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Scott Lively And Rick Warren’s PR Campaign To Whitewash The Right’s Anti-Gay Uganda History

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As a communications person myself, I can really appreciate a good PR campaign, and the best I’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 Uganda’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”). Vast amounts of research have been produced on the involvement of conservatives such as Rick Warren (who posted a YouTube video supporting California’s Prop 8 only to later take it down and deny it ever happened), and hours of undercover footage were taken of Scott Lively (famous for claiming the Nazi Party was really a gay club in his book The Pink Swastika) 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 public’s sentiment on these characters’ 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, Real News Network, The Rachel Maddow Show, and the National Journal in just the last few weeks) is running about these right-wing evangelicals’ involvement, and the millions of dollars they’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 you’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 “gay = Nazi” and that “equal rights = condoning pedophilia” into a “moderate” is quite the sight to behold.

Step 1: Float the New Idea 

In an interview on NPR’s “Tell Me More” 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, “I 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 don’t support those and I wish they’d gone in a different direction.”

Quite the change from the Scott Lively of 2009, who wrote a blog post while in Uganda where he admitted meeting with local lawmakers, warning Ugandans “how bad things would be” if it was not illegal to be an LGBTQ person, and that his campaign to enact legislation further persecuting sexual minorities was “a nuclear bomb against the ‘gay’ agenda in Uganda.” He concluded, “I pray that this, and the predictions, are true.”

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 anything other than his stance on homosexuality. In December of last year, he was featured in TIME Magazine talking about his new weight-loss plan. This same story has been pushed hard by Warren’s PR team, resulting in features in Parade Magazine and NPR—none of which mentioned his flip-flop on Prop 8, or his involvement with the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda.

Step 3: Strategically Place Reinforcements of your Talking Points

Following the NPR story with Lively, a new article surfaced on the Religious News Service, expertly titled “U.S. evangelicals on the defense over Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act.”

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 bill…

Scott Lively, a Massachusetts pastor and head of Abiding Truth Ministries, said that he is not responsible for the bill.

“It’s a very insulting argument, that somehow an American evangelical pastor is so powerful that I’ve overwhelmed the intelligence of an entire government and turned them out to do my will,” Lively said. “The Ugandans knew what they wanted to hear.”

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 “Kill the Gays Bill” before it had been released to the public. Despite the ample evidence of Lively and Warren’s involvement in Uganda, none of it is mentioned. There isn’t even a hint at what pro-human rights groups have found in their research.

Step 4: Spread the Word

Now that they’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 like 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 they’re willing to tell American media a completely different—and significantly more palatable—story on camera?

The Fatal Flaw

This massive PR campaign has only made one mistake so far, but it’s a big one. Rick Warren has, by far, been the most successful at misleading the public into thinking he’s a moderate. He’s been at it for years. If the campaign had aimed to only wash Warren’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 Africa—partnering with local anti-gay clergy and feeding them the funds necessary to push through the Anti-Homosexuality Bill—plenty of people have heard Scott Lively on air or in his writings comparing 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 don’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 “recruited

There’s no question of right-wing evangelical involvement in Uganda’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. There’s a reason a court refused to throw out the case against Scott Lively for crimes against humanity.

It’s not just human rights advocates who are shocked by the turnabout from these conservatives. The anti-gay clergy in Uganda they’ve spent years training are shocked as well. Pastor Martin Ssempa was so surprised he published a letter 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 to  the Church of Uganda’s boycott of the pro-homosexual church of England, you stated; “The Church of England is wrong, and I support the Church of Uganda”.

You are further remembered to say, “homosexuality is not a natural  way of life and thus (its) not a human right. We shall not tolerate this  apect at all”.

Good PR work has a tendency to override facts. Tell people that something didn’t happen enough times, and eventually they’ll start to believe it. It’s up to us to tell the truth louder and more often.

