Rachel follows up on her reporting on the 'kill the gays' bill being considered in Uganda. Her show attempted to get some responses from the American legislators who have decided to inject themselves so deeply into African politics - with predictable results. Most of them either tried to wash their hands of their part in this absolutely horrid piece of proposed legislation or didn’t bother to respond at all. The scandal ridden John Ensign’s office said he was too busy screwing up the health care bill to give a response.
James Inhofe and Sam Brownback didn’t bother to respond, either. Don’t hold your breath waiting on those two knuckle-draggers, Rachel. I’m sure it will be a cold day in hell before either of them bother to tell the evil “librul” lesbian woman why they could care less if you were killed if you were unfortunate enough to live in Uganda, assuming this law gets passed.
Props to Rachel for keeping after this story. It has to be one of the most disgusting news items I’ve watched in a very long time and these C-Street wingers need to be held to account for their actions. It’s a shame the rest of the media is not giving this story the attention it deserves. They’re too busy chasing around the White House party crashers or Tiger Woods’ mistresses.
Transcript via Nexis Lexis below the fold.
GEORGE W. BUSH, THEN-U.S. PRESIDENT: Today on the continent of Africa, nearly 30 million people have the AIDS virus -- including 3 million children under the age of 15. Ladies and gentlemen, seldom has history offered a greater opportunity to do so much for so many.
Tonight, I propose the emergency plan for AIDS relief -- a work of mercy beyond all current international efforts to help the people of Africa.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: A legitimately moving moment in President Bush`s State of the Union address back in the year 2003. When all was said and done after two terms of the Bush administration, American help fighting HIV and AIDS in Africa was one marquee issue of compassionate conservatism that Mr. Bush could brag about in trying to shape his legacy for historians and he did come back and talk about the issue at the end of his presidency to remind people about that.
The issue of AIDS in Africa indeed became one of the hallmark causes for a lot of different conservatives who wanted to keep the compassionate conservatism idea alive, conservatives like Kansas Senator Sam Brownback.
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SEN. SAM BROWNBACK (R), KANSAS: It`s amazing how grateful people are for -- if you save -- help save their lives. The approval ratings of the United States in Africa, the highest continent in the world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: But it`s not just that these conservative religious politicians have a generic continent-wide engagement on the issue of AIDS in Africa. The involvement that these politicians have had has largely been focused on one specific country, Uganda. When President Bush came into office, Uganda was one of the success stories in Africa when it came to fighting AIDS.
Their success was built around a strategy called ABC. ABC stood for "abstinence," "be faithful" and "condoms." In other words, first abstain from sex, otherwise be monogamous, otherwise use condoms. And condom billboards, condom promotion was evident all over the nation of Uganda.
This effort to combat HIV and AIDS through that comprehensive strategy worked pretty well. Infection rates in Uganda dropped from about 15 percent to 5 percent from 1991 to 2001.
But then President Bush`s big high-profile push to help fight AIDS in Africa ended up coming with a big catch. American conservatives wanted the focus to be on abstinence, not on condoms.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BROWNBACK: It`s abstinence-focused. If you want to stop the spread, the key best way to do it is abstinence.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: When Congress finally passed the big AIDS legislation that President Bush wanted, Republican Congressman Joe Pitts slipped in an amendment that said 33 percent of the funding -- 33 percent -- could only be used for abstinence programs. Fully, a third of that money earmarked only for abstinence, even as American research consistently demonstrated that abstinence programs just don`t work.
As religious conservatives were pushing abstinence on places like Uganda from Washington, internationally-minded, politically-connected America conservative evangelical began focusing on Uganda as well. Evangelicals like American Pastor Rick Warren and his Saddleback Church; evangelicals like the Family which we`ve talked about on this program with Jeff Sharlet.
The Family, of course, is the secretive religious organization that runs the C Street dormitory for lawmakers in Washington. It`s led by a man named Doug Coe.
Republican Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma credits Doug Coe for launching his own activism in Africa.
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SEN. JAMES INHOFE (R), OKLAHOMA: Doug has always been kind of the unseen and very quiet. He talked me into going to Africa. I had no interest in going to Africa.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Religious conservatives saw Uganda specifically as a place that they could have some real influence. Uganda`s first lady became an emphatically born again Christian. Her husband, the president, is believed to have serious ties to the Family. Same goes for the ethics minister of Uganda, as well as a number of legislators there.
