'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Thursday, May 3, 2012
Read the transcript to the Thursday show
Past transcripts by month
Guests: E.J. Dionne, E.J. Montini
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening and thanks for being with us for
the next hour.
We start tonight in Arizona, in a place called Gilbert, Arizona, on
the outskirts of phoenix, where police are continuing to try to sort out a
mass shooting -- what appears to be a multiple victim homicide and suicide,
with ties to a very dark side of American politics.
Police say they believe that the shooter is this man, J.T. Ready, one
of the country`s most visible neo-Nazis and most vocal anti-immigrant
provocateurs. Police investigators they are working from the theory that
Mr. Ready put on body armor, he entered the home in Gilbert where he lived,
he killed his girlfriend, his girlfriend`s adult daughter, the daughter`s
boyfriend, and the daughter`s 16-month-old infant child before turning the
gun on himself and committing suicide.
After the shootings early yesterday afternoon, police told local press
that they had to wait to go inside the home, the site of the shooting,
because of a large amount of ammunition on site, and because of chemicals
found at the home, chemicals reportedly including two 50-gallon drums of
some unknown substance or substances.
According to the local FOX affiliate in Phoenix, quote, "The FBI and
the Joint Terrorism Task Force are investigating the military-grade
munitions, ordinances and hazardous chemicals and why they were at the
home." It`s also reported that the chemicals, these 50-gallon drums of
chemicals were removed from the scene by the local fire department`s hazmat
team and by the Department of Defense.
The Department of Defense?
Mass shootings are now a depressingly common feature of the daily news
diet in the United States of America. But in this case, the alleged
perpetrator is a very well-known political figure who has long personified
the dark side of a very particular part of Arizonan politics and American
In 2010, at an anti-immigration rally that featured speeches from the
Arizona State Senate President Russell Pearce and the Maricopa County
Sheriff, Joe Arpaio, J.T. Ready and friends distributed these flyers,
flyers proposing that the United States put down landmines along the U.S.-
Mexico border. The flyer was posted by the Web site "Talking Points Memo."
The flyer from the event, as you can see here, it`s signed there J.T.
Ready. That`s over there on the left, about halfway down, and it`s also
marked NSM -- NSM as in National Socialist Movement, as in national
socialists, as in Nazis, neo-Nazis.
These flyers were distributed in 2010, J.T. Ready later posted a
picture of himself and some of his friends holding up the landmine flyer
while standing next to a news van from the Spanish language news station,
Univision. See, big grins all around. They think that is hilarious, the
landmines thing by the Spanish language -- yes. That was in 2010.
Then in 2011, a member of the National Socialist Movement, a neo-Nazi,
was arrested in Arizona with plastic tubs full of explosives. When he was
picked up by the FBI and local police, he had three homemade bombs with him
in his truck. In a later search of his home, they found 12 more bombs.
This violent neo-Nazi fringe has been kind of thing in anti-
immigration politics in Arizona for a while, including neo-Nazis showing up
at Tea Party anti-immigrant rallies to advocate for landmines. This kid
you just saw being arrested with these bombs, he reportedly said were for
the border. But also, these proudly racist white nationalist groups openly
parading on the border, as neo-Nazi vigilantes.
They did it under the banner of the National Socialist Movement with
swastikas flying. They also did it under the name Minutemen. They also,
most recently, have been doing the same thing under the name U.S. Border
The man who is the accused shooter in this mass shooting in Gilbert,
Arizona, has been behind all of those vigilante groups on the border. And
he has been in evident presence on the far-right edge of Republican
politics and anti-immigration politics in Arizona for a long time.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
J.T READY: I got news for all the judicial branch too that are in
their little fancy black dresses, the ones who released these illegal
aliens on our street -- we`ll yank them out of the collar too and say,
you`re done. We`re going to put patriots back in office.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That is the neo-Nazi, border vigilante guy J.T. Ready
speaking here. But as you can see, he was not here wearing his Nazi
uniform. This is a picture of what he looks like when he`s wearing one of
his Nazi uniforms.
But at that event in 2007, where you just saw him speaking, you could
see he`s not wearing a uniform of any kind, he`s wearing a suit. That`s
because what he`s speaking at is not a Nazi rally, it`s an anti-immigrant
rally. You can see the sign that he`s speaking in front of the podium on,
the sign on the podium says, "Where`s the fence?" which is sort of a common
anti-immigration slogan in very mainstream Republican politics.
And at that same event, as he is speaking, this guy here with the
circle around him, who you can see applauding J.T. Ready as he gave that
speech is Arizona Republican State Senator Russell Pearce. Here`s Russell
Pearce and J.T. Ready again. Russell Pearce, by all accounts, had a long
and close relationship with J.T. Ready. Mr. Pearce actually baptized J.T.
Ready into the Mormon Church.
This is a picture of them at the baptism ceremony. This was first
posted by the "Phoenix New Times," which has done much of the legwork and
ground level reporting about the connections between the neo-Nazis and J.T.
