Dan Savage's top 5 controversies
Greetings and Salutations (1991)
Savage's unique mix of reasoned raunch and barbed humor was evident from the very first printing of his sex-advice column, Savage Love, in the inaugural issue of Seattle's alternative weekly The Stranger. Readers didn't have to look past each letter's introductory salutation to glimpse Savage's provocative leanings. Testing the logic that an offensive word can be revalued if appropriated by the offended group, Savage labeled each letter with a self-directed, "Hey, Faggot." The unorthodox choice quickly generated attention, including scathing reproaches from the more conservative members of the LGBTQ community. Undaunted, Savage retained the satirical greeting until 1999, eventually coming to the conclusion that the gambit had run its course.
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When enlisted to cover the 2000 Iowa Caucus, Savage intended an ironically sympathetic profile of one of the more zealous Christian candidates. That plan went out the window when Savage, sick with the flu, heard ultra-conservative pro-lifer Gary Bauer's homophobic claims that same-sex marriage would "destroy" society. High on Sudafed, Savage joined the Bauer campaign incognito, intending to spread his flu virus by coughing up his germs in the candidate's headquarters. Although Savage later admitted that his account of his adventure was partially fictitious, the columnist did register to vote in the caucus which, as a non-resident, was illegal and earned him a year's probation, 50 hours of community service, and a $750 fine.
Spreading Santorum (2003)
Bauer got off easy compared with Rick Santorum. Exasperated by the then Pennsylvania senator's virulent bigotry (which included comparing same-sex marriage to bestiality and pedophilia), Savage called upon his readers to redefine "Santorum." The resultant definition, pertaining to an unappealing byproduct from the sexual activity that so obsessed Senator Santorum, achieved widespread fame via the website spreadingsantorum.com, casting an enduringly ironic shadow over the would-be moral crusader. In 2011, during his failed run at the GOP presidential nomination, Santorum did attempt to have Google remove the offending website but his appeal was rejected, leading political pundits to amusingly debate, "Santorum's Google problem."
Saddlebacking Proposition 8 (2009)
Through his column, Savage has coined a wide variety of sexual and political neologisms, including GGG, DTMFA and its variant ITMFA, and pegging. While Savage has cited the simple need to abbreviate as the reason behind these phrases, the expressions often have deeper connotations. Such was the case with saddlebacking, a word proposed to imply, "Christian teens engaging in unprotected anal sex in order to preserve their virginities." The name was an unmistakable dig at California's Saddleback Church which, under the leadership of Pastor Rick Warren, endorsed Proposition 8, the state's constitutional amendment to legally define marriage as between one man and one woman.
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Savage's most recent flurry of heated criticism occurred last April when the columnist was an invited speaker at the National High School Journalist Conference in Seattle. Citing how archaic religious texts have been historically used to justify bigotry, Savage stated, "We can learn to ignore the bullshit in the Bible about gay people." Although the comment was supported with other dubious moral instructions attributed to the Bible (including justifications for slavery), a number of students registered their dismay by abandoning the hall. The walkout prompted Savage to observe "how pansy-assed some people react when you push back." Though the quip prompted a show of righteous outrage, Savage stood behind his statement, later writing "I did not attack Christianity. I attacked hypocrisy."
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