The Virality of Ken Cuccinelli

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
April 4 2013 1:35 PM

The Virality of Ken Cuccinelli

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Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli speaks as National Rifle Association President David Keene looks on at the 2012 Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, DC.

Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

The initial reports on Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli's latest legal move blew right past me. I saw something on Twitter about how he "wanted to ban oral sex." Guy Benson cites WaPo to explain what actually happened in the case, and why Cuccinelli tried to appeal a decision citing the state's "crimes against nature" law.

The case in question involved a teenage girl and a 47-year-old man, William Scott MacDonald, who was convicted of soliciting a minor to commit a felony. A petition was filed on Cuccinelli’s behalf asking for the full 15-judge court to reconsider the panel’s decision. LGBT advocates have expressed disappointment, saying the law is unconstitutional and anti-gay. “This case is not about sexual orientation, but using current law to protect a 17 year-old girl from a 47 year-old sexual predator,” Cuccinelli spokeswoman Caroline Gibson said in a statement.

The law's on the books; as Chris Geidner explains in the link above, Lawrence v. Texas didn't strike down "crimes against nature" statutes as much as it made them unenforceable. Here, the state wants to salvage the law to prosecute a pair of hetereosexuals, because one of the partners was below the age of consent. (Only eight other states keep the age of consent at 18.)

Pretty simple, but what strikes me is that a Mother Jones item about the story, mostly a recap of the facts with a juicy headline, has been shared 21,000+ times on Facebook. Cuccinelli's the only Republican who might lose a gubernatorial race this year, so some buzz is inevitable, but he's become a national Emanuel Goldstein figure for social conservatism in no time at all.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. You can reach him at daveweigel@gmail.com, or tweet at him @daveweigel.