Tags: Alaska, alaska attorney general, Alaska politics, anti-gay, domestic violence, KKK, ku klux klan, leah burton, max blumenthal, native americans, palin 2012, palin appointment, palin controversy, palin presidential candidate, politics, racism, rape his wife, richard burton, right wing, roger hollander, Sarah Palin, spousal rape, wayne anthony ross
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(Roger’s note: sometime shortly after the election, I believe, I said I would post no more Sarah Palin stories, and I have kept my work up until now. This one is too good to pass up.)
The governor is reeling after nominating for attorney general a man who allegedly defended the right of men to rape their wives.
While priming her political machine for a likely 2012 presidential primary run, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has fomented a scandal that threatens to further erode her reputation in the Last Frontier.
In March, Palin nominated Wayne Anthony Ross for attorney general. Ross, a colorful far-right lawyer and longtime Palin ally who sports his initials, W.A.R., on his Hummer’s vanity plates, was once considered a shoo-in for confirmation. However, his nomination was thrown into grave peril when his opponents presented evidence that he called homosexuals “degenerates,” hailed the “courage” of a student who lionized the Ku Klux Klan, vowed to undermine the sovereignty of Native American tribes, and allegedly defended men who rape their wives. According to two sources close to the confirmation hearings, Palin may ask Ross to withdraw before his appointment comes to a vote.
Palin’s hopes for a swift confirmation process were dashed April 10 when Leah Burton, a veteran lobbyist on children’s issues and domestic violence, submitted a letter to the Alaska State Judiciary Committee claiming that Ross publicly defended spousal rape. According to Burton, who detailed the allegations for me, Ross allegedly declared during a speech before a 1991 gathering of the “father’s rights” group Dads Against Discrimination, “If a guy can’t rape his wife, who’s he gonna rape?” (In a subsequent letter, Ross denied the remark and claimed, “I don’t talk like that!”)
Burton said Ross’s statement was consistent with his overarching attitude toward women’s issues. She claimed that he once said during a debate on the Equal Rights Amendment, “If a woman would keep her mouth shut, there wouldn’t be an issue with domestic violence.” Burton also maintained she has been in touch with “a number” of domestic-violence victims who witnessed Ross make “horrible” statements, but are too intimidated to speak out. “Alaska is a very small state and it’s terrifying for these victims to come forward because they’re afraid of retribution,” Burton told me.
Since Burton’s testimony, her father, former Alaska Public Safety Commissioner Richard Burton, wrote a letter of his own demanding to Ross that he withdraw his nomination. “You sir, speak and act like the kind of bully I met many times when responding to domestic-violence calls, some of the most dangerous situations police officers are often in,” Burton wrote. Ross reacted with characteristic fury to the Burtons’ broadsides, barking to reporters that if “anybody said that to me, we’d have a little confrontation because that’s a bunch of crap.” At the same time, a grassroots group raising support for Palin’s presidential bid called Conservatives4Palin attacked Leah Burton as an anti-Christian “fringe nutcase.”
But as pro-Palin forces attempted to push back against Ross’s critics, dozens of op-eds Ross authored during the 1980s and 1990s surfaced as key exhibits in the case against his confirmation. Among them is a 1993 piece entitled, “KKK ‘art’ project gets ‘A’ for courage,” in which Ross cheered on a local college student who had offended an African-American classmate by creating a statue of a Klansman with a cross in one hand and a flag in the other. “It might have been fun to see [the African-American student] try to remove the display,” Ross wrote. “Then she could have been arrested and her future as a student of the university could have been resolved through the university disciplinary proceedings.”
During the early 1980s, while Anchorage residents grappled over renaming the city’s 15th Street as Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, and state legislators mulled establishing a state holiday honoring the assassinated civil-rights leader, Ross wrote several manifestoes attacking King as a communist subversive, according to University of Alaska-Anchorage music professor and local progressive activist Phil Munger. Munger also told me Ross has routinely appeared at public events beside his friend, Don Tanner, a white nationalist who moved to South Africa for a period during the 1980s to support its apartheid government, and who reveled crowds of conservatives with anti-black “South African jokes” upon his return to Alaska.
