Players: Republican Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma; Stanley Thornton, an "adult baby" whose curious lifestyle was recently featured on an episode of NatGeo's Taboo.
Opening Serve: Coburn, not unlike (we hope) the rest of America, was disturbed to discover that there is apparently a subculture of adults, mostly men, who enjoy spending their free time dressing, eating, and even defecating like a baby. But more disturbing than the fact that Stanley Thornton, 30, spends his days rolling around on the floor in an XXL onesie and diaper, eating meals in an over sized highchair, and being taken care of by an ex-nurse who pretends to be his mother, is the fact that Thornton is doing all of this on the government's dime! An outraged Coburn wrote a letter to the Social Security Administration urging an investigation of the adult baby's disability benefits, allowing him to forgo working for full-time role play.
Coburn petitioned Inspector General Patrick O'Carroll, insisting, "Given that Mr. Thornton is able to determine what is appropriate attire and actions in public, drive himself to complete errands, design and custom make baby furniture to support a 350-pound adult and run an Internet support group, it is possible that he has been improperly collecting disability benefits for a period of time."
Return Volley: The Washington Times got its hands on Coburn's letter and reached out to Thornton for a response. In addition to insisting that "the television episode showing him doing woodwork oversold his abilities," Thornton "threatened to kill himself if his Social Security payments are taken away." He tells the paper, via email:
You wanna test how damn serious I am about leaving this world, screw with my check that pays for this apartment and food. Try it. See how serious I am. I don’t care. I have no problem killing myself. Take away the last thing keeping me here, and see what happens. Next time you see me on the news, it will be me in a body bag.
What They Say the Fight's About: Coburn is suspicious of Thornton's disability claims and wants to make sure that his Supplemental Security Income benefits are warranted before allowing the government to continue funding his adult baby lifestyle. Thornton argues that the NatGeo special was misleading and that he really deserves the funds he's receiving.
What the Fight's Really About: Coburn may be using Thornton's public exposure as a vehicle through which to argue his own ideas about Social Security benefits. However, according to Stanley's biography on his adult baby website, Stanley attributes his lifestyle, as well as his inability to work, to a heart condition caused by post-traumatic stress disorder resulting from years of childhood abuse. This fight may also be about just how weird many non-adult babies find the adult baby phenomenon.
Who's Winning Now: Only time will tell. It remains to be seen whether Coburn's request to investigate Thorton's health will be granted and, if so, what it will reveal. In the meantime, we'll have to take Thornton at his word, and try to overlook his infantile tendencies in determining whether he is deserving of disability benefits--difficult as that may be.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.