Ready and Arizona mainstream politics.
They also posted this certificate of Mr. Ready`s ordination into the
Mormon Church. You can see there at the bottom, it`s the logo or the
masthead of Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and you can see
from the certificate here, he`s being brought into the church as an elder.
And the person who`s bringing him in is Russell Keith Pearce, Russell
Pearce. Senator Pearce, Senator Pearce, effectively J.T. Ready sponsor
when he`s baptized into his church.
When Mr. Ready ran for city council in Mesa, Arizona, there were four
people on the ballot. J.T. ready came in second out of four. It
undoubtedly helped him do that well that he had the endorsement from a
Republican state senator, from Russell Pearce. Although he didn`t make it
on to Mesa City Council, he came in second, after all, J.T. Ready did
ultimately get elected as a Republican Party precinct committee man in
The problem, of course, is that J.T. ready is a Nazi! And that really
should not be compatible with mainstream major party politics. After he
game a Republican precinct committee man in Arizona, Arizona Republican
Congressman Jeff Flake and John Shadegg and Trent Franks asked for Mr.
Ready to be removed from his post.
And after his long association with Russell Pearce, his long, personal
close relationship with Russell Pearce, Russell Pearce too walked away from
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Could I ask you if J.T. Ready is your friend?
FORMER STATE SEN. RUSSELL PEARCE (R), ARIZONA: J.T. Ready showed up
at a rally with me and J.D. Hayworth. "The New Times" -- the great fiction
it is, went around to try to find a picture they could use.
REPORTER: If you had to do it over again, would you take another
picture with the guy?
PEARCE: I didn`t take it. It`s an old story. They made it up.
REPORTER: Do you know his history?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
That was in July 2008. Russell Pearce personally brought J.T. Ready
into the Mormon Church in 2004.
For Russell Pearce, this is starting to become a very sensitive
subject, for a couple of reasons. The first is that Russell Pearce had his
own problems on the race issue. In 2006, he had forwarded to his
supporters an e-mail that included a white nationalist, anti-Semitic screed
accusing the media of pushing on an unsuspecting public, a view of the
world in which, quote, "every voice proclaims the equality of the races,
the inerrant nature of the Jewish, quote, `Holocaust` tale, the wickedness
of attempting to halt the flood of non-white aliens pouring across the
Russell Pearce had sent that out to his supporters in Arizona by
email. He later apologized, saying he really didn`t know what it was when
he sent it along.
But the other reason that this, the increasing visibility of J.T.
Ready as a neo-Nazi in Arizona politics, the other reason it was sort of
becoming an increasingly sensitive subject for Russell Pearce, is because
Russell Pearce, after having had this long association with J.T. Ready was
ascending to become the most powerful Republican in the whole state of
Arizona. He rose to become sate senate president, frequently described as
the most powerful politician in the whole state.
And from that position, Russell Pearce authored and passed and got
signed into law the most radical anti-immigration law in the country, SB-
1070, papers, please. Russell Pearce is the guy who introduced it and who
got it passed as state senate president.
But the guy who takes credit for writing SB-1070 is this guy. He`s
now secretary of state in Kansas, but one SB-1070 passed into law, when he
was a lawyer for a group called FAIR, the Federation for American
Immigration Reform. This is the group that helped right SB-1070.
FAIR was founded in 1979 by a named John Tanton. Just for some
insight into where John Tanton and FAIR were coming from, what they`re all
about is an organization, seven years after he started FAIR, John Tanton
wrote this, quote, "To govern is to populate. Will the present majority
peaceably hand over its political power to a group that is simply more
fertile? As whites see their power and control over their lives declining,
will they simply go quietly into the night or will there be an explosion?"
John Tanton, the founder of FAIR later wrote, quote, "I`ve come to the
point of view that for European American society and culture to persist
requires a European-American majority and a clear one at that."
The organization that he founded to accomplish those goals is who
Russell Pearce turned to, to write Arizona`s papers, please, immigration
law. That`s who Kris Kobach was working for when he wrote that law. And
you know, there are all sorts of radical groups with cockamamie ideas in
That`s the beauty of free speech, you get to be crazy if you want to
be. Radicalism is not a crime. Radicalism is not illegal in the United
States of America. But when you are not just some free-floating radical
with cockamamie ideas that nobody else buys in the world, but rather you
are being drafted by the president of the state senate in Arizona to help
write legislation based on those crazy ideas, and that legislation is
becoming law, and that legislation then gets described by the Republican
candidate for president as a model for the nation, you are at a place where
radical has met powerful. And that is a whole different thing.
The combination of radical and powerful that is Russell Pearce and his
career ended up freaking out his home city of Mesa, Arizona. Freaked them
out enough that they recalled him from office and replaced him not with a
Democrat, but just a mainstream Republican last year. It`s the first time
any stay senate president in any state was ever recalled from office in
American history. It`s the first time that any Arizona lawmaker has ever
been recalled from office in Arizona history.
