Readers of Andrew Sullivan’s website may have noticed a series of items about my piece “Attack of the Homocons,” which appeared in The Nation‘s July 1 issue. I stand accused of committing multiple errors amounting to “conscious distortion.” So far, only one distortion has been demonstrated, and it certainly wasn’t conscious on my part.

Someone did take a statement by Sullivan out of context. It was used, along with other remarks by him, to bolster the contention that he condemned gay promiscuity. The quote had been widely circulated by the time I came across it, more than a year ago. I found it in several sources and used it in an essay then. Repeating an error is an error, and I regret it. But I had no way of knowing that the quote had been distorted, because Sullivan never issued a correction. He waited until the Nation piece to spring a trap. Readers of my critique will understand why.

Cooking up a scandal is a very effective way to deflect attention from the substance of an argument. We learned that during Bill Clinton’s impeachment, when all national business stopped while the President was tried for a lie about a sex act. No wonder scandalizing has become a weapon of choice for the right. It’s Sullivan’s first line of defense against any adversary, and in that respect, he is a true conservative.