'Gay people [are] not Rick Santorum's punching bag, and we will punch back,' Savage tells MTV News of controversial website. By James Montgomery
Rick SantorumPhoto: Justin Sullivan/ Getty Images
In 2003, when columnist Dan Savage decided to take on then-U.S. Senator Rick Santorum for equating consensual, same-sex relationships to polygamy, incest and adultery (among other things), he never thought he'd still be talking about the matter more than eight years later ... mostly because, well, he never thought Santorum would consider running for president.
Of course, a lot can happen in eight years. Savage launched his campaign to "attach [Santorum's] name to a sex act that would make his big, white teeth fall out of his big, empty head," started a website that displayed the definition of the sex act in question (chosen from more than 3,000 reader-submitted suggestions) and watched with disbelief as that website became a prominent result for Santorum's name on most search engines. And Santorum, well, not only did he decide to make a run for the White House, but he finished a surprising second in the Iowa caucus, establishing himself as a legitimate front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination.
And so now, in 2012, with the New Hampshire primary upon us, here is Savage, still talking about his website, the Google problem it's caused the Santorum campaign and how, despite many (many) protests from the right, he has no intention of ever taking it down.
"I was never taking Santorum seriously. I'm surprised that he ran, I'm surprised that he did as well in Iowa as he did, but since Iowa, his poll numbers have been dropping," Savage told MTV News. "One of the funny things about the Spreading Santorum website is that it was dormant forever. There was a blog there we kept until about 2006 ... and then we stopped paying any attention to it. And yet it still sat at the top of the Google search results, even though we hadn't updated it for five years. And then he runs for president [and] it just explodes in his face.
"I can take the site down tomorrow, and it's not going to make any difference," he continued. "The new definition is out there, people use it in its proper context with the new meaning, and the damage is done."
Of course, some consider his site to be nothing more than a "vile attack" on Santorum and have called for him to remove it from the Internet to spare the candidate's family from various indignities. Savage, not surprisingly, isn't budging. In fact, the way he sees it, his site represents nothing more than him fighting back.
"It is a vile attack — I completely embrace that. So is comparing my 17-year marriage ... to raping dogs. That's pretty vile. That's pretty bigoted," he said. "It was really fighting fire with fire. When somebody injects vileness and bigotry into the public discourse, I believe they've invited some vileness and bigotry thrown back at them.
"Rick Santorum is a bully; the GOP is full of bullies who were basically able to punch people in the face and never get punched back. And gay people these days, we're not Rick Santorum's punching bag, and we will punch back," he continued. "And you've seen that on the campaign trail, with people confronting Santorum and Perry and Cain and Bachmann and everyone else who's trying to win votes by beating up gay people. We are not going to take it anymore."
And to that end, though he'll laugh his way through questions about the site (though he wants it to be known that he doesn't consider the action to be a "Google Bomb" — as some have coined it — since he's "not tech-savvy enough to do a Google Bomb ... I've literally reached the stage of life where when I have to turn on the TV, I have to get my kid to do it"), he'd rather discuss the resistance most GOP candidates have been receiving for their stances against marriage equality and the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell. Because, to him, not only do they represent the beginning of a generational shift in this country, but perhaps even the end of the GOP as we know it.
"Well, we've been seeing this throughout the campaign, where Bachmann and Romney and Perry and Santorum, they've all been challenged not by activists or gay organizations, but by individual voters. ...
Increasingly LGBT people are empowered, not ashamed," he said. "They're attacking us, and we're confronting them. We're holding them accountable and calling them on their lies and their 'pious baloney,' to borrow Newt Gingrich's phrase. America is waking up to the fact that we're not bogeymen, and we're not coming to do any harm, and that we're your daughters and sons and neighbors, sometimes your parents, your co-workers, friends, colleagues. The Republican party, in this desperate [appeal] to its dying evangelical base, is just ramping up the homophobia, and they're doing themselves real long-term damage.
"What's interesting is that, you look at who's been doing the most hate speech: Bachmann? She's out. Herman Cain? He's out. Perry? He's all but out. Santorum? He's running fourth, he's trailing even in conservative South Carolina," Savage continued. "It's not winning them the election anymore. It's not 1992; Pat Buchanan can't get up and give a 'gay rights never, family values forever' speech at the Republican National Convention anymore. Times have changed."