John Stossel discusses his new book Give Me a Break, with a little gay talk thrown in
by Blase DiStefano
John Stossel is co-anchor with Barbara Walters on ABC’s 20/20. The 56-year-old married journalist spoke to OutSmart before he attended a February speaking engagement in Houston, hosted by the Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse.
Blase DiStefano: Were you ever a smoker?
John Stossel: No.
BD: What do you think of the restrictions put upon smokers?
JS: I think it’s a nasty tyranny. I love smoke-free bars, but I think in a free country, smokers ought to be allowed to have some bars. And an owner ought to get to make the decision.
BD: It seems that if you own the place, shouldn’t it be your decision? It’s the government getting involved.
JS: You’re right, it should be, but it isn’t.
BD: Why do you think the government tends to get too involved in everything?
JS: I think it’s human nature that we want to turn to an elite group that will be like mommy and protect us and make everybody be fair to each other. And despite this stunning record of failure, the conceit of the elite is such that we keep thinking the elite will rule us better than we can rule ourselves.
BD: In what areas do you think you’re very liberal and in what areas do you think you’re very conservative?
JS: It sort of depends so much on how you define these things, but I think we should have limited government, as people should be free to do anything that’s peaceful. Adults should be free, so if you want to rent your body to somebody else, that should be your right. Vice laws should be thrown out. These laws cause more crime, do more harm than they possibly › could prevent. But I also think we should have a minimal welfare state and that free markets do wonderful things for people, and that’s considered conservative.
BD: I’ve always considered myself extremely liberal in all areas, but while reading your book, I realized that I’m very conservative in certain areas.
JS: I guess you’re a Liberatarian.
BD: There doesn’t seem to be much difference between the two parties.
JS: Democins and Republicrats.
BD: [Laughs] Do you vote?
JS: Sometimes, but often I have just found no one I could stomach voting for, and then I have not voted.
BD: Do you think you’ll run for president?
JS: No, I don’t have the social skills.
BD: [Laughs] You mentioned in your book that you think homosexuality is perfectly natural. So do you think that I should be able to get married and serve in the military and be openly gay at the same time?
BD: I realize that the Democrats have a more liberal view of gay marriage, but what they’re saying is that I can have a civil union, but I can’t get married.
JS: Right. I guess some are saying you can’t even have a civil union.
BD: In your book you say that males and females are biologically hardwired to be different. What about men like me who as kids played with dolls and, in fact, played with cowboy guns, too?
JS: I would assume that you were biologically hardwired to be that way, but I like to mouth off about what I’ve really studied [both laugh]. And I studied general differences in testosterone baths that boy and girl babies get in the womb. But when it comes to homosexuality and girls with CAH [Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia, who exhibit behavioral masculinization] and all these complications, … I think these things are largely things we’re born with.
BD: I’ve never known anything but homosexuality, so I can’t see that that’s not how I was born. It just seems logical.
Can you talk just a little bit about lawyers and how you feel about them?
JS: I think they are the biggest threat to our money and our freedom. And since they argue better than everybody else, they roll us in the debate. And that’s very threatening, but practice makes perfect. These guys fight for a living, that’s what they do. All day they use trickery and deceit—or the truth—to win cases. So they have learned to argue better than us, and it’s very hard to get reform. Even “loser pays”—[they use] the language, so they cleverly call it the English Rule, as if it’s some weird English thing, when it’s really the rest-of-the-world rule, and we have the weird American rule.
BD: Part of it for me is actually understanding a lot of what they’re talking about, because they tend to use lawyer jargon.
JS: That’s true, too, like they’re special magic, wise people.
BD: Any more thoughts about homosexuality and the law?
JS: Just that a government big enough to tell you where you can smoke is a government big enough to tell you who you can screw.
BD: [Laughs] Thank you. If a man were to put the make on you, how do you think you’d react?
BD: Really? I wouldn’t have expected…
JS: Well, as an adult, not badly. But if it would have happened to me when I was 14…
BD: Oh, no, no, not when you were a kid. I’m talking about now.
JS: Well, it happens, and if it’s done in a nice way, I kind of enjoy it. It’s flattery.
BD: I had a feeling that that’s how you felt. When I interviewed Tammy Faye Baker and I asked her how she would feel if a woman ever put the make on her, she was obviously very uncomfortable.
JS: That’s interesting. I have a friend who once did polls for Playboy, and one of their questions was that if you were bisexual, what actor or actress of your sex would you have an affair with? And the women by and large would say this one or that one, and the guys by and large said, “What do you mean?! I’m not gay!” So I would think a woman would be more open to that.
BD: But you don’t have to be open to it, because I’ve been asked what woman I would pick. A long time ago, I remember I picked Angel Tompkins [an actress who had posed in Playboy]. So who would you pick?
JS: I’m not gonna go on record on this.
Blase DiStefano, creative director of OutSmart, interviewed Kathy Najimy for the November 2003 issue.