But Russell Pearce did get himself recalled.
How`d the state Republican Party react? They appointed him vice chair
of the party. Even after his own jurisdiction got rid of him because he
was too out there, the state Republican Party in Arizona made him number
two in the state.
Russell Pearce is now running for Senate again. And when the Obama
administration sued the state of Arizona to try to stop papers, please, to
try to stop his SB-1070 law, when that went to the Supreme Court last
month, Arizona Republicans sent Russell Pearce to the United States Senate
to go defend that law. There he is, speaking in the U.S. Senate, wearing
his "don`t tread on me" tie.
But today Russell Pearce is back home in Arizona. Today, at least for
the day, he is not talking about the evils of immigration. Today, instead,
he is talking about how before this mass shooting in Gilbert, he hadn`t
talked to J.T. Ready for quite some time.
And local police and the Joint Terrorism Task Force and the FBI and
the Department of Defense, apparently, are in and out of this home in
Gilbert, Arizona, trying to figure out if J.T. Ready had military-grade
munitions and what they can do with them. Trying to sort out what`s in
those 50-gallon drums of chemicals. They`re walking in and out of that
house, past J.T. Ready`s car parked in the driveway, with his license plate
"USBG." His license plate is USBG. It stands for U.S. Border Guard.
Joining us now is E.J. Montini. He`s a columnist with the "Arizona
Republic." He`s been following the relationship between Russell Pearce and
J.T. Ready for years.
Mr. Montini, thank you very much for joining us tonight. It`s nice to
have you here.
E.J. MONTINI, ARIZONA REPUBLIC COLUMNIST: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: In terms of my summary of that history, let me ask you first
as someone who`s much closer to this reporting, is there anything I said
that you think is wrong or that I should add some nuance to?
MONTINI: No. I mean, with I think that you described the
relationship fairly well. I mean, what`s interesting is that one of the
things that Russell Pearce often talks about is how, you know, when he
finally found out that J.T. Ready had gone to sort of the dark side, that
he distanced himself from him.
But the fact of the matter is that in 2006, before that, the tape of
that rally that you were showing, you know, Russell Pearce was approached
by the head of the local Anti-Defamation League and told, specifically,
that this guy, this J.T. Ready guy that you`ve been seen with or hanging
around with or whatever is a neo Nazi and you disassociate yourself from
him. And yet the very next year he`s at this rally at the state capital
where J.T. Ready calls Russell Pearce a statesman and he`s applauding for
J.T. Ready`s message.
So he can`t distance himself in that sense. He is -- and what`s
particularly despicable today, at least to me, anyway, is that he`s put out
a statement where he`s talking about how the news media has been contacting
him and they want to link him to this J.T. Ready character, and it is just
despicable, what they`re doing.
Well, what`s really despicable about that is Russell Pearce playing a
victim at a time, a day after there are four legitimate victims found --
four dead people, including a toddler. Those are the victims.
He is not a victim in this. He was an associate of this guy. You own
that, you live with it, you deal with it. You don`t try to paint yourself
as a victim at the same time. The police are still cleaning up the crime
MADDOW: In terms of what police have said about the crime in itself,
it seems like there`s no reason to believe that there was anything other
than a very, very horrible domestic violence incident. At least, that`s
the description that I`ve seen so far.
MONTINI: That`s right. Yes.
MADDOW: If you could shed any further light on that, and also, on
this further detail about what was in the house, there being some kind of
munitions -- military-grade munitions, potentially, in the house, something
about chemicals. Can you add anything to what we understand about that?
MONTINI: Well, in terms of the incident itself, the Gilbert police
just said today that Lisa Maderos, the girlfriend of J.T. Ready, was on the
phone with a dispatcher calling about a domestic violence issue when the
phone went dead. So it`s pretty clear this was a domestic violence
situation that occurred inside that house.
The police found, among other things, 60 40-millimeter hand grenades
that are meant to be launched, but they didn`t find any launching device.
These -- apparently they`re a little bit older than the most recent model.
But they`ll be able to trace those and find out where they came from and
hopefully find out where he got them.
In terms of the chemicals, the two drums, I`ve heard that there are no
solid information on that yet, although there have been some speculation
about one of the barrels just containing water and one of them perhaps
containing acetone. Now, there`s a lot of uses for acetone, some of them
very bad, some of them as simple as cleaning automobile parts. I mean,
J.T. Ready did work in an automobile parts store.
So, it`s hard to say exactly what he was trying to do. You know, I
don`t think many people necessarily thought of this guy, you know, as
terribly intellectual, terribly sophisticated in terms of the kind of
things you might be thinking the really bad things somebody might be able
to do with this kind of stuff, but you never know. And the fact is,
they`re still a long way from figuring out what all that stuff is for.
