Scott Lively And Rick Warren’s PR Campaign To Whitewash The Right’s Anti-Gay Uganda History
As a communications person myself, I can really appreciate a good PR campaign, and the best Iâ€™ve seen in a long time is the new effort by U.S. right-wing evangelicals to completely whitewash their own history of involvement with Ugandaâ€™s Anti-Homosexuality law.
For the last five years, human rights advocates around the world been discussing how U.S. conservative figures were integrally involved in the creation of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill (originally called the “Kill the Gays Bill”).Â Vast amounts of researchÂ have been produced on the involvement of conservatives such asÂ Rick WarrenÂ (who posted a YouTube video supporting Californiaâ€™s Prop 8 only to later take it down and deny it ever happened), and hours ofÂ undercover footage were taken ofÂ Scott LivelyÂ (famous for claiming the Nazi Party was really a gay club in his bookÂ The Pink Swastika)Â in Kampala, Uganda, advocating the bill’s creation with local political and religious leaders.
As evidence of their involvement has spread throughout the U.S., the publicâ€™s sentiment on these charactersâ€™ involvement has soured considerably. This was exacerbated when, last month, Uganda President Yoweri Museveni signed the Anti-Homosexuality Bill into law, ascribing life-in-prison sentences to LGBTQ people in the African nation, criminalizing advocacy of homosexuality, and requiring authority figures (parents, teachers, doctors, etc.) to report LGBTQ people to the government.
The American public is finally taking notice. Story after story in major media outlets (The Guardian,Â Real News Network,Â The Rachel Maddow Show,Â and theÂ National JournalÂ in just the last few weeks)Â is running about these right-wing evangelicalsâ€™ involvement, and the millions of dollars theyâ€™ve poured into Uganda, Nigeria, Russia, and elsewhere in carefully crafted campaigns to train local pastors and political leaders how to use culture wars-talking points for an all-out attack on LGBTQ people.
So if you were a right-wing public figure, and all of a sudden found yourself standing alone, staring down the barrel of public anger over your past work, what would you do?
For most public figures, it would be a career-ending disaster. But when youâ€™ve got the money, the personnel, and a stellar PR team, you just might be able to convince the rest of us of a simple little lie: They were against the law in the first place.
The process of turning someone who claims â€œgay = Naziâ€ and that â€œequal rights = condoning pedophiliaâ€ into a â€œmoderateâ€ is quite the sight to behold.
Step 1: Float the New IdeaÂ
In an interview on NPRâ€™s â€œTell Me Moreâ€ program, Scott Lively wasted no time distancing himself from the criminalization measures in the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Almost before host Michel Martin could finish introducing him, Lively jumped in with, â€œI have mixed feelings about the bill. I support the provisions that increase penalties for homosexual abuse of children and intentional spreading of AIDS through sodomy. But I think the other provisions are too harsh, and I donâ€™t support those and I wish theyâ€™d gone in a different direction.â€
Quite the change from the Scott Lively of 2009, who wrote aÂ blog postÂ while in Uganda where he admitted meeting with local lawmakers, warning Ugandans â€œhow bad things would beâ€ if it was not illegal to be an LGBTQ person, and that his campaign to enact legislation further persecuting sexual minorities was â€œa nuclear bomb against the â€˜gayâ€™ agenda in Uganda.â€ He concluded, â€œI pray that this, and the predictions, are true.â€
Step 2: Create a New Image
For the last several years, Pastor Rick Warren has been successfully advancing his media blitz to get people talking about anythingÂ otherÂ than his stance on homosexuality. In December of last year, he was featured inÂ TIME MagazineÂ talking about his new weight-loss plan. This same story has been pushed hard by Warrenâ€™s PR team, resulting in features in Parade Magazine and NPRâ€”none of which mentioned his flip-flop on Prop 8, or his involvement with the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda.