A glance at Ross’s published archive shows he never limited his resentment to minorities. He taunted environmentalists (“It is time we quit crying over the oil spill” was the title of an editorial he wrote in the wake of the Exxon Valdez disaster); he denounced homosexuals as “degenerates” during a 1993 legal fight over a local gay-rights ordinance; and announced that his final wish before dying was to overturn Roe v. Wade. While rising through the ranks of the NRA’s national leadership in the 1980s, Ross published a piece in the mercenary magazine Soldier of Fortune, defending the right to form antigovernment militias.
“Ross’s profile fits where Palin wants to go after the current legislative session ends,” Munger remarked to me. “She seems to be planning some behind-the-scenes movement to stir up the crazies, especially by convincing them the federal government is going take their guns away. So nobody here is surprised by this selection.”
While Ross sustained withering criticism for his views on social issues, Native American tribes denounced his vociferous opposition to their subsistence rights. The tribes were especially disturbed by his vow during a 2002 gubernatorial debate to “hire a band of junkyard dog” attorneys to gut federal laws guaranteeing natives subsistence preferences. “It almost looked like she was rubbing our face in Anthony Ross’s appointment,” said Tim Towarak, co-chairman of the Alaska Federation of Natives, told The Bristol Bay Times. “Like rubbing our face on the ground, saying ‘Here, take this.’” With increasingly powerful tribal groups mobilizing a united front against Ross, Palin was compelled to defend her own record, pleading, “Obviously I am not anti-Native and would never appoint anyone who is.”
If Palin withdraws Ross’s nomination, she could end another embarrassing political spectacle before it registers on the national press corps’ radar. Alternatively, if she manages to ram his appointment through, Palin can begin implementing a hard-right legal agenda that will appeal to the elements she is cultivating as the base of her likely 2012 presidential campaign. However Palin decides to proceed with W.A.R., by nominating him, she has staked out the culture war as the fuel for her national ambitions.
Max Blumenthal is a senior writer for The Daily Beast and writing fellow at The Nation Institute, whose book, Republican Gomorrah (Basic/Nation Books), is forthcoming in Spring 2009. Contact him at email@example.com.
Max Blumenthal on “Rick Warren’s Double Life” December 24, 2008Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Human Rights.
Tags: amy goodman, Barack Obama, beliefnet, dailybeast, Democracy Now, gay marriage, gay rights, inauguration, Iran, james dobson, lesbian rights, max blumenthal, pat robertson, proposition 8, rick warren, roger hollander, saddleback church, same-sex marriage, sean hannity
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23 december 2008
President-elect Barack Obama is drawing criticism from many supporters for his choice to deliver the invocation at next month’s inauguration. Obama has selected the Reverend Rick Warren, a leading evangelical opponent of abortion and same-sex marriage. Warren supported California’s recent gay marriage ban and has compared abortion to the Nazi Holocaust. In a recent interview with the website BeliefNet.com, Warren said he thinks gay marriage is comparable to incest, polygamy and child abuse. We speak to investigative journalist Max Blumenthal.
AMY GOODMAN: President-elect Barack Obama is drawing criticism from many supporters for his choice to deliver the invocation at next month’s inauguration. Obama selected the Reverend Rick Warren, a leading evangelical opponent of abortion and same-sex marriage. Warren supported California’s recent gay marriage ban and has compared abortion to the Nazi Holocaust. In a recent interview with the website beliefnet.com, Warren said he thinks gay marriage is comparable to incest, polygamy and child abuse.
- REV. RICK WARREN: I’m opposed to having a brother and sister be together and call that marriage. I’m opposed to an older guy marrying a child and calling that a marriage. I’m opposed to one guy having multiple wives and calling that marriage.
STEVEN WALDMAN: Do you think those are equivalent to gays getting married?
REV. RICK WARREN: Oh, I do. I just say, for 5,000 years, marriage has been defined by every single culture and every single religion. This is not a Christian issue. Buddhists, Muslims, Jews—you know, historically, marriage is a man and a woman.
AMY GOODMAN: The Reverend Rick Warren, speaking to beliefnet.com. After Warren’s inauguration appearance was announced, Obama was forced to defend his choice.
- PRESIDENT-ELECT BARACK OBAMA: It is no secret that I am a fierce advocate for equality for gay and lesbian Americans. It is something that I have been consistent on and something that I intend to continue to be consistent on during my presidency.