MADDOW: E.J. Montini, a columnist with the "Arizona Republic" --
thank you for helping us sort some of these relationships --
MADDOW: I really appreciate your time tonight, sir. Thanks.
I should mention, in terms of the munitions found on site, we`ve had
some different reports. You heard Mr. Montini say several dozen grenades
potentially found. We`ve also been told it was six grenades found. At
this point, we`re sort of waiting on the local police and the FBI Joint
Terrorism Task Force to find out if there were things in that home that
were of note, that may have been connected to something other than this
specific crime, something other than just for personal use. And this
conflicting report at times, but we`ll keep you posted as we learn more.
All right. Coming up next, Mitt Romney campaigning today with
governor ultrasound in Virginia. We`ll tell you how that went and what it
means when come back.
MADDOW: There was an issue in American politics that Democrats
typically try to avoid making eye contact, let alone actually flirting with
or espousing it. But this year, in the context of the presidential
election, and in the context of a Republican Party that is newly
radicalized and emboldened to go after abortion rights and even
contraception access in way they have not done since Roe versus Wade, this
year it turns out politics are different.
This year, it turns out, Democrats are not only willing to defend
abortion rights against those politicians trying to take those rights away,
Democrats this year are actually raising the subject themselves. They are
bringing it up. Democrats are trying to force Republicans to admit to and
own their own record on it.
This is a new thing. And it`s happening just in time for Republican
presidential candidate Mitt Romney`s joint appearance today with Virginia
Governor Bob "ultrasound" McDonnell, also with Congresswoman Michele
Bachmann of Minnesota.
The Democratic National Committee out with a new ad going after the
three of them as a group for their collective record on women`s health.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Planned Parenthood, we`re
going to get rid of that.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Some women across Virginia are outraged as
Governor Bob McDonnell signs that controversial bill, requiring women
seeking an abortion to first undergo an ultrasound.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Were you wrong initially when you said this
invasive procedure should be part of the bill?
REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: I want to tell you about new
legislation that I`ve just introduced in Congress to require that abortion
providers make the heartbeat of the unborn child visible and audible to its
ROMNEY: Do I believe the Supreme Court should overturn Roe v. Wade?
Yes, I do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The Democratic Party today going after Mitt Romney and his
very obviously wannabe vice president, governor ultrasound, and his brand-
new supporter, Michele Bachmann, specifically on issue of abortion rights.
But it`s not just the Democratic Party. President Obama himself
recently released a video addressed specifically to Planned Parenthood
supporters, both an appeal to voters who care about women`s health, women`s
rights, and a not too subtle reminder that Mitt Romney said he would get
rid of Planned Parenthood.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Over the past year,
you`ve had to stand up to politicians who want to deny millions of women
the care they rely on, and inject themselves into situations that are best
made between a woman and her doctor.
Let`s be clear here: women are not an interest group. They`re mothers
and daughters and sisters and wives. They`re half of this country. And
they`re perfectly capable of making their own choices about their health.
When some professional politicians casually say that they`ll get rid
of Planned Parenthood, don`t forget what they`re really talking about --
eliminating the funding for preventative care that millions of women rely
on, and leaving them to fend for themselves. That`s why last year when
Republicans in Congress threatened to shut down the government unless we
stopped funding Planned Parenthood, I had a simple answer: no.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The president campaigning there against Republican efforts to
defund Planned Parenthood, reminding voters that he smacked down the last
big Republican effort to defund Planned Parenthood at the federal level.
When he talks about professional politicians who say they will get rid
of Planned Parenthood, he`s, of course, talking about Mitt Romney.
But the president is also now bringing up specific anti-abortion
policies that Republicans have been pursuing not just at the federal level,
but in the states.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: These are folks who claim to believe in freedom from
government interference and meddling. But it doesn`t seem to bother them
when it comes to women`s health. Now, we`ve got governors and legislators
across the river in Virginia, up the road in Pennsylvania, all across the
country, saying that women can`t be trusted to make your own decisions.
They`re pushing and passing bills, forcing women to get ultrasounds, even
if they don`t want one. If you don`t like it, the governor of Pennsylvania
said you can close your eyes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The president, of course, referring to Virginia Republican
Governor Bob McDonnell and the new forced ultrasound law and the
Pennsylvania forced vaginal probe, forced the image into your sightline
ultrasound bill, which is supported by Republican Governor Tom Corbett of
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Making them watch -- does that go too far in your mind?
GOV. TOM CORBETT (R), PENNSYLVANIA; I don`t know if you can make
anybody watch, OK, because you just have to close your eyes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: In this political climate, created by a whole new radical
Republican era of policy making on this subject, the issue of abortion
rights is one where Democrats are starting to feel less shy. Democrats are
starting to talk about their political responsibilities on this issue,
given how far and how fast Republicans are pushing on this issue on the
In the great state of Michigan, in a congressional race in the state
of Michigan, support for abortion rights is becoming a major issue between
the various Democratic candidates who are vying in the Democratic primary.
