Family Leader event in Glenwood and implies that President Barack Obama isn’t a U.S. citizen.
The Family Leader and Vander Plaats have taken great strides to exert political influence in the Hawkeye State as well as nationally, through the 2012 Iowa caucus process. The organization continues to host a presidential lecture series, which invites potential and established 2012 GOP candidates to speak at events. Employees of the organization, which draws funds from individual and church sponsorships, also lobby at the State Capitol on social conservative issues such as abortion and marriage.
Although the organization’s most recent push — a social pledge entitled “The Marriage Vow,” which was initially targeted toward 2012 presidential candidates — has not resulted in a wealth of signatures from GOP candidates, it has, as University of Iowa political scientist Tim Hagle earlier noted, elevated the national discussion of social conservative issues in a frame that suits The Family Leader’s mission. The organization has since opened the vow for signatures from anyone visiting their website. Everyday signatories are pledging not to contribute to or support politicians who have not signed the pledge.
It remains unclear if the lengthy and footnoted vow, which was altered shortly after its release to remove a much scrutinized statement about African Americans and slavery, has a political cost.