What I’ve also said is that it is important for America to come together, even though we may have disagreements on certain social issues. And I would note that a couple of years ago, I was invited to Rick Warren’s church to speak, despite his awareness that I held views that were entirely contrary to his when it came to gay and lesbian rights, when it came to issues like abortion. Nevertheless, I had an opportunity to speak. And that dialogue, I think, is part of what my campaign’s been all about.
AMY GOODMAN: President-elect Barack Obama, speaking in Chicago last week.
I’m joined now by Max Blumenthal, Puffin Foundation writing fellow at the Nation Institute. His work has appeared in The Nation, Salon and many other publications, currently writing a book on the US evangelical movement. His latest article, “Rick Warren’s Hypocritical Double Life,” is online at dailybeast.com. Max Blumenthal joins us by DN! video stream.
Welcome to Democracy Now!, Max.
MAX BLUMENTHAL: Great to be here.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about the history of Rick Warren.
MAX BLUMENTHAL: Well, the history of Rick Warren is pretty interesting. And you heard some of his views right there. These are views that people have only recently started paying attention to. Prior to this controversy, Rick Warren was, you know, proffered by the media as the voice of the new evangelical movement, which embraces environmentalism and fights poverty and is going to move beyond the old hobgoblins of the Christian right and the old, you know, draconian figures of the Christian right, like James Dobson and Pat Robertson. Rick Warren was supposed to be the pioneer of this new movement. He is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church, a megachurch in Orange County. And he’s the author of The Purpose Driven Life, which is, you know, a sort of subtly Christian, self-help manual that sold 25 million copies. So he has a really broad appeal, and he’s planted churches across the world, especially in Africa.
And because, you know, the media has expected evangelicals, especially conservative evangelicals, to be draconian and retrograde, you know, they’ve made a hero out of Rick Warren without looking at who he really is and what he really believes. Nicholas Kristof from the New York Times, for example, has called Rick Warren an evangelical liberals can love. You know, Newsweek named Rick Warren one of the fifteen people who make America great. And even The Nation, which I’ve written for, you know, the venerable left-wing magazine, in 2005 published a piece calling Rick Warren America’s pastor.
You know, he wears a Hawaiian shirt. He looks like a big teddy bear. He doesn’t holler or hector. He speaks in a ponderous tone. And he does seem to genuinely care about the environment and care about poverty. It’s not clear what he’s actually done.
And he’s been pumped up by a small group of Democratic consultants, who urged Barack Obama first to go to his church and speak with him and then to participate in a debate this August that was broadcast by CNN, the Saddleback Forum, where Rick Warren essentially got to interview both candidates sequentially, John McCain and Barack Obama, on the issues and serve as the national minister. The debate went really badly for Obama, because Rick Warren asked him a trick question about abortion: When does a baby get human rights? Barack Obama couldn’t answer it. Soon after, he was attacked by right-wing radio hosts for his answer, because he said, you know, “This question is above my pay grade.” And Rick Warren even went on a conservative radio show and, you know, chuckled about Obama’s response and kind of lightly mocked him.
So, the real Rick Warren is someone who fights the culture war with a velvet glove. He’s a religious right figure who’s figured out a new strategy to move into a Democratic post-Bush era and still hold influence. He even—he freely admitted to a reporter from the Wall Street Journal that the principal difference, the only difference, between him and James Dobson is a matter of tone. And when I called Rick Warren’s PR handlers, you know, the people that are responsible for making him into this major national figure, from Larry A. Ross Communications, they kind of laughed at the idea that he was America’s pastor. They said he’s consistent with what the Bible teaches. He’s not trying to be America’s pastor or whatever.
So, Rick Warren openly backed Proposition 8 in California last November—this November, and he did so in the terms that you heard him speaking to Steven Waldman, essentially saying that two percent of our population, the homosexual population, was trying to dictate to the rest us, which is a really demagogic thing to say. He told that to his congregation. And he’s backed every anti-gay proposition that’s come down the pike in California in the last ten years, including Proposition 22, which laid the groundwork for Proposition 8. He joined up with James Dobson and Charles Colson and Tony Perkins and these people to do this.
Beyond that, he compares pro-choice advocates to Holocaust deniers. He recently was interviewed by Sean Hannity, and Sean Hannity asked him, “Should we attack Iran?” And Rick Warren said, “Well, it’s our God-given obligation to take out evildoers.” He has recently scrubbed material from his website claiming that man walked the earth with dinosaurs, basically that, you know, history is one big Flintstones episode. He will not allow homosexuals to be members of his church, and he recently scrubbed that from his website.