"The Battle Creek, Michigan Enquirer" reporting that while serving in the
state legislature, one of the Democratic candidates for this vulnerable
Republican-held Justin Amash congressional seat, one of the Democratic
would-be candidates earned a zero percent approval rating from Planned
Parenthood for his state voting record. That included him supporting a
bill to defund abortion providers. He is being called out in the
Democratic primary on having an anti-abortion, anti-women`s health record,
being called out by his Democratic opponents.
That former state legislator is now insisting that his views have
changed, saying, quote, "I don`t believe in making abortion illegal. Let
me be very clear about this, I`m in support of any legislation before the
U.S. Congress that would defund Planned Parenthood."
It`s remarkable, right? Republicans all campaign on abortion rights.
Democrats almost never want to talk about this issue. But thanks to a year
or two of Republican radicalism on this issue, this is now turning out to
be a key issue for Democrats. I mean, this is a Democrat with an anti-
abortion record that now feels compelled this year to explain himself to
try to reassure voters that he`s not too anti-abortion, that he doesn`t
want to defund Planned Parenthood.
We are seeing this as a new dynamic playing out not just in individual
congressional races, we are seeing this play out legislatively. In states
where Democrats are in control, they`re pushing measures to expand or shore
up abortion rights.
In Washington state this year, Democrats pushed a bill at making sure
that insurance policies would still cover abortion services.
In California, Democrats are pushing a bill to expand access to first
New York Democrats are supporting a bill to expand access to late-term
abortions for women who have health complications.
This is the backdrop for this year`s election, up and down the ticket.
And this is new. Abortion used to be a wedge issue that divided the
Democratic Party and that therefore Democrats did not like to talk about
This year, with Republican, dare I say, overreach on the issue, this
year abortion rights are poised to become a wedge issue that divides
Republicans. So the default Republican position right now on this is to
not want to talk about it. Their default position right now is to pretend
none of this is happening.
This year Republicans are the ones who are trying to avoid talking
about what they have been doing against abortion rights. And they keep
getting really mad that people are noticing that they are, in fact, making
a whole lot of policy on this issue, because they would really rather not
talk about it. They would really rather not answer for it.
But here`s Mitt Romney campaigning alongside governor ultrasound
today. The presumptive Republican nominee for president, publicly
embracing the guy, vice president auditioning the guy who spent 14 years as
a state legislator, sponsoring or co-sponsoring 35 anti-abortion bills.
The guy who this year became governor ultrasound, signing into law a state-
mandated medical procedure to be forced on Virginia women, for the first
So how about it, Governor Romney? Are you campaigning with governor
ultrasound in spite of his long and radical anti-abortion record or are you
campaigning with governor ultrasound because of that record?
When asked at today`s event if he thinks his ultrasound bill could
cause problems for Mitt Romney, here`s what governor ultrasound himself had
to say about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. BOB MCDONNELL (R), VIRGINIA: No. Look, I`m pro-life, Romney`s
pro-life, some people have a different opinion. We`ve been debating this
for 40 years in Virginia. People have differences of opinion on that. I
believe it`s important to support a culture of life, so does Governor
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Governor ultrasound says that he and Mitt Romney, two peas in
a pod. They are totally in sync on their super anti-abortion politics.
We asked the Romney campaign today if they agree. We asked the Romney
campaign today if Governor Romney supports Bob McDonnell`s two-decade anti-
abortion record. If there`s anything on the subject of Governor
McDonnell`s anti-abortion record that Mitt Romney disagrees with him on.
We did not hear back from the campaign.
MADDOW: Today was a really big news day both in politics news and
news news. There`s a very dramatic spy movie-like situation still under
way between our government and the government of the closest thing there is
in this world to another superpower. We`re going to have details on that
Plus, we`ve got some details for you on the Mitt Romney spokesperson
who has been relieved of his job. He did not get relieved of his job for
saying that I look like a man and should wear more jewelry. He got
relieved of his job for some other reason. That`s all coming.
MADDOW: The Iraq war was launched in March 2003. Even without U.N.
authorization, the Bush administration decided they wanted as many allies
on board as possible. Remember the whole coalition of the billing, I mean
Ahead of the invasion, one of the countries we tried very hard to get
on board with our war was Mexico. While we were trying everything we could
to woo Mexico to participate in this international pariah of a war that we
were about to start, while we were pulling out all the stops, flattering
Mexico every way we know how, offering everything we could to get them on
board with this thing, somebody in the Bush administration screwed it up.
Mexican press lit up with reports that at the U.N. some American
official had leaned on Mexico`s U.N. ambassador and told them to hurry it
up while he was talking to the press. Hurry it up, because America`s U.N.
ambassador was waiting to talk. This American guy hurrying up Mexico`s
ambassador was reported to have said, quote, "Who cares what Mexico has to
Ah, the Bush era. Not exactly a high point in American diplomacy.
