Tommy Thompson Says Fire the Gays, Then Retracts

In last night’s debate of contenders for the Republican nomination for President, former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson said employees should have the right to fire workers if they are gay.

ThompsonFrom the transcript:

MR. HARRIS: Governor Thompson, same theme. If a private employer finds homosexuality immoral, should he be allowed to fire a gay worker?

MR. THOMPSON: I think that is left up to the individual business. I really sincerely believe that that is an issue that business people have to got to make their own determination as to whether or not they should be.

MR. VANDEHEI: Okay. So the answer’s yes.



AmericaBlog has video of Thompson’s answer, but also notes that Thompson’s campaign has apparently retracted the statement, saying that Thompson “misheard the question” and is opposed to discrimination.

UPDATE — Thompson later clarified to CNN: “I made a mistake. I misinterpreted the question. I thought that I answered it yes when I should have answered it no. I didn’t hear, I didn’t hear the question properly and I apologize. It’s not my position. There should be no discrimination in the workplace and I have never believed that. And, in fact, Wisconsin has one of the first laws, which I supported….So, I just made a mistake and that’s all I can say. I’m sorry and I misinterpreted the question and I answered yes, when it should have been no…All I was thinking was that it was a question that came up and I did not hear it, I should have asked to have it repeated. I didn’t and I answered it and I answered it wrong. It’s not my position, it never has been. I have always been against discrimination and prejudice. In fact if you would have listened to the debate, they asked me a question about racism and I said that the president of the United States, whoever he is, has to take the point and has to be the person that does not allow discrimination or racism in any degree, whatsoever.”


  1. matthew says

    Better yet, fire Tommy Thompson for being straight and see how he likes being discriminated against simply for his sexuality. I’d bet he’d change his answer to that question really fast if that happenned.

  2. Matt says

    Aren’t there bigger issues to discuss in America today than this? When are the candidates going to run on something other than moral issues.

  3. Marco says

    What a moron. Just admit and say you don’t like us and are cool with discriminating against us. We’re not voting for you anyway.

    Have the courage of your scary convictions.

  4. says

    >When are the candidates going to run on something other than moral issues.

    Maybe when there are a few more candidates whose major qualification wasn’t Sunday School.

  5. says

    This is very shocking. I thought Tommy Thompson loved me and my gayness.
    The fact is, he can say he wants to fire the queers and NOT retract it, and most repub voters still won’t give a shit.

  6. Stephen says


    That was the sound of Tommy Thompson imploding.

    Say goodbye to this election, Tommy.

  7. says

    Tommy Thompson is the same guy who said Jews have a “money-making tradition.” Time for him to gracefully exit.

  8. Derrick from Philly says

    Hey, where are all those folks who spoke out so strongly against Isaiah’s macho mouth? Tommy Thompson is saying it’s ok to fire your ass just ’cause you’re gay. Isn’t that as bad as being called a faggot? All members of the Congressional Black Caucus who were present voted for the Matthew Sheppard Bill. One Hundred and Sixty Republicans voted against it.
    I think I’d rather be with Isaiah than Tommy.

  9. Chris says

    Just to play Devil’s Advocate for a minute:

    He didn’t say the gays should be fired, he said it should be left up to the individual businesses.

    You could call him a bigot if he had beed asked, on follow-up, “If you were a business owner, would you fire any gay employees?” and he had said yes.

    His position is not necessarily one of bigotry – it’s one of minimizing government intrusion into private enterprise.

    As a libertarian, I’m not so comfortable with the government telling business owners who they can fire. For the same reasons that I’m not comfortable with the government telling a woman what she can and can’t do with her body.

    The government is not necessarily your friend!

  10. Adam says

    WOW, Chris, you really don’t get it. I was thinking we were going to get most of our Republican apologist rhetoric from Matt on this thread but you just took self-hating gay to another level.
    I’m VERY glad that these asshats are discussing this as it lets us all know where these candidates stand. Hopefully it will wake people up to see the real “values” of the Republican Party. How any gay person, or any “moral” person, could vote for a Republican at this point is just beyond me.

  11. says

    I’d be cool with a more libertarian approach if more than 20% of Americans were smarter than a box of paper clips. I find it incredibly naive to think that the “invisible hand” can be trusted when a significant number of citizens lack even basic common sense. Commerce is not necessarily your friend!
    And don’t even libertarian ideals allow for reasonable protection of the populus by the government? To me, that includes outlawing workplace discrimination.

