For a man who hates bullies, Dan Savage sure seems to enjoy picking on anyone he disagrees with.
The openly gay founder of the "It Gets Better" anti-bullying campaign made news earlier this month with controversial comments at a high school journalism conference in Seattle, where he urged participants to "ignore the bull---- in the Bible" that condemns homosexuality and branded the book a "radically pro-slavery document." Several students walked out, prompting Savage to call them "pansy-a--ed."
Savage has since apologized for using the term in reference to the students who left the auditorium, but the incident was the latest example of the 47-year-old syndicated sex columnist's vitriol against Christians and conservatives.
- Last year, he told HBO's Bill Maher he wished all Republicans were dead and invited presidential candidate Herman Cain to perform a sex act on him.
- He wrote about volunteering for Gary Bauer's 2008 presidential campaign, saying that while sick with the flu, he licked doorknobs in campaign offices and handed Bauer a pen coated with his viral saliva. He later said he was joking.
- Savage wrote a column in which he attempted to make Rick Santorum's last name a synonym for a gay sex act.
- Savage in 2009 ridiculed the Rev. Rick Warren's Saddleback Church by defining "saddlebacking" as "the phenomenon of Christian teens engaging in unprotected anal sex in order to preserve their virginities."
- Savage fought against Mississippi legislation banning the sale of sex toys by urging his readers to send used ones to a journalist whose expose led to the arrest of an adult video store owner.
Other anti-bullying advocates said Savage's attacks show the very behavior he claims to abhor.
“What I preach is about respect and dignity, and he violated the very platform we are trying to promote and move forward,” Edie Raether, a parenting coach and author of “Stop Bullying Now,” told FoxNews.com. “There’s no question he was acting like a bully. It creates a feeling of hypocrisy."
Paul Coughlin, founder of The Protectors, an international anti-bullying nonprofit group with faith-based and values-based programs, said Savage's latest broadside, delivered at a journalism conference sponsored by the National Scholastic Press Association and the Journalism Education Association, only hurt his cause.
“His comments are so out of kilter and they really do work against his ultimate interest: to diminish bullying,” said Coughlin. “He really is working against the ultimate goal at this point. I don’t think we really have a national spokesperson for the movement, and he should not be it unless he changes his ways.”
Savage said Sunday that he did not mean to insult all Christians, and he said he regretted insulting students.
"My use of "pansy-a--ed" was insulting, it was name-calling, and it was wrong," he said. "And I apologize for saying it."
The White House has embraced the "It Gets Better" project, with President Obama recording a video in October 2010, for the campaign in which he calls for dispelling "this myth that bullying is just a normal rite of passage." Last year, the Obamas hosted an anti-bullying conference affiliated with the campaign..
Savage, whose campaign was launched after a 15-year-old high school student committed suicide after being bullied over his sexual orientation and amid other tragedies involving gay teens, has a valid message, said Amanda Nickerson, director of the University of Buffalo’s Alberti Center for the Prevention of Bullying Abuse and School Violence.
“But I think a better way to do it is to show that you’re a model for what you’re advocating for – and that is treating all people with respect,” Nickerson said. “I don’t think it was wise what he did, but I think he can recover from it and move forward.”
Meanwhile, Rick Tuttle, a teacher at California’s Sutter Union High School who attended the lecture with several students, told Fox News that he had high hopes for Savage’s remarks.
“I thought there was a value going to this conference, which I thought was going to be about anti-bullying,” Tuttle said. “But what we got was a vulgar, profanity-laced attack on Christians and some student actually asked if they could leave.
“This is what we teach kids to do when they’re being bullied – walk away,” Tuttle continued. “And that’s what they did.”