But while we were trying to get them go along with our Iraq war, that was
especially not good, right?
This whole anecdote was reported on today at "Foreign Policy" magazine
by Colin Lynch. The star of that kerfuffle, the star of that blow-up, the
guy who made him famous in Mexico by saying who cares what Mexico has to
say, in the middle of this diplomatic tinder box, that guy was Richard
After the George W. Bush administration was out of office, Mr. Grenell
became a very prolific user of Twitter. And while Twitter does not always
bring out the best in people, as a high-ranking former Bush administration
official, Mr. Grenell`s tweets stood out for, frankly, their immaturity and
sexism and apparent lack of judgment.
"Did you notice that while Michelle Obama is working out on the
`Biggest Loser,` she`s sweating on the east room carpet? Just saying."
"Do you think Callista`s hair snaps on?" "Rachel Maddow needs to take a
breath and put on a necklace."
What does that have to do with whatever he disagreed with me about? I
don`t know. But given that this was his post-Bush administration public
persona, it was a little weird that that was the guy who Governor Mitt
Romney chose to be his spokesman in his presidential campaign. Once Mr.
Grenell`s junior high school-style online history started to get reported
on, he immediately scrubbed his online profile, he deleted something like
800 of his tweets.
Weirdly enough, the one about me and the necklace, you can still find
that online. He apologized for some of his tweets, saying he didn`t mean
any of them, any of those 800 he deleted.
Now, whether or not Governor Romney didn`t bother to look at Mr.
Romney`s online profile or didn`t care this was the guy he was hiring, we
do not know. But Mr. Romney he did pick him as his spokesman.
And then, from a totally different direction, there was totally
unrelated different criticism of that same guy. But this time it came from
deep, deep, deep in right field.
(BEGN VIDEO CLIP)
BRYAN FISCHER, AMERICAN FAMILY ASSOCIATION: Now, Richard Grenell is
an out loud and proud homosexual. And he is now the face of the Romney
campaign on national security and foreign policy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: And that was Bryan Fischer from the American Family
Association. You probably remember seeing him on the show. He has a long
history of saying inflammatory stuff on lots of issues, including gay
But it wasn`t just Brian Fischer. It was also Tony Perkins. It was
also Gary Bauer. It was also "The Daily Caller," which is the Tucker
Carlson Web site, founded by the Rick Santorum billionaire, Foster Friess.
It was also the "National Review Online," questioning whether a gay
person could ever really be loyal. They published is a piece saying
whatever fine record they compiled in the Bush administration, Grenell is
more passionate about same-sex marriage than anything else.
So while Richard Grenell is being criticized by the anti-gay rights
and by other people for something totally unrelated to him being gay, when
it came to the Romney campaign, the criticism about his fitness for office,
his maturity, his judgment -- that apparently did not matter to the Romney
campaign. But the people on the right who hated Richard Grenell because he
was gay, that mattered to the Romney campaign.
According to "The New York Times" today, even before Mr. Grenell quit
the campaign, the campaign was not allowing him to speak, even on
conference calls that he had organized. A policy aide to Mr. Romney quoted
as saying, "Rick, the campaign has requested that you not speak on this
call. It`s best to lay low for now."
When you`re hired as a spokesman and you`re not allowed to speak,
you`re allowed to sit on the conference call, but not say anything -- you
are probably not long for that spokesman job. And sure enough, soon there
was a exclusive scoop for a conservative blogger at "The Washington Post"
that Mr. Grenell would be resigning. The report made it clear what it was
that made it so Mr. Grenell had to go.
Quote, "Although Grenell also raised the ire of liberal commentators
with now deleted tweets about certain prominent women, none of the sources
I spoke with mentioned the tweets as a factor in his resignation decision.
Instead, the reason Richard Grenell could not stay on as a spokesman for
Mr. Romney was attributed to a, quote, `full court press` by anti-gay
For his part, Mr. Grenell released a statement upon resigning,
lamenting that discussion about his personal issues had made it impossible
for him to stay on. But he went out of his way to thank Governor Romney
for his, quote, "clear message to me that being openly gay was a nonissue
for him and his team."
Clear message? How exactly was that made clear to you?
As the right was attacking Richard Grenell for being gay, neither Mr.
Romney nor anyone in the Romney campaign ever spoke out against it. They
never defended Mr. Grenell for being gay. They never told anybody on the
right to cool it with the anti-gay rhetoric. They apparently did not even
do so privately.
One Republican adviser telling "The New York Times" today, quote,
"They believed this was a non-issue, but they didn`t want to confront the
religious right. So you`re privately OK with a gay spokesman being gay,
but you won`t stand up to people attacking him for being gay. You won`t
stand up to guys like Bryan Fischer in public. Privately, you think
they`re wrong, but you won`t say anything to them, in public, you won`t say
anything in public about this private feeling that you have that you want
to be known. This thing that we might be interested in knowing whether or
not it`s a way we can judge you.