 

**This article is cross-posted from Political Research Associates. Republished with Permission

Follow Eric Ethington on Twitter @EricEthington

Eric Ethington NCRMEric Ethington 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. Eric’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. He’s worked as a radio host, pundit, blogger, activist and electoral campaign strategist. He also writes at NuanceStillMatters.com

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News

Cheney ‘Thinking About’ White House Run – Will Do ‘Whatever It Takes’ to Keep ‘Grave Threat’ of Trump From Oval Office

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After a staggering loss in her congressional primary Tuesday U.S. Congresswoman Liz Cheney (R-WY) is making more headlines at the moment than the man who promised to ensure her defeat: Donald Trump. Cheney says she’s “thinking about” running for president.

Rep. Cheney lost her Wyoming GOP primary by a 66.3% to 28.9% estimated margin Tuesday night, after winning her district just two years ago with more than 70% of the votes, and having the added benefit of being the daughter of a former GOP vice president, defense secretary, and congressman.

As she has since the January 6, 2021 insurrection, Cheney still has Donald Trump in her sights.

READ MORE: ‘Enabled White Supremacy’: Liz Cheney Goes on Attack Against Stefanik and GOP Leaders After Buffalo Mass Shooting

“I believe that Donald Trump continues to pose a very grave threat and risk to our republic. And I think that defeating him is going to require a broad and united front of Republicans, Democrats and independents, and that’s what I intend to be a part of,” she told Savannah Guthrie on NBC’s “TODAY” show Wednesday morning.

She said she will do “whatever it takes” to keep the former president from returning to the Oval Office.

That could include running for president, which Cheney hesitantly says she’s “thinking about,” telling NBC News she will make a decision “in the coming months.”

RELATED: Liz Cheney Serves Notice to Ginni Thomas That the Jan 6th Committee Is Prepared to Subpoena Her

“We’ve now got one major political party, my party, which has really become a cult of personality, and we’ve got to get this party back to a place where we’re embracing the values and the principles on which it was founded,” she said.

Cheney, who still is vice chair of the U.S. House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack, did not appear to have a dedicated, scripted response to Guthrie’s questions, but she did file papers early Wednesday morning to reorganize her re-election account into a leadership PAC.

Cheney “renamed her re-election account THE GREAT TASK sometime early this morning. It’s now a leadership PAC,” Punchbowl News’ Jake Sherman reports. He notes it’s “flush with $7 million.”

Watch Cheney’s “TODAY” show interview below or at this link:

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COMMENTARY

Morning Joe Reveals ‘Disturbing’ Talk With ‘Washington Fixture’ Who Wants to ‘Destroy Our Country’ to Save Trump

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MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough revealed a pair of “disturbing” phone calls he had this week with a friend and family member calling for the destruction of the U.S. government as investigators move closer to Donald Trump.

The FBI search of Mar-A-Lago has spooked the former president and enraged his supporters — which Trump has tried to use as leverage to reduce the heat on himself — and the “Morning Joe” host said that included some previously “boring” moderates who were now willing to destroy the constitutional republic rather than hold Trump accountable.

“If people want to understand the depths to which this anti-American sentiment is running in the Republican Party, I had two conversations yesterday,” Scarborough said. “One with a family member and one with a Washington fixture, since the days of Ronald Reagan. Both were talking about how the FBI was the gestapo and they needed to be stamped out, spoke of revolution, and the Washington fixture, a guy who I always considered to be a mainstream conservative, a guy who, in the past at least, expressed concerns about some of Donald Trump’s extremities, said to me, ‘Joe, we can replace the U.S. government.”

“It’s not about the government, it’s about an individual,” he added. “Here’s a guy that said we can throw away Madisonian democracy, we can throw away the Bill of Rights, we can throw away the Constitution. We can just get rid of a government that has fed and feeds more people, that’s liberated more people throughout history, that’s keeping the flames of freedom alive right now in Ukraine and in Central Europe, than any other country on the planet, and we can replace the U.S. government. That is the depths to which this cancer has spread among mainstream Republicans, and Liz Cheney is right. These people are angry, and they want to destroy our country — the country where we have democratic elections and the winners who get the most votes are recognized as the winners, and the losers concede to those winners, and Donald Trump has changed all of that now.”

READ MORE: ‘Oh my lord!’ CNN legal analyst astounded by ‘all the crimes’ Trump and his lawyers could be charged with

Cheney, who until last year was the third-ranking Republican in the U.S. House and had one of the most conservative ratings in Congress, lost her GOP primary to pro-Trump candidate Harriet Hageman after voting to impeach the former president and serving on the Jan. 6 Committee investigating his attempt to overturn his 2020 election loss.