  12. Stewart says

    Come 2008 I fully intend to fire Mr Thompson and the rest of his sorry ass tribe. Just because they are Republicans. I reflected that this may make me cut from the same cloth; but then I figured that while a Republican can see the light and change their views tomorrow morning, I’m still stuck with being a big ‘mo……

  13. hoya86 says

    I was a little stunned when I watched him struggle and stammer out his lame response, but I was more surprised that the questioner/moderator did not follow up with “so, Mr. Thompson, you support discrimination in the workplace?”

    As to the question of when the “candidates” are going to run on something other than moral issues – well, since the Republican party sold itself to fanatical zealots (aka Christian Evangelicals) all we’ll ever hear about will be moral/social issues. Remember these are people who think the Bible is a how-to manual and not a guide book.

    I also found it interesting that when Chris Matthews asked McCain if he believed in evolution, McCain had to soften his affirmative answer by saying that he saw God in the sunsets in the Grand Canyon. At least 3 of the candidates raised thier hand to say that they did not believe in evolution, but that did not warrant any follow up questions – interesting.

  14. Adam says

    Libertarians assume that business leaders and the rich will ultimately make the right moral and social decisions and not become tyrants and abuse their power on the rest of us if the government just steps out of the picture. Also, many Libertarians have their private, egomaniacal, Social Darwinistic wet dream that they will be a part of the elite in such a society so it really doesn’t matter too much what the rich and powerful do, as they will also be rich and powerful. In other words, Libertarians are complete idiots.

  15. Chris says

    I’m actually not a Republican.

    What I see in these issues are two sides, neither of which are going to budge one inch, both of whom demonize and belittle the other side.

    “Libertarians are complete idiots” is as dumb as ‘gays are the spawn of Satan’ or whatever equivalent evangelical sound bite you want to use.

    Having a balanced view of debates about legislation or the role of government in civil rights is not a sign of self-hatred. It’s a sign that one’s view of oneself is not contingent on others’ approval.

    What I was trying to say above is: people are assuming that Thompson’s opposition to laws prohibiting discrimination against gay people is BECAUSE he is a big ol’ bigot who hates gays and wants them to suffer.

    THAT might be true. But there are other reasons why people can be opposed to government intervention. Are they valid reasons? Who knows.

    It’s unfair to label him as an anti-gay bigot without knowing more about his viewpoints than is provided above. Knee-jerk reactions like these make the gay community look unreasonable and militant.

  16. anon says

    There are plenty of large companies that provide domestic partner benefits to gay and lesbian employees when they are under no obligation to do so, so the idea that gay employees would automatically be fired without legal protection is now false, even if it was true only ten years ago. What hurts gay and lesbian employees these days are sexual harassment policies that allow bigoted employees to charge their gay coworkers with harassment and get them discharged. Corporate America is ahead of the political world in terms of gay rights, where many states, the military and the Federal govt. are quite intransigent. Then there is the flip side of the argument–in what way does the policy work? If they want to fire you they will find a way, and you have to sue-sue-sue, which kills your employment prospects (just imagine your next job interview: “Yeah, I sued the bastards and won back-pay!”) Likewise, corporate management is typically much better educated than the general workforce–you’re more likely to have a bigoted neighbor than boss. Finally, state govts. and the Feds do not apply any worker safety or anti-discrimination laws to themselves, and in many cases exempt their sub-contractors.

  17. Adam says

    Sorry for my militant appearance Chris! One would think I was getting upset about someone defending discrimination against me or something!

  18. resurrect says

    you’re right Chris — god forbid gay people look militant. we’d certainly not want anyone to repect or god forbid, fear our presence and power. we’re content with begging just to be allowed to live in our moral squalor. just laugh at us and take pity – we certainly won’t get in your way or ask for anything we don’t deserve.

  19. Chris says

    Well, Adam and Resurrect, being militant does provide emotional satisfaction.

    Unfortunately, the problem with being militant is that it won’t get you what you want, in terms of real world results.

    If you’re going to persuade the vast middle, the best way is to be reasonable.

    Being reasonable is not the same as being a pushover. It means being smart rather than being a hothead.

    The way to get people to be sympathetic to gay rights is NOT to yell at them, “if you oppose us you’re a dirty bigot, a Nazi, you’re stupid and should shut up!!!”.

    Most people aren’t gay and won’t be harmed directly if gay people are discriminated against. BUT virtually everyone does or will belong at some point to a category of people who are typically discriminated against: non-white, non-male, older.

    So the way to get people to be sympathetic is to analogize between the situation for gays and their situation, and then ask, would they like to be discriminated against? Obviously not. Thus they see themselves in the same situation as gay people, i.e. vulnerable to discrimination, and see laws prohibiting discrimination, including against anti-gay discrimination, as GOOD things because their part of a system that also protects themselves.