Step 3:Â Strategically Place Reinforcements of your Talking Points
Following the NPR story with Lively, aÂ new articleÂ surfaced on the Religious News Service, expertly titled â€œU.S. evangelicals on the defense over Ugandaâ€™s Anti-Homosexuality Act.â€
Staging the piece as a journalistic interview, author Sarah Pulliam Bailey basically transcribes a press release from Scott Lively and Rick Warren, disavowing themselves of their involvement:
California megachurch pastor Rick Warren, too, posted on his Facebook page on Sunday (March 2) denying allegations that he ever supported the Uganda billâ€¦
Scott Lively, a Massachusetts pastor and head of Abiding Truth Ministries, said that he is not responsible for the bill.
â€œItâ€™s a very insulting argument, that somehow an American evangelical pastor is so powerful that Iâ€™ve overwhelmed the intelligence of an entire government and turned them out to do my will,â€ Lively said. â€œThe Ugandans knew what they wanted to hear.â€
He said he does not support the bill in its final form.
Never mind that Lively himself has admitted on several occasions that he had seen and reviewed the original â€œKill the Gays Billâ€ before it had been released to the public. Despite the ample evidence of Lively and Warrenâ€™s involvement in Uganda, none of it is mentioned. There isnâ€™t even a hint at what pro-human rights groups have found in their research.
Step 4: Spread the Word
Now that theyâ€™ve gotten their press release printed as if it were an accredited journalistic account, the right-wing PR campaign can push to get mainstream outlets to reprint. The whitewashed article has been republished not only on small sites like Spokane Faith & Values, but on major outlets likeÂ The Washington Post.
As is typical with controversial and nuanced stories, the simple talking points are much easier to publish. Why bother researching what these right-wing evangelicals have said and done beyond U.S. borders, when theyâ€™re willing to tell American media a completely differentâ€”and significantly more palatableâ€”story on camera?
The Fatal Flaw
This massive PR campaign has only made one mistake so far, but itâ€™s a big one. Rick Warren has, by far, been the most successful at misleading the public into thinking heâ€™s a moderate. Heâ€™s been at it for years. If the campaign had aimed to only wash Warrenâ€™s hands of Ugandan LGBTQ blood, it would probably succeed with flying colors. But the efforts have been ambitious than that.
The inclusion of Scott Lively throws the door wide open for the public to see this PR stunt for what it is. While few people other than researchers on the ground have seen Warren at work in Africaâ€”partnering with local anti-gay clergy and feeding them the funds necessary to push through the Anti-Homosexuality Billâ€”plenty of people have heard Scott Lively on air or in his writingsÂ comparingÂ LGBTQ people to rapists and pedophiles. Plenty of people have seen the undercover videos from Rev. Dr. Kapya Kaoma of Scott Lively in Uganda explaining that if they donâ€™t enact anti-gay legislation then gays from America will come and recruit their children. And plenty of people have seen the videos of Scott Lively on Ugandan TV with the vehemently anti-gay Pastor Martin Ssempa, saying that Uganda needed to enact the Anti-Homosexuality law and criminalize LGBTQ people in order to save children from being â€œrecruited
Thereâ€™s no question of right-wing evangelical involvement in Ugandaâ€™s anti-gay legislation. The work has been verified and fact-checked by researchers around the globe, organizations like Amnesty International, and outlets such as the New York Times. Thereâ€™s a reason a court refused to throw out the case against Scott Lively for crimes against humanity.
Itâ€™s not just human rights advocates who are shocked by the turnabout from these conservatives. The anti-gay clergy in Uganda theyâ€™ve spent years training are shocked as well. Pastor Martin Ssempa was so surprised he publishedÂ a letterÂ addressed to Rick Warren, asking why he is now changing his story.
When you came to Uganda on Thursday, 27 March 2008, and expressed support toÂ the Church of Ugandaâ€™s boycott of the pro-homosexual church of England, you stated; â€œThe Church of England is wrong, and I support the Church of Ugandaâ€.
You are further remembered to say, â€œhomosexuality is not a naturalÂ way of life and thus (its) not a human right. We shall not tolerate thisÂ apect at allâ€.