“Well, the hatred and the animosity spewed towards [president] Joe Biden from these people I spoke to yesterday, said — they said, he’s a moderate — like boring guy from Delaware,” Scarborough said of his friend. “Like, he used do do this to [Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez], you used to do this to [Sen.] Bernie Sanders and used to do this to [House speaker] Nancy Pelosi, and now Joe Biden is the radical who is destroying them?”

“It’s just, it’s nonsense,” Scarborough added. “The problem is, it’s dangerous nonsense when they start talking about the FBI being the gestapo and how the FBI needed to be defunded and how the FBI needs to be wiped out, and how we can replace the U.S. government. That’s treasonous talk. Five years ago, that would be considered treasonous talk.”

Watch the video below or at this link.

 

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News

‘Confessing to the Crime’: Reporter’s Claim About Trump Being ‘Reluctant’ to Return Records Ignites Legal Experts

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Donald Trump, speaking at Mar-a-Lago

Legal experts including Neal Katyal, Andrew Weissmann, and others are responding to a claim made by a right wing reporter that they say indicts rather than vindicates Donald Trump.

The claim was made by Paul Sperry, a former D.C. bureau chief for Investor’s Business Daily, who has worked for the far right wing website WorldNetDaily. He is described as having a “long record of promoting anti-Muslim conspiracy theories” by Georgetown University’s Bridge Initiative Team.

If his reporting is true, legal experts say it is a confession to unlawful actions regarding the 35 cartons of White House records that belong not to the former president, as he reportedly stated, but to the National Archives.

RELATED: ‘It’s Not Theirs, It’s Mine’ Trump Told Aides About White House Records Including Classified Documents: NYT

“BREAKING,” Sperry’s post on the right wing social media site Gettr begins. “Sources close to Trump say the former president was reluctant to furnish presidential records to the National Archives after he found out partisan Democrat political appointees there were releasing thousands of his White House documents to the January 6 Committee in spite of his lawyers’ claims of executive privilege. They say the former president simply ‘does not trust’ the Obama and Biden political appointees running the National Archives to act in good faith and in bipartisan spirit.”

That post was included as a screenshot and tweeted by attorney Ron Filipkowski.

Former FBI General Counsel  Andrew Weissmann responds by saying: “Legally, this is a confession, not a defense, even if Trump thinks this plays to his base. The more Trump keeps talking, the more he keeps digging his legal grave.”

Weissmann also served as an Assistant United States Attorney, chief of the criminal fraud section of the U.S. Department of Justice, and worked under Robert Mueller during the Trump investigation.

This “is Trump confessing to the crime,” says former U.S. Acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal. “If this report is accurate, Trump is saying he took these doc[uments] for his personal gain. It’s no defense to say ‘the govt was going to be unfair.’ These are the govt’s docs, not his. He doesn’t get to hide them& benefit.”

READ MORE: Trump’s Weaponization of DOJ Notice to Pick Up His Passports Negates Claim He Will ‘Do Whatever’ to Tamp Down Anger

The nonpartisan watchdog Citizens for Ethics (CREW) writes: “So Trump was intentionally breaking the law. That’s really not the winner they think it is.”

Attorney Owen Barcala offers up this sarcastic response: “‘How dare you say he negligently retained classified documents! He did so intentionally and with the specific purpose to interfere with a Congressional investigation!'”

National security lawyer Mark S. Zaid: “These ‘sources’ close to Trump are undermining any possible factual or legal defenses he might assert. Please keep talking!”

Journalists are also weighing in.

Civil liberties and national security journalist Marcy Wheeler: “These ‘sources close to Trump’ LITERALLY just confessed to concealing official records to thwart an investigation, which is one of the crimes under investigation, 18 USC 1519.”

Columbia Journalism School Professor Bill Grueskin: “Each story is more confession-y than the previous one.”

New York Times opinion columnist Farhad Manjoo: “he’s admitting to taking classified documents from the White House in order to keep them away from government officials? convenient, because that is … specifically one of the crimes he’s being investigated for.”

 

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