Guests: Bill Richardson, Peter Zuckerman
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: See? Even in flattery, you`re perfect. Great
to see you. Well done. Thanks, man.
MICHALE ERIC DYSON, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Great to see you. Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. Thanks to you at home for staying with us for
the next hour.
There`s a lot going on. But we have to start, because we always
start somewhere weird, tonight, we have to start in 1968. In 1968, a
former member of Congress, a former United States senator, a former vice
president of the United States, an experienced, nationally known sober
steady Republican named Richard Nixon is running for president.
He, of course, wins in 1968. And then he wins re-election in 1972.
He never makes it to the end of the second term because of a little
complication called Watergate. That`s a little awkward to talk about now.
But in 1968, he was at the height of his appeal, and he was a
communist. You see his campaign slogan there, "Forward Together. " This
from the Republican National Committee archives from that area. See the
slogan at the bottom there? Yes, bushy-haired, smiley, apple cheek, height
of his charm -- Richard Nixon, communist.
The reason you know that slogan at the bottom there indicates that
he`s a communist is because today`s conservatives say so. I thought this
was kind of debunked already, but apparently, conservatives -- even know,
this is from last night on Glenn Beck`s Internet TV show, conservatives are
still stuck on this.
President Obama`s web video that came out in the beginning of the
week ended with this slogan "Forward". The right just went nuts that the
word forward was the Obama campaign`s way of signaling that it is Marxist,
that it seeks to impose the economic system invented by Karl Marx on
America. That President Obama is a communist, because the word "forward"
So, Richard Nixon "Forward Together" -- communist. Also the
Washington, D.C. metro system -- communist. This Jewish daily newspaper in
New York City - communist and Jewish. Whoa! I know, deep, right?
And, of course, the state of Wisconsin, which has an awesome flag,
which includes the date they were admitted to the Union, has the word
Wisconsin on it, which makes it easy to pick out of a crowd of state flags.
But the little insignia, the little banner over the frankly very communist-
looking arm with hammer, and little firearm and stuff, that has the state
slogan on it and the state slogan is "Forward". So, obviously, Wisconsin
Here`s the state slogan as well on the state quarter, with some
cheese and some corn and a cow wearing a bell: "Forward" -- communist.
Now, is President Obama and the Obama re-election campaign a
communist enterprise? They are exactly as communist as Richard Nixon was,
and that cow on the quarter.
But the word communist has just become sort of another political
epithet now. It`s just become a thing that you call somebody if you don`t
like them in politics. And because we use that term now as an insult from
the right so freely in our politics now, it`s easy to forget that the word
communist isn`t just an all purpose, boogey man political term you call
anybody who is to the left of you. It`s a real thing.
I mean, actual countries are run by actual communists. It`s not just
tiny, rogue countries like Cuba and North Korea that are run by communist
parties. In fact, the most populous country on earth is run by the
communist party, for real. It`s not an insult.
China is run by the communist party of China. This is their emblem,
hammer and sickle. They are real communists. Real communists who have
real departments of propaganda, right? They are state-run media all over
But in China, there are major newspapers that are quite directly run
out of the propaganda department of the local chapter of the communist
And "The Washington Post" reports today that four of the communist
party controlled propaganda directed newspapers in the city of Beijing have
been going hog-wild attacking America`s ambassador to China. They are
going after Gary Locke. He`s the former governor of Washington state. He
arrived in China as the American ambassador, of course, after Jon Huntsman
quit the job in order to pursue his disastrous and short-lived run for the
Famously, Jon Huntsman`s dad who was his main funder for his
presidential campaign, he said that had China been able to vote for U.S.
president, they definitely would have picked Jon Huntsman. The Chinese
people loved Jon Huntsman as America`s ambassador to China.
The Chinese people actually kind of liked Gary Locke as an
ambassador, too -- and for some of the same reason as they like Jon
Huntsman. In a country that`s increasingly disgusted with the arrogance
consumption on the part of its elite, Jon Huntsman as U.S. ambassador
riding his bike around in China and Gary Locke being autograph at a
Starbucks wearing backpack, waiting in line, paying for his own caffeinated
treats. Those images went a long way to winning over Chinese public
opinion for the American ambassador, past and presence.
But in the midst of this diplomatic crisis that the United States is
in right now with China, these propaganda state-controlled newspapers have
been attacking Ambassador Gary Locke. According to NBC`s Beijing producer,
the big headline on the communist party`s "Being Daily" today translates to
"the clumsy performance of American politician in the Chen Guangcheng
According to "Reuters," the paper goes onto say it`s all an act.