Good PR work has a tendency to override facts.Â Tell people that something didnâ€™t happen enough times, and eventually theyâ€™ll start to believe it. Itâ€™s up to us to tell the truth louder and more often.
**This article is cross-posted fromÂ Political Research Associates.Â Republished with Permission
Follow Eric Ethington on TwitterÂ @EricEthington
Eric EthingtonÂ has been specializing in political messaging, communications strategy, and public relations for more than a decade. Originally hailing from Salt Lake City, he now works in Boston for a social justice think tank. Ericâ€™s writing, advocacy work, and research have been featured on MSNBC, CNN, Fox News, CNBC, the New York Times, The Telegraph, and The Public Eye magazine. Heâ€™s worked as a radio host, pundit, blogger, activist and electoral campaign strategist. He also writes atÂ NuanceStillMatters.com
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'GOOD LUCK WITH THAT'
‘Trying to Have It Both Ways’: Ivanka ‘Flailing’ as Trump Indictment Slams Family
While Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump have taken to their social media platforms to viciously lash out at Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg for indicting their father on a reported 30 charges, Ivanka Trump posted a rather muted statement on her Instagram account which simply said, “I love my father, and I love my country. Today, I am pained for both. I appreciate the voices across the political spectrum expressing support and concern.”
According to Daily Beast conservative columnist Matt Lewis, the so-called “First Daughter,” who served in the White House with her father, is trying to stay true to her former president dad, while distancing herself from his legal problems — and it is not going to work for her.
As Lewis put it, Ivanka is “flailing” in her attempts to shed the memory of her participation in the Trump administration that reached its lowest point on Jan. 6 when supporters of Trump stormed the Capitol and sent lawmakers fleeing for their lives.
“It’s hard to argue with anything Ivanka says here, but it is not a statement of moral clarity. Nor is it (conversely) a statement of strong support for her father. She’s flailing and trying to have it both ways,” Lewis wrote before adding, “Now, it’s understandable that a daughter might not want to utterly condemn her father. Further, children are not responsible for their parents’ sins. Except, of course, if you consider the fact that Ivanka served as the primary weapon in the ‘Trump’s not such a belligerent pig as his four decades as a public figure would make you think’ propaganda push.”
RELATED: Trump is so ‘unmoored from reality’ he can’t act as a defense witness: ‘Art of the Deal’ ghostwriter
Noting that Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner — who has baggage of his own — both stuck with Trump in the White House for all four years, Lewis added, “As far as the former first daughter goes, she and her husband might be done with politics, but once you’ve been a party to an administration like Trump’s, it’s going to be a long time before politics is done with them.”
“So, Ivanka, you want to have a seat at the cool apolitical kids’ table? You want to be once again accepted by the socially liberal billionaires’ children you used to go to the Hamptons with and now have Miami Beach playdates with? You want to enjoy the privileges of being a Trump with none of the shame? Good luck with that,” he concluded.
You can read more here.
Dominion Wins ‘Blockbuster Victories’ Against Fox News – Last Legal Issue Will Be Decided by a Jury: Report
Dominion Voting Systems won what are being called “blockbuster victories” Friday afternoon when a judge ruled the company suing Fox News for $1.6 billion in a major defamation lawsuit had met its burden of proof that Rupert Murdoch‘s far-right wing cable channel had repeatedly made false statements.
The final, and likely greatest legal issue Dominion will have to prove will be actual malice. That issue will be decided in a jury trial, Delaware Superior Court Judge Eric M. Davis ruled Friday, according to Law & Crime.
Unlike previous cases, Fox News will reportedly not be able to argue the on-air statements its personalities made were opinion.
CNN legal analyst and Brookings senior fellow Norm Eisen calls Friday’s decision a “huge win for Dominion on their summary judgment motion against Fox News.”
READ MORE: Capitol Police Issue Warning Over Possible Trump Protests ‘Across the Country’
“Dominion won partial summary judgement that what Fox said about them was false! Now they just have to prove actual malice and damages,” Eisen says. “Meanwhile Fox’s motion was totally denied.”