When somebody on the right calls for a scalp publicly and you hand
them a scalp, that kind of puts that person in charge -- and they know it.
This guy Bryan Fischer today was crowing about this being a huge win.
Quote, "It will be a long time before the governor appoints another
homosexual activist to a prominent position in his campaign." Whoo-hoo!
The right wins.
On Tuesday, North Carolina has its Republican primary. Spoiler alert,
Mitt Romney will win. But North Carolinians will also be voting on a
constitutional amendment to doubly, triply ban gay marriage in North
Carolina. The anti-gay politics around that measure have been pretty ugly
A Fayetteville pastor is apologizing, kind of, for saying this weekend
that parents should beat their children if their children appear to be gay.
The wife of the sponsor of the anti-gay amendment is reported to have
described the impetus of the amendment as defending the white majority,
encouraging Caucasian reproduction in North Carolina. White people can`t
be in gay marriages, they need to be in straight marriages so they can make
more white people.
The amendment sponsor is denying that this was his intention, but
that`s what the anti-gay politics around this is like in North Carolina.
President Obama has actually waded into this state issue. His re-
election campaign has said that they oppose this anti-gay ballot measure in
North Carolina. The Democratic Party in the state is fighting against it.
So Mitt Romney`s taking -- so President Obama has taken a position on
this. Mitt Romney has not. Whatever Mitt Romney`s position is on this
North Carolina anti-gay thing, Mitt Romney will not say. He will not say
publicly, at least.
What does he think privately? Well, I`m sure privately you can rest
assured that whatever he thinks privately is something that you`d be very
comfortable with. Publicly, he`s not going to say anything, but privately,
be assured that Mitt Romney agrees with you, whatever you believe. Vote
for him, for leader.
E.J. Dionne from "The Washington Post" joins us next.
MADDOW: Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney picked a spokesman
last month, who was a veteran strategist on foreign policy, and also an out
gay man. That spokesman, Richard Grenell, lasted a very short time with
the Romney campaign before he resigned this week after a barrage of
criticism from the right. Not about his competence, not about his creepy
sexist online record, but simply about the fact of his being gay.
Through it all, the Romney campaign never stepped in to publicly
defend Mr. Grenell. As one adviser told "The New York Times," they
believed this was a nonissue, but they didn`t want to confront the
Joining us now is E.J. Dionne, "Washington Post" columnist and MSNBC
Mr. Dionne, thank you very much for being here.
E.J. DIONNE, WASHINGTON POST: Good to be with you.
MADDOW: I don`t think as Mitt Romney as someone who is capable of
confronting the religious right. He once directed some sort of cross words
towards Bryan Fischer who had taken the lead in attacking Richard Grenell
for being gay.
Are you surprised that the Romney campaign never made a peep in
defense of this man who they chose for this job?
DIONNE: You know, actually, I`m not. I think that their biggest fear
right now is losing evangelical conservative votes. If you look back at
the primaries, he lost every state when was competitive, where there was a
majority of evangelical Christians.
And I think in that sense, he`s in the same box as John McCain was.
John McCain was never the favorite of the conservative wing of the
Republican Party, including the evangelicals. And so, he constantly had to
give into them or to give them something.
And I think, you know, it`s funny. When I first heard this story, I
thought he was being fired for the right reason. He had made all those
nasty comments about women, including you. And I thought, oh, Romney is
doing something about his women problem. And instead, he`s doing something
so he doesn`t have an evangelical conservative problem.
And so I guess I`m not surprised at all that they handled it surprised
at all that they handled it this way.
MADDOW: Don`t you think that now that the nomination is wrapped up,
everybody keeps saying that Mitt Romney is pivoting to the center. Isn`t
this his time to sort of take a stand on the anti-gay bigotry and say, yes,
yes, yes, I am anti-gay rights but I am not a Bryan Fischer guy? I sort of
feel like he still has room to do that, I don`t think the evangelicals are
going to flee.
DIONNE: If he is pivoting to the center, it is still little, little
baby steps it seems to me. I think that when they looked at this, this
issue was really live on the right wing. Where as the voters he is going
to pick up in the center, he is going to pick up as economic protest voters
for other reasons, they are probably not very engaged in this.
I think the one place where this could hurt him is among voters under
30. If you look at recent polls among the under 30s, President Obama
doesn`t have all of them locked up. He won them 2-1 the last time.
I think there are some in roads Romney could make. On the issue of
gay rights, the under 30s have very, very strong views. So, that`s the one
and only place I can see some cost to Romney for handling this thing this
MADDOW: We are going to be covering the North Carolina Amendment One
issue more closely, I think in part because the Obama campaign seems clear
this is a clear political issue, they waded in at the state level without
qualms. To see the Romney campaign get so shy about it is fascinating.
E.J. Dionne, "Washington Post" columnist, MSNBC contributor, E.J.,
thank you very much.
