The story of the rejection last autumn of my appointment to be a member of the European Commission is notorious. Nominated to the Commission by the Italian Government, I was compelled to withdraw because of some allegedly homophobic remarks I was said to have made before the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice, and Home Affairs. Now that the dust from that dispute has settled, and with a new Commission in place, it is time to ask what lessons can be drawn from this affair.
The first lesson concerns the indispensability in politics of accurate information and reporting. Democracy works only if there is a fair reporting of the issues being debated. Of course, everyone is free to comment on and evaluate events as he or she pleases. But a high standard of fidelity to the truth is needed in the media; otherwise, debates become too distorted for citizens to evaluate correctly their meaning. Reporters are not entitled to so twist the facts as to reinvent them.
In my case, the main charge against me was invented: I made no homophobic statement. Nor did I did introduce the issue of homosexuality into the debate over my appointment. My opponents did. I did not introduce the emotionally charged word “sin” and tie it to homosexuality in the debate. Once again, my foes did this.
What I said, instead, was this: I might, as a practicing Roman Catholic who adheres to his Church’s teachings, think that homosexuality is a sin. This belief could not be construed to have any influence on my decisions, unless I also said and believed that homosexuality is also a crime. But I said nothing of the sort.