Scarcely a day after The Washington Blade, a D.C.-based LGBT news outlet, reported that Rep. Chris Smith said he thought orphanages were a better option for children than adoption by gay couples, unedited audio of the months-old exchange at Colts Neck High School has contradicted the report and the headlines it gathered.
In the exchange originally released by the Blade – it’s not clear from whom they obtained the truncated recording – Smith appears to back the Blade’s reporting, but the audio is cut off before he directly answers a question about whether he thought it would be better for a child to be adopted by a gay couple than to be placed in an orphanage.
In the full, hour-long audio released on Thursday by the Smith campaign, that exchange is largely unchanged, but the issue had already been brought up during the assembly.
Earlier in the hour, Smith was asked by a student if he thought orphanages and foster care would be in a child’s better interest than adoption. The question was a follow-up to a previous question about Smith’s stance on adoptions by gay couples, which the congressman said has largely remained unchanged from 1999, when he voted in favor of a bill that would effectively make such adoptions illegal.
“No, Lord, no,” Smith said in response to the follow-up. “We have waiting periods for families to adopt children, often by years, but certainly long waiting periods of couples who’d love to adopt, but the child is simply not available.”
While many of the sites that picked up the initial story based on the clipped audio have since either retracted or corrected stories to reflect the full-length recording. Others, like the Blade, have stood by the reporting.
The stance of those latter outlets has incensed some Republicans.
“Any news organization that doesn’t go back and correct this record as loudly as they originally trumpeted – or if they’re still reporting the erroneous, misleading, doctored version – that’s outrageous, and your journalistic integrity goes away immediately, and that should be the thing most valued by people in the journalist industry,” said State Sen. Declan O’Scanlon (R-Little Silver).
But, Josh Welle’s campaign doesn’t share that view.
The challenger has, in statements and on Twitter, continued to claim Smith thinks orphanages are a better option than adoption by gay couples, though on Thursday Welle’s campaign did so using Smith’s opposition to such adoptions instead of his statements during at the school.
“If you would vote to deprive children of finding a home with a gay couple, what options are you leaving these kids?” Welle said. “So, yes, you do believe kids should stay in an orphanage rather than be adopted to loving LGBTQ family.”
While Smith disagrees, the candidate’s stance on gay rights has been less than friendly to LGBT peoples in his 37 years in Congress.
While he’s responded to these charges, something an ousted longtime Republican Congressman named Scott Garrett didn’t do, it’s possible voters will find his views on LGBT issues unpalatable, though, given the makeup of the district, Welle would still face an uphill race even if that were the case.
On the other hand, the episode could backfire and serve as a rallying cry for Smith that right-leaning voters have grown accustomed to hearing since 2016.
“Anybody can twist your words and make false representations when they splice up a tape,” Smith said in a statement. “It is despicable that someone thought they could score political points by distorting the truth and raising false questions about my record and the full range of topics discussed at the assembly.”