Columnist Accused Of Fabrication

The head of a conservative lobbying group accused Newsday columnist Jimmy Breslin of making up quotes attributed to him in a column published Wednesday.

Breslin, a Pulitzer Prize winner, dismissed the allegation, saying the quotes came from a 1992 interview. A top Newsday editor said it would have been better if Breslin had made that clear in his column.

The Rev. Louis Sheldon, chairman of the Traditional Values Coalition, said he has "never met Jimmy Breslin, never had the conversation described in his column today and never said those sentences to anyone in my life."

In the column, Breslin wrote, "'Homosexuals are dangerous,' Sheldon assured me one day. ... 'They proselytize. They come to the door, and if your son answers and nobody is there to stop it, they grab the son and run off with him. They steal him. They take him away and turn him into a homosexual.'"

Sheldon, speaking by telephone from Anaheim, Calif., said he has never said anything of the kind.

"I don't agree that homosexuals come to someone's door and kidnap their children, and I've never said that," he said.

He said the column, in which Breslin refers to him as "a fruitcake," is intended "to demonize me."

Breslin said the conversation with Sheldon took place at the Republican National Convention in Houston in 1992.

Breslin quoted Sheldon, whom he called "the little minister," about homosexuality and pornography in an Aug. 18, 1992, column from the GOP convention.

The quotes from 1992 and from Wednesday are not the same, but Breslin said there was a larger exchange.

"It was delightful to meet someone that far out and loony, and I wrote a column about it then, so how can he say we never spoke?" Breslin said by phone. "Of course he met me. He knows it, and I know it."

Asked why Sheldon would make such an accusation, Breslin replied: "Because he's Lou Sheldon. These people will say anything."

Sheldon said he was at the convention but does not recall speaking to Breslin.

He said he had sent a telegram of complaint to Newsday. Les Payne, editor of Newsday's New York edition, said the newspaper would respond to Sheldon's complaint, but he didn't say how.

Breslin did not mention in Wednesday's column that he was quoting a conversation from 1992. Asked if that should have been made clear, Payne said, "I think our readers should be let in on the time frame, sure."

Breslin won a Pulitzer Prize in 1986 for distinguished commentary writing and has written several books. He also had a late-night television show, "Jimmy Breslin's People," which lasted just 13 weeks in 1986.

The Traditional Values Coalition, founded in 1980, describes itself as the largest church lobby in the United States. Its mission is to "restore America's cultural heritage" by opposing gay rights, abortion rights and the teaching of evolution in public schools, among other issues.