Former U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance, an MSNBC contributor adds: “Dominion’s evidence Fox made false statements with reckless disregard is as strong as any I’ve seen.”
The judge was very clear in his ruling.
“While the Court must view the record in the light most favorable to Fox, the record does not show a genuine issue of material fact as to falsity,” Judge Davis wrote. “Through its extensive proof, Dominion has met its burden of showing there is no genuine issue of material fact as to falsity. Fox therefore had the burden to show an issue of material fact existed in turn. Fox failed to meet its burden.”
READ MORE: ‘Propaganda Network’: Media Reporter Says Dominion Filing Exposes Fox News as ‘Void of the Most Basic Journalistic Ethics’
Attorney and MSNBC host and legal analyst Katie Phang points to this key passage in Judge Davis’ ruling.
Dominion has won the argument on the issue of falsity, meaning that as the Court funds below, “it is CRYSTAL clear that none of the Statements relating to Dominion about the 2020 election are true.” pic.twitter.com/7lKEspN0WI
— Katie S. Phang (@KatiePhang) March 31, 2023
Court watchers and news junkies are familiar at this point with the massive legal filings Dominion has made in which it exposed how Fox News knowingly made false statements regarding the 2020 presidential election. Those filings, each hundreds of pages, also detail internal Fox News communications and bombshell conversations between the company’s top personalities, executives, and even Chairman Rupert Murdoch.
Image of Rupert Murdoch via Shutterstock
RIGHT WING EXTREMISM
Capitol Police Issue Warning Over Possible Trump Protests ‘Across the Country’
The U.S. Capitol Police and the Senate Sergeant at Arms on Friday jointly issued a statement warning they “anticipate” Trump protests across the country. The statement is not time-specific, and it states it has no information on “credible threats,” but some Democratic offices are allowing staffers to work from home Friday and Tuesday.
“The Sergeant at Arms and United States Capitol Police (USCP) anticipate demonstration activity across the country related to the indictment of former President Trump. While law enforcement is not tracking any specific, credible threats against the Capitol or state offices, there is potential for demonstration activity. USCP is working with law enforcement partners, so you may observe a greater law enforcement presence on Capitol Hill,” the statement reads.
“The SAA and USCP are monitoring the potential nationwide impacts to Senate state offices,” it adds.
The House Sergeant at Arms was conspicuously absent from the statement. Speaker Kevin McCarthy has control over that office.
READ MORE: Trump Trial Could Go Well Into the 2024 Election – Or Possibly Even Past It: Former Prosecutor
Additionally, Axios is reporting, “several House Democrats are allowing staffers to work from home as a safety precaution,” noting that “the memory of Trump supporters ransacking the Capitol on Jan. 6 is still fresh on the mind.”
U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) is allowing staff to work from home for safety reasons. She told Axios, “I don’t ever want to see a Jan. 6 again.”
“I’ve been in the Trump hate tunnel, Donald Trump has gone after me, and quite frankly I don’t have security. I don’t have entourages.”
She’s not the only Democrat to raise concerns.
“Much of the language from the former President and his devotees is similar to what inspired Jan. 6th,” U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips said. “I’m concerned about safety for my colleagues and my staff.”
READ MORE: ‘Lighting the Match’: Marjorie Taylor Greene Blasted for Off the Rails Rant Defending Trump
Meanwhile, House Republicans are issuing full-throated support for Trump and calling for protests.
U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), who was called out by name in a six-page letter Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg sent to Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan Friday morning, announced she will be in New York on Tuesday to support Trump when he is arraigned. She has posted several tweets since Trump was indicted.
Speaker Kevin McCarthy issued a statement Thursday seemingly designed to gin up rage and action in the MAGA base.
“Alvin Bragg has irreparably damaged our country in an attempt to interfere in our Presidential election. As he routinely frees violent criminals to terrorize the public, he weaponized our sacred system of justice against President Donald Trump. The American people will not tolerate this injustice, and the House of Representatives will hold Alvin Bragg and his unprecedented abuse of power to account.”
Image by Elvert Barnes via Flickr and a CC license
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