DIONNE: Good to be with you. Good to be the second E.J. of the
MADDOW: I was going to say, it was never before had two initials only
people on the show, but you both be E.J. Clearly, we are blessed.
DIONNE: Thank you. Bye.
MADDOW: All right. A really great spy novel with really high stakes,
coming up next.
MADDOW: This is the man at the center of one of the most sensitive
and complicated diplomatic situations in the world right now. His name is
Chen Guangcheng. He is a human rights lawyer in China.
As a human rights lawyer, he sued Chinese authorities, which is a
dangerous thing to do in China. He sued Chinese authorities over China`s
One Child Policy. In 2005, he recorded interviews with rural villagers who
reported they had been forced to have abortions and undergo sterilizations
by local authorities. Like this 36-year-old woman who told him she was
seven months pregnant and on the run when she learned that local officials
had detained more than a dozen of her relatives and would not release them
unless she returned for an abortion.
Drawing attention to that kind of government activity is what Mr. Chen
did before he was imprisoned for more than four years. He was released
last year, only to be kept with his family under constant surveillance in a
strict house arrest. His family says they were beaten regularly,
particularly when they tried to communicate with the outside world.
This is what happened in October of last year when a "McClatchy" news
reporter tried to reach his house to interview him. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: In a split second after the man in black heard I was a
journalist, he lunged through the window screaming and tried to drag my
news assistant out of the car. This next scene picks up at what followed.
The man in black sprinted back to the silver Volkswagen and took off after
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Eleven days ago, Mr. Chen escaped house arrest and in a
daring intricately planned plot. He pretended to be sick and bed ridden
for weeks. But then on a moonless night, he sneaked past sleeping guards
and heaved himself over the first of several walls, injured himself badly
during his escape. He hurt his foot and got in touch with fellow rights
activists who helped hide him.
One human rights activist told reporters, quote, "Our main goal was to
get him to a safe place. It was decided only the American embassy could
provide that kind of protection."
Now, what followed was a period of several days of speculation about
whether or not Mr. Chen was, in fact, hiding in the U.S. embassy. Now, we
know he was, while the U.S. government and Chinese officials tried to
negotiate what would happen next. Chinese officials were none too thrilled
he had escaped house arrest and that the U.S. was now involved in what they
believed was an internal situation.
I mean, despite the circumstances of the house arrest here, imagine if
someone were under arrest in our country and got away and fled to the
Chinese embassy. What would we think or what would we do about China maybe
helping that person escape from the United States?
Well, just yesterday, details began to emerge that a settlement had
been reached. U.S. officials say that Mr. Chen told them he wanted to stay
in China. He would leave the embassy in Beijing. He would not be forced
to return to his home in Shandong province where no one could guarantee his
safety. Instead, he`d be allowed to enroll in a university in a Chinese
city near Beijing see here.
Mr. Chen with the American ambassador to China, Gary Locke, spoke with
the media yesterday, saying that this deal was satisfactory to him. He was
taken to the hospital with American embassy staff, that`s Ambassador Locke
there on the right.
He was reunited with some family at the hospital. This all happening
yesterday as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Treasury Secretary Tim
Geithner were beginning a previously scheduled trip to Beijing.
But no sooner had Mr. Chen arrived at the hospital, as part of this
newly worked out deal, that the deal ensuring his safety fall apart
completely. Mr. Chen now says he does not want to stay in China. He now
says he wants to leave immediately with his family. He says his family was
threatened while in U.S. custody. He says he did not realize the amount of
danger he was in when he said he wanted to stay in China rather than seek
asylum in the U.S. and he`s changed his mind now. Now, his preference that
he would like to leave China with his family and with Secretary Clinton
when she flies out of China tomorrow.
So, from the U.S. perspective, here is this human rights activist
oppressed by his own government, probably in danger from his own government
and seeking our help. From the Chinese government perspective, this is
none of the United States business. His appeal for help, his appeal
directly for the U.S. for help is happening while the secretary of state is
Mr. Chen also called into a U.S. congressional hearing on his case
held today, an emergency hearing called on Capitol Hill to deal with the
pressing and time sensitive nature of his case. That`s Congressman Chris
Smith of New Jersey, that`s Pastor Bob Fu on the right, he`s the president
of the China Aid Association. He`s holding a cell phone there and
translating for Mr. Chen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOB FU (translating Chen): I want to meet with the Secretary Clinton.
I hope I can get more help from her. I also want to thank her face to
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: What happens now is unclear. Presidential candidate, Mitt
Romney, wasted no time today criticizing President Obama for this
unexpected almost unprecedented turn of events. He called it, quote, "A
day of shame for the Obama administration."
Secretary Clinton is scheduled to depart China tomorrow. The next 24
hours are going to be critical for Mr. Chen and potentially for America`s
future relationship with China. This is what has happened so far. But the
next 24 hours are going to be really important. Stay tuned.
Now, its` time for "THE LAST WORD" with Lawrence O`Donnell. Have a
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