    The force of your anger doesn’t sway anyone. If you want to win over people, you have to appeal to them.

  20. pacificoceanboy says


    Actualy history shows that it is only through millitancy or at least the threat there of that gets things done.

    martin’s dream was cool but it wasn’t till people rioted due to his death, plus the black panthers, and till malcolm x stirred up militancy did whitey become scared enough to give equal rights. equal rights came about because white america was scared to death.

    Act up’s militancy is what got Aids/ HIV awarness on the map and funding.

    It was the militancy of the founding fathers of america that brought us our freedom from british domination.

    It was the militancy of Luther, calvin, etc in killing catholics that saved them and their protestant movement from being burned at the stake as heretics. A little fact that isn’t mentioned often by protestants. Heck.



    History shows that you are wrong chris. In fact it is militancy that actualy gets everything done/ brings about real change.

  21. peterparker says

    All I know is that Tommy Thompson should fire the straight person who has been coloring his hair and hire a gay colorist FAST!

  22. pacificoceanboy says

    LOL peter

    I haven’t forgotten that on the rag comment from the idol thread, but LOL ^5 :-)

  23. Adam says

    Pacificoceanboy pretty much said it. Real social change requires a bit of militancy.
    However I would hardly label anything I said here as “militant”. Maybe in Chris’s mind speaking out against a politician who says businesses have a right to discriminate based on sexual orientation is “militant” but to me it’s just moral decency and part of having any self-respect as a gay man.
    Also comparing me to Evangelical demonizing us is just silly. Evangelicals want to enact laws to discriminate us and treat us like second-class citizens. I, however, just want to laugh at ludicrous Libertarians sprouting nonsense to defend bigots.

  24. talcboy says

    It makes me wonder…..what question about gays did Tommy Thompson think he was answering? Maybe someone should ask him that.

  25. pacificoceanboy says

    Real Time with Bill maher live tonight friday = tommy thompson

    He admited that it is against federal law to fire based on sexual orientation and that his hearing aid wasn’t working properly. LOL!!!!!!!!! Yeah right

  26. anon says

    Is that what he said?? He’s wrong then. Right now there are no Federal protections for gay employees. However, several states have protections.

  27. Tommy Victim says

    Ok, he’s hard of hearing and too stupid to use a hearing aide, what happens if he were president???
    He first said he was misunderstood about his comments about Jews, then it was because he wasn’t feeling well, that’s a good qualification for president, imagine what he could do as president when ill!!

    As Governor, he helped create a future budget deficit, Wisconsin is a Tax hell, and he’s the longest serving Governor of this state so not a good track record for a potential president.

    When the legislature was debating a sales tax hike for Milwaukee county to finance a new stadium, his comments were “Stick it to them”, well, Mr. Thompson, F**K you, my only wish is that if you were elected someone would pull a John Wilkes Booth to help save the country! This country can’t afford you, and you prejudices!

    Misquoted, not feeling well, didn’t hear the question, typical Republican make excuses not take responsibility for your actions.

    We don’t need another dry drunk president!!!

  28. Steverino says

    Oh the irony of a Republican debate that barely mentioned anything about the Iraq war, and yet everyone was stumbling over themselves to defend the “right to life.” Morons.

    Good to see Giuliani make an ass of himself, but I still think he’s our next president, unfortunately.

  29. AJL says

    In response to Scientitian | May 4, 2007 11:02:14 AM: As a former member of Libertarian Party of California, I can tell you that the hardcore center of the Libertarian Party opposes *ALL* anti-discrimination laws. They even oppose anti-discrimination in privately-owned companies based on race, arguing that the company is a privately owned asset, and control of a privately-owned asset should reside solely with the owner(s) without government intrusion.

    It’s why I no longer consider myself a Libertarian — or at least, a pure Libertarian. I believe that society as a whole has a right to establish anti-discrimination laws in order to create an open economy where all are supported in their effort to compete fairly and make their own contributions to the economy.

  30. strepsi says

    Right on AJL.

    The mark of a civilized society is its ability to protect the minority from the majority.

    “Pure” liberty / democracy is nothing more than mob rule and thuggery. America, you are losing ground fast. To paraphrase Jon Stewart vis. gay marriage,
    “When SOUTH AFRICA becomes more progressive than you you’re in trouble!”

  31. Dan says

    Tommy Thompson is not a libertarian. And he is not against anti-discrimination laws, generally.

    At the debate, he thought the right answer to be the Republican nominee for President was to oppose gay rights. Then he realized that in the past he had supported anti-discrimination laws protecting gays. He somehow thought it was better to say that he had misheard the question, rather than appearing like a flip-flopper without a moral compass (like Mitt Romney).