- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 30, 2001

She describes herself as a pro-choice lesbian feminist. She is a former president of the Los Angeles chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW). So why is Tammy Bruce declaring war on political correctness and defending conservative radio talk-show host Laura Schlessinger?

"What happened to her was specious, unfair and false," Ms. Bruce says of Ms. Schlessinger, who came under fire from activist groups after describing homosexuality as a "biological error" on her popular "Dr. Laura" radio show.

"Her comments were taken out of context. The attacks on her were baseless," says Ms. Bruce, explaining that her personal friendship with Ms. Schlessinger goes back years, to when each hosted shows on Los Angeles' KFI radio station.

Ms. Bruce knows what it means to be on the receiving end of politically correct anger, as she explains in her new book, "The New Thought Police: Inside the Left's Assault on Free Speech and Free Minds."

After O.J. Simpson's 1996 acquittal for the murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson, Ms. Bruce and the Los Angeles NOW chapter organized a protest march that drew more than 5,000 people. Her criticism of the Simpson verdict drew nationwide attention, landing her on the cover of a feminist magazine, On the Issues, for a debate with left-wing commentator Julianne Malveaux.

The day after a criminal jury declared Simpson not guilty, Ms. Bruce went on ABC's "Nightline" to say the trial was "not about racism but about violence against women."

For that and similar comments, national NOW leaders denounced her for being "racially insensitive." NOW President Patricia Ireland condemned Ms. Bruce for "public statements that clearly violate NOW's commitment to stopping racism."

Seven months later, she quit as president of the Los Angeles NOW chapter.

"Many organizations in this country are looking after black civil rights," she says in a recent interview. "The O.J. trial showed there was no real effort against domestic violence. It reflected what NOW has become, not so much a women's organization as a social justice movement, based in socialism."

During the Simpson episode, Ms. Schlessinger offered her support to Ms. Bruce.

"NOW came out and accused me of being a racist. The first phone call I received was from Dr. Laura Schlessinger [who] called simply to give me her support," she said. "I've never forgotten that phone call and the basic compassion and decency, based on principle."

The principle of toleration was another reason she defended Ms. Schlessinger, whose short-lived syndicated TV program was driven from the airwaves after homosexual activists pressured advertisers to withdraw their support.

"Gays and lesbians ask the world to accept lifestyles and opinions that differ from the norm," Ms. Bruce says. "And we are nothing more than hypocrites if we don't tolerate others. I'm going to stand up for Dr. Laura's right to have a different opinion."

She adds: "Fear of being called a homophobe, a racist, a sexist that is now just a tool by the left to keep there from being any public discussion of any important issues."

Ms. Bruce, who says her views of intellectual freedom were shaped by reading such novels as Ray Bradbury's "Fahrenheit 451" and George Orwell's "1984" and "Animal Farm" during her youth, finds left-wing repression ironic.

"Those pretending to be the bearers of freedom of expression are the ones deciding what we can or cannot say," she says. "It's ironic that as the left talks about the need for tolerance, we are virtually assassinating anyone who steps out of line with an opinion that is unapproved of by the left."

Describing the current left-wing mentality as "groupthink" a term from Orwell's "1984" she cites NOW's defense of Andrea Yates, a Houston woman accused of killing her five children.

"NOW came out in support of her and against the death penalty, claiming that people have to understand postpartum depression," Ms. Bruce says. "But they're not coming out to support the millions of women who don't kill their children."

She says the death penalty "has nothing to do with women's rights. In fact, I would go so far as to say the death penalty improves the qualities of not only women's life but everyone's lives, by getting rid of the murderous criminals in our society."

Ms. Bruce said she learned how politicized NOW had become after she became president of the Los Angeles chapter. A public relations specialist, she joined NOW in 1987 and became chapter president in 1990. In her book, she describes her first day on the job:

"I went to the NOW office that first evening, put the key in the lock, opened the door, and found an office full of Democratic Party workers using the space as though it were party headquarters. Not only did it endanger our tax status as a not-for-profit organization, but it also worked against our nonpartisan mission. I put a stop to it immediately."

Kim Gandy, national president of NOW, doubts Ms. Bruce's account. "It seems very unlikely to me," Mrs. Gandy says. "Our chapters are very knowledgeable as to what they can and cannot do in regard to electoral efforts."

Mrs. Gandy also disputes Ms. Bruce's criticism of Clinton administration grants of more than $700,000 to NOW for anti-smoking programs from 1995 to 1999. Ms. Bruce calls the grants from the Department of Health and Human Services "out of the ordinary." In her book, she writes that the grants give "the appearance of impropriety," considering NOW's support of President Clinton during the Paula Jones and Monica Lewinsky scandals.

Mrs. Gandy says NOW's national organization "has never received any government money. The California NOW chapter did receive a grant from the Centers for Disease Control for a campaign called 'Re-Defining Liberation,' which was broader than just anti-smoking."

Later, Mrs. Gandy says, the NOW Foundation a charitable educational foundation separate from NOW "received a CDC grant to continue the project after the California NOW grant expired. And the NOW Foundation has continued on its own that program without any funding."

Yet Ms. Bruce still says NOW's support of President Bill Clinton suggested "a conflict of interest."

The conformity of political correctness, Ms. Bruce says, "is just the antithesis of what progressive thought truly is."

She says the homosexual community would be less vulnerable to stereotypes if prominent homosexuals in the entertainment industry weren't hiding their orientation.

"My career is different because I'm out," Ms. Bruce says, adding that if activists "put half the amount of energy into getting the prominent [homosexuals] to come out as they've put into attacking Dr. Laura, it would certainly be a more progressive, successful and healthier venture. It takes a heck of a lot more courage to do the right thing."

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