One of Uganda`s most prominent pastors began speaking at Rick Warren`s mega-church in California. He became so close with Rick Warren that Rick Warren`s wife reportedly called him her brother.
And while Americans were courting that Ugandan pastor here touting their own compassionate conservatism on the issue of AIDS in Africa, back in Uganda, that pastor was taking up the anti-condom cause, holding public bonfires of condoms, conducting some of the most extreme anti-gay preaching and activism anywhere in the world.
Evangelicals and conservative politicians in this country saw Uganda as a place that they could leave their mark. Senator Sam Brownback traveled there to look into the AIDS issue in 2005. Senator James Inhofe made at least 20 trips to Africa just since 1999, mostly to Uganda as well as Ethiopia.
In March of this year, a group of three American evangelicals traveled to Uganda for a conference on the evils of homosexuality. Their message was that homosexuality is a choice, that it can be cured by a relationship with Jesus, that, in short, you can pray the gay away.
There`s been a dual effort under way here: anti-gay proselytizing by American evangelicals and assurances from conservative American politicians that we can solve that nation`s AIDS problem.
The culmination of these efforts -- this massive focus on Uganda -- is a piece of legislation that`s been introduced in that country now that attempts, it says, to tackle the AIDS problem in that country and the problem of homosexuality all at once. It`s a bill that calls for the execution of any gay Ugandan who is HIV positive, who is caught having gay sex -- death by hanging specifically. And it`s not just gay Ugandans who are HIV positive who are being targeted, the sentence just for being gay is life imprisonment.
The sentence for knowing somebody who is gay and not reporting them to authorities, presumably so they can be prosecuted, is three years in prison. This bill was written by a Ugandan legislator purportedly taken in by Republican Senator James Inhofe and the Family here in America.
Having lit this fuse and created this environment in Uganda where a bill like this can exist, some American evangelicals and conservative politicians are now sort of washing their hands of the whole situation.
Pastor Rick Warren is saying, quote, "It`s not my personal calling as a pastor in America to comment or interfere in the political process of other nations."
The evangelical leaders who went there in March are now saying their intent was not at all to inspire this type of legislation.
But what about all of the conservative politicians in this country who have shown themselves to have such influence in Uganda and who have decided to concern themselves so publicly with this one specific country in Africa?
Now that there`s a bill in that country that calls for the execution of people who are gay in that country for the simple fact of being gay, those politicians maybe should say what they think about it.
Family-linked Senator Tom Coburn`s office is telling us today that the senator does not support the legislation. When we asked his office whether he would communicate that to officials in Uganda where it might matter, the senator had no comment.
Family-linked Congressman Bart Stupak`s office telling us, quote, "Any claim that I support the legislation before the Ugandan parliament is as clueless as it is false." Mr. Stupak`s office adding that he believes the State Department is looking into it.
Indeed, the State Department telling us exclusively today that they are looking into the matter saying, quote, "If adopted, a bill further criminalizing homosexuality would constitute a significant step backwards for the protection of human rights in Uganda." The State Department tells us that they are in the process of raising this issue with Ugandan authorities.
Now, the office of Congressman Joe Pitts, who slipped in that pro- abstinence language telling us today -- who slipped in that pro-abstinence language in the Bush AIDS bill, he told us today, quote, "What the Ugandan legislation proposes to do is unambiguously wrong and I hope they will not proceed with it."
These statements, of course, encouraging. Some other senators remain silent on the issue as yet. Senator John Ensign`s office, for example, told us today they could not get an answer from him on this issue because he`s been so focused on health care.
We made repeated calls to the offices of Senator James Inhofe and Senator Sam Brownback. We have yet to hear back from either of them on this issue -- despite the fact they`ve been so proudly outspoken on issues affecting Uganda and, specifically, sexuality in Uganda in the past.
Conservative politicians and evangelicals in this country have made a really big push into Africa in recent years and they`ve even been very delighted to get some political acclaim as compassionate conservatives for having done so.
When a human rights disaster like this is born in that country that they`ve taken so much pride in showing off their influence in, in a country they have been intimately involved in, it could be argued that it is incumbent upon those politicians to at least say what they think about that legislation, if not take action in that country in which they have such influence. We`ll keep you posted on what we hear from them, their future actions or lack thereof.