The Magazine

Andrew Sullivan, Katie Couric, and more.

From the January 31, 2005 issue: Andrew Sullivan, C.A. Tripp, Lincoln, and more.

Jan 31, 2005, Vol. 10, No. 19 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
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'A Rigorous Scholar Who Cannot Defend Himself'

That's how blogger Andrew Sullivan has now described the late Clarence Arthur Tripp in the course of a long, serial complaint against The Weekly Standard's recent "hatchet-job" review of Tripp's posthumous book, The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln ("Honest, Abe?" by Philip Nobile, January 17). Our reviewer thought the book--an attempt to establish that America's 16th president was gay--a "hoax and a fraud." But Sullivan rejects that charge as a piece of "character assassination" against a highly regarded "Kinseyite social scientist" with a "Ph.D. in clinical psychology" and a "superb and invaluable" collection of documentary evidence. For this (and for what he contends was our reviewer's failure to disclose a professional conflict of interest) "they need to apologize," Mr. Sullivan insists. "Will The Standard correct?"

Because Philip Nobile's Standard essay about Dr. Tripp did, in fact, quite clearly and at great length discuss his personal interest in Tripp's work--and because Andrew Sullivan's demand for an apology otherwise fails to allege even a single substantive error in the piece--The Scrapbook hasn't yet been able to find anybody here at the magazine who understands what it is precisely we're supposed to correct.

The Scrapbook can report, however, that everybody here at The Standard now seems fully inclined to endorse Mr. Sullivan's judgment that C.A. Tripp "cannot defend himself." And not just because Tripp is dead. Instead, we're inclined to think Tripp defenseless because it's come to our attention that most other "Kinseyite social scientists" gave up defending the man as far back as 1998, when he was still very much alive and active. It was then that Tripp made a star-turn appearance in a British television documentary about the great Alfred Kinsey's reliance, for "scientific data" concerning pre-adolescent sexuality, on men like Rex King. Beginning in 1943, King gave Kinsey access to the diary in which he'd kept detailed records of sexual assaults he'd committed against roughly 800 minor children, both boys and girls, some as young as five months old. Kinsey, to his eternal disgrace, thought the world of King.

And so, it devolves, did Kinsey's staff photographer, C.A. Tripp, who fondly reminisced about this "super-scientific" pedophile--among other things--in May 1998:

The children all thought he was wonderful, all the mothers thought he was wonderful. There was no force, no harm, no pain . . . [just] two instances in which a young boy or girl--agreed to the sexual contact but then they found it very painful and yelled out when it actually took place. This was because they were very young and . . . there was a fit problem. But even there, there was no--never enough complaint to get him into any trouble.

At this point in his interview, Tripp momentarily digressed to make a "very important observation" about what happens "if you go out and masturbate dogs--I was very good at this when I was a boy." But then he returned to the subject of King, pronouncing him "totally" ethical, "clean as a whistle." The man "had sex with all the relatives and brothers and sisters and aunts," Tripp explained, "but nobody is objecting. He makes it pleasant. . . . And very few pedophiles make any damage anyway, it almost never happens."

No point beating around the bush, here: Clarence Arthur Tripp was not a "social scientist." He was a lunatic.

Will Andrew Sullivan correct?

Will the Today Show Correct?

Thus did NBC's Katie Couric & Co. prepare to discuss The Great Emancipator's sleeping arrangements on Tuesday morning, January 11:

Couric: I'm Katie Couric, here with Lester Holt, Ann Curry, and Al Roker. . . .

Curry: Also ahead, a controversial new book is out today that may be trying to rewrite American history. In it, sex researcher C.A. Tripp--it claims that President Clinton may have been gay.

Couric: No, no, no. Lincoln.

Roker: Lincoln.

Curry: Lincoln, President Lincoln. [Laughter.]

Roker: Wow!

Curry: Never have a woman come back from--I am so jet lagged.

Roker: Wow!

Curry: President Lincoln may have been gay.

Couric: Hillary's on the phone for you.

Curry: I know. So sorry, Mr. Clinton. I'm so sorry, Mr. President.

Yeah, but why is Ann Curry sorry, The Scrapbook can't help wondering? What's so bad about calling someone gay?

Will Prof. Nancy Hopkins Correct?