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Topinka says he should apologize for 'idiotic' comment

NEW YORK -- Illinois Republican Chairman Judy Baar Topinka said Wednesday her party's nominee for U.S. Senate, Alan Keyes, should apologize for his "idiotic" comment vice presidential daughter Mary Cheney and all homosexuals are "selfish hedonists."

But Keyes refused to back down Wednesday, even as Vice President Dick Cheney addressed the Republican National Convention.

"In a homosexual relationship, there is nothing implied except the self-fulfillment, contentment and satisfaction of the parties involved in the relationship," said Keyes, who holds a Ph.D from Harvard University. "That means it is a self-centered, self- fulfilling, selfish relationship that seeks to use the organs intended for procreation for purposes of pleasure. The word pleasure in Greek is hedone and we get the word hedonism from that word."

Keyes emphasized it was a reporter, not he, who brought up the name of Mary Cheney.

"You have intervened in order to try to personalize the discussion of an issue that I did not personalize," Keyes told reporters at an Illinois delegation caucus. "The people asking me the question did so and if that's inappropriate, blame the media. Don't blame me."

In an interview with CNN, Mary Cheney's sister, Elizabeth, responded to Keyes' remarks by saying, "I'm not going to dignify it with a comment."

Focusing on abortion, gays

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While conservatives won the battle to get language into the official party platform backing an amendment to outlaw gay marriage, speakers at the convention -- their speeches cleared with party officials -- have stayed away from the hot-button issue. Party leaders do not want to alienate the small number of undecided voters in key swing states that will decide the election.

Illinois Republican leaders likewise have urged Keyes to move from abortion and gay marriage to economic issues.

"I told him, 'You've got to start focusing on things that unite Republicans and not on things that divide Republicans,' " said Cook County GOP Chair Gary Skoein.

U.S. Rep. Judy Biggert (R-Ill.) also criticized Keyes' initial comment on Sirius OutQ satellite radio and said she, like U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), needed to know more before deciding whether she would support Keyes.

After days of criticism that he had not addressed the Illinois delegates, Keyes finally made his speech Wednesday morning, hijacking the podium from DuPage County Board Chairman Robert Schillerstrom, who had only asked for a round of applause for Keyes. Realizing Keyes intended to speak, Schillerstrom admonished him, futilely, to "Please make it very brief."

Building up to his trademark high-decibel fever pitch, Keyes shouted, "We shall deal with the challenge that is being mounted today to the family structure throughout our country: Gay marriage activists who are demanding that we should take marriage off the foundation of procreation, child rearing, responsibility to the future, that is the true heart of marriage and place it on a basis of selfishness, pleasure-seeking and self-fulfillment."

Some delegates clapped enthusiastically. Other rolled their eyes and clapped silently. Topinka stayed in another room during his speech.

After his eight-minute speech, Keyes was asked if heterosexual couples who don't or can't have children are hedonists.

"The heterosexual relationship is haunted by the possibility of the child, which means you have to commit yourself somewhere to your head to the possibility of a lifelong commitment that involves not only selfish pleasure but sometimes sacrifice."

'A new low'

As he moved to a new place to take reporters' questions, his spokeswoman suggested he had taken enough questions. He disagreed, telling her, "This is a teaching moment."

Keyes said he would be just as blunt with his own daughter as he has been in response to questions about Cheney's: "If my own daughter were a homosexual or lesbian, I would love my daughter, but I would tell her she was in sin," he said.

Keyes' Democratic opponent, state Sen. Barack Obama, addressed the issue after a speech at the Illinois AFL-CIO convention in Rosemont. "I have strong disagreements with Vice President Cheney on a whole host of policy issues, but I respect the love he has for his daughter, and I think that it's never appropriate to make the sort of comments that have been made," Obama said. "I think it's going to be up to the Republican Party to figure out whether they reflect an inclusive and generous spirit, or whether they want to reflect some of the bitterness we've been hearing lately."

Christine Iverson, a Republican Party spokeswoman, said the former talk show host's comments were "not worthy of the dignity of a response.''

The Log Cabin Republicans, a gay and lesbian organization, denounced Keyes' remark.

"In a political career defined by failures, this is a new low for Alan Keyes," executive director Patrick Guerriero said in a statement Wednesday. "Attacking politicians' children is beyond the pale, even for an extremist like Alan Keyes."


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