So it’s just interesting to me that people are finally paying attention to this, after Rick Warren has never tried to hide his views. He’s never really gamed the media. It’s just that progressives have finally drawn the line, where Barack Obama has not.
AMY GOODMAN: You write about, one, Rick Warren saying he doesn’t feel that politics and religion should be mixed. But you also talk about how in the last days of the presidential race of Bush’s 2004 re-election bid, Warren sent an urgent blast email to hundreds of thousands of evangelicals, insisting they base their votes on five non-negotiable issues: abortion, stem cell research, gay marriage, human cloning and euthanasia.
MAX BLUMENTHAL: Right. And this is before Rick Warren became a member of the ONE Campaign, before, you know, the media had began puffing him, and before people—Democratic consultants like Mara Vanderslice, who ran a sort of Christian front group for Obama called Matthew 25, and self-proclaimed progressive evangelicals in the media, like Amy Sullivan, began presenting him as one of the new evangelicals who was going to take us beyond the Christian right. But the evidence was there that Rick Warren had sort of insidiously backed George W. Bush by saying that pastors had to vote and urge their congregations to vote on issues like abortion and homosexuality. If you vote on those issues and you say that those issues are non-negotiable, then of course you’re going to vote for George W. Bush, and of course you’re going to back the Republicans for Congress.
Beyond that, you know, Rick Warren says he’s for the environment. Rick Warren says that he’s for fighting poverty, which is great. But what has he actually done? You know, I’ve spent hours scouring the internet, calling around, trying to find some results that Rick Warren has produced in Africa against AIDS, results he’s produced against poverty. And all I can find is that his peace programs, which he calls them, are sort of recruitment vehicles for the churches that he’s planning in Africa and that he is using these programs actually to evangelize, and there’s no real way of measuring his results. And there are Christian groups that are doing good work, you know, in the third world, that are fighting poverty, and they measure results, groups like Medical Teams International. Even World Vision measures results. But we have no way of knowing what Rick Warren is doing. It looks to me like he’s going around to the Aspen Institute and to these big elite festivals and telling people who expect evangelicals to be retrograde and who expect evangelicals to be draconian, that he’s doing something different. And he speaks the language that people want to hear in the media-manufactured age of post-partisanship. But it’s unclear what he’s actually doing, beyond fighting the culture war with a velvet glove.
AMY GOODMAN: Max Blumenthal, let’s turn to another clip highlighting some of Rick Warren’s views. Earlier this month, he was interviewed by Ann Curry of MSNBC.
- ANN CURRY: If science finds that this is biological—
REV. RICK WARREN: Yeah?
ANN CURRY: —that people are born to be gay, would you change your position?
REV. RICK WARREN: No. And the reason why is because we all have biological predispositions. I’m naturally inclined to have sex with every beautiful woman I see. But that doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s Rick Warren. Max Blumenthal, final thoughts?
MAX BLUMENTHAL: Well, that’s a bizarre remark I haven’t heard. And, you know, I like to get to know women first, and I think, you know, most people do. Rick Warren has a doctrine of women’s submission, which he preaches to his church, and he tells the female members of his church that they have to support their husbands’ decisions, even if they make bad financial decisions, because women have to submit in a biblical manner to their husbands. So this goes way beyond being anti-gay. He’s, you know, patriarchal. He’s supported assassinating Iran’s president. And he’s just—
You know, I have no problem, and I don’t think anyone should have any problem with Barack Obama going to Rick Warren’s church and meeting with him or working with him on good initiatives. But the question is, where does Barack Obama draw the line when someone demonizes a segment of Americans? Is this person really fit to address the nation and confer God’s blessing on the entire United States of America, when Rick Warren freely admits that he only believes that a small segment of Americans are going to heaven and that the rest of us are going to burn in an everlasting lake of fire? That’s the question. And I think that Barack Obama has answered it. But at the very least, progressives have drawn the line here, and I think they should hold the line.
AMY GOODMAN: Max Blumenthal, I want to thank you for being with us, Puffin Foundation writing fellow at the Nation Institute, writing a book on the evangelical movement. His latest article is called “Rick Warren’s Hypocritical Double Life.” It’s online at dailybeast.com.