Ad outrages 3rd District candidate

Associated Press

OLYMPIA – U.S. Rep. Brian Baird reacted with outrage when Republican-financed fliers arrived in mailboxes this week suggesting that he doesn’t think sexual abuse is bad for children.

The colored flier shows a child clutching a teddy bear and asks, “Do you think child sexual abuse is harmful?”

On the flip side it says, “Apparently Congressman Brian Baird thinks not.”

The flier cites the freshman Democrat’s July 1999 decision not to vote to condemn a controversial psychological study of child sexual abuse. At about the same time, it notes, Baird voted against banning adoptions by gays in the District of Columbia.

Baird, a psychologist whose re-election bid is challenged by Republican Trent Matson, called the mailings an act of desperation by state Republican Party Chairman Don Benton, who sent the fliers.

“To say I don’t think sexual abuse is harmful when I spent 20 years of my life working with victims of abuse is like saying an oncologist doesn’t understand cancer can kill people,” Baird said by telephone Wednesday from Washington, D.C. He said he has counseled many clients about abuse.

Benton defended the mailings. He said the fliers were sent throughout the 3rd Congressional District, which covers much of southwest Washington, to show how Baird thinks. He declined to say how much the mailings cost or how many were made.

“There is no excuse that is acceptable to any morally thinking human being for not condemning adult sexual relations with children,” said Benton, who ran unsuccessfully against Baird in 1998.

Baird said the study in question was a survey of college students published in The Psychological Bulletin, produced by The American Psychological Association.

It suggested some adult-child sexual relations could be beneficial for “willing” children, according to Christian Coalition state director Rick Forcier, who was first to criticize Baird’s vote last year.

Baird voted only “present” on House Concurrent Resolution 107, which condemned the study.

He said he refused to vote for the resolution because it described sexual-abuse victims as “unable to develop healthy, affectionate relationships in later life” and tending to become abusers as adults.

Some people heal, Baird said.

It is not Congress’ job to review scientific studies, he said, adding that the peer-review process would take care of errant studies.

The fliers were sent out by the state Republican Party without the knowledge of the Matson campaign, campaign spokesman Alex Hays said Wednesday.

But Matson attacked Baird over the same issue Monday in a Vancouver-area radio debate.

Several outraged readers called The Olympian newspaper office to complain about the fliers,

Baird campaign spokeswoman Poppy Meier said most of the people who called the Democratic incumbent’s office were angrier at the GOP tactic than at Baird.

Copyright ©2000 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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