There is an interesting controversy in Washington where Stanley Thornton Jr., aka “Adult Baby,” has demanded an apology from Sen. Tom Coburn, who Thorton says effectively accused him of fraud when Coburn called for the Social Security Administration to review his qualification for benefits. Thornton was featured on the National Geographic channel reality television show “Taboo.” Thorton lives part of his life as an “adult baby” and collects Social Security disability payments.
After seeing the program, Coburn called for the benefit review. The review came in the final months of life for his roommate Sandra Dias, who spoon-fed him and helping him into his baby clothes. Thornton was shown playing in the adult-sized crib he built and seen working to build a wooden high chair.
A few months after the start of the investigation, Dias died. Thornton was then cleared by the Social Security investigators which sent him a letter stating “We recently reviewed the evidence in your Social Security disability claim and find that your disability is continuing.” Thornton now runs www.BedWettingABDL.com for others who play-act as babies, wear diapers or wet their beds.
John Hart, a spokesman for Mr. Coburn, stands by original allegations questioning how “a grown man who is able to design and build adult-sized baby furniture is eligible for disability benefits.” He did add that they felt sympathy for the death of Dias.
The controlling law would make it difficult for Thorton to sue.
Members of Congress generally are protected under the “speech or debate” clause in Article I, Section 6, of the Constitution. However, the privilege protects legislative proceedings and generally does not apply to news releases, speeches and other public comments. This was the holding in Hutchinson v. Proxmire, when Sen. Proxmire was found to be acting outside of the clause in making media comments regarding his golden fleece award.
A federal court threw out a lawsuit against the late John Murtha.
Then there is the question of whether Coburn’s statements were defamatory. They were not. He asked a federal agency to investigate which would itself be viewed as a protected communication. His opinion is that the benefits were unjustified — opinion is also given protection under defamation and constitutional principles.
I am actually on my way to Oklahoma to give the 2011 Holloway Lecture. I expect to leave out the Adult Baby having discussed it fully on our blog.
Source: Washington Times