This whole flying economy class, carrying his own backpack, buying coffee
with coupons, they say it`s an act. They say he`s putting on a charade of
being a regular guy. Quote, "What we have seen is not an ambassador to
China who is prudent in his words and actions, but a standard issue
American politician who goes out of his way to stir up conflict."
This propaganda pile on is the latest development in this huge
international controversy around this man, Chen Guangcheng. He`s a human
rights activist and lawyer. He has been blind since infancy, which is why
you always see him wearing sunglasses.
In China, interestingly, you are not allowed to go to law school if
you are blind. So, he`s a lawyer, but he`s a self-taught lawyer. He
audited law classes that he was not allowed to take properly. But by
auditing those classes, he taught himself the law. And what he did with
his self-taught legal education is that he sued the Chinese government over
their One Child Policy and over other human rights abuses.
The response from the government was imprisonment for four years and
harsh house imprisonment for nearly two years after that. And those are
the circumstances -- house arrest, from which he made a daring, middle of
the night -- did I mention blind? -- escape 12 days ago. He actually made
his way to the American embassy.
Now, first, Mr. Chen told U.S. officials that he wanted to stay in
China. U.S. officials worked out a deal in his behalf where he wouldn`t be
under house arrest anymore, he could stay in China. He`d be studying at a
university in a different part of the country from his hometown. That was
the initial deal, that deal fell apart after Mr. Chen was admitted to a
hospital to treat a broken foot, injuries he sustained in his middle of the
He, apparently, in the hospital, changed his mind about not wanting
to leave China. He decided that his life was in danger, his family and he
then made a request to leave China. He said he wanted to leave China and
go to the United States. Specifically, he told "The Daily Beast" he would
like to leave China with Hillary Clinton on her plane. Secretary Hillary
Clinton is in China on unrelated business. She`s there for high level
meetings, alongside Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner.
As we reported last night, Mr. Chen also phoned into an emergency
congressional hearing that was called to discuss his case. He reiterated
in the phone call that you can see them holding them up the microphone
there, he reiterated that he wanted help from Secretary Clinton.
It`s all very dramatic. Right? Last night when we left this story,
it was totally up in the air as to what would happen on this today. And
the clock is ticking.
Today, there does seem to be progress toward a new deal that could
get Mr. Chen out of China and to the United States in way that did not
escalate this any further. Apparently, Mr. Chen has now been offered a
fellowship at NYU`s law school.
China has said they will consider his request to become a student or
at least a visiting lecturer of some kind in the United States. The U.S.
government is saying they expect this request to be expedited.
And all of this, of course, is happening in the shadow of Hillary
Clinton right now being in China. Secretary Clinton is expected to depart
Beijing on Saturday, local time, but Beijing is 12 hours ahead of the East
Coast in the United States. So that means she`s going to be leaving
momentarily. She`s going to be leaving at some point in the next several
hours our time here in the United States.
But in the middle of this diplomatic, super high stakes, all but
super power stand off between the most powerful country in the world, us,
and the biggest country in the world, China, the biggest country in the
world is run by communists who have propaganda departments that are having
their newspapers just pile on not only the U.S. government as a whole, but
specifically our U.S. ambassador.
"The Washington Post" reporting today, this is fascinating, that the
propagandistic pile on against Gary Locke is generating the opposite of the
intended reaction among the Chinese people.
Quoting from "The Washington Post," "The attacks drew a ferocious
response from China`s Internet users who immediately bombarded the `Being
Daily`s` Web site with thousands of comments defending Ambassador Gary
Locke. The comments were so numerous and vicious that by evening, "Beijing
Daily" had become a banned search term on China`s version of Twitter."
So, this is functioning -- I mean, at the human level, right, this is
functioning at the level of one sort of heroic human rights activists who
is trying to save himself, save his family and be an activist. You`ve also
got this operating at the highest level, which is two giant powerful
countries having to deal with this as a very high level diplomatic matter -
- people at the very highest levels of government involved in this, having
to make direct decisions about what to do about it while they are
physically in the proximity of the crisis.
And now, it is also a media and man on the street issue, for a
government that wants its people to feel very, very bad about the American
government but whose people don`t really always seem to feel that way.
Complicating here at home, here in the United States, is the fact that the
Republican candidate for president is also attacking the American
government as if he, too, works for "Beijing Daily."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It`s also apparent,
according to these reports, if they`re accurate, that our embassy failed to
put in place the kind of verifiable measures that would assure the safety
of Mr. Chen and his family. If these reports are true, this is a dark day
for freedom and it`s a day of shame for the Obama administration.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Mitt Romney stating clearly that he doesn`t know if any of
this information is accurate, but he wants you to know it`s a day of shame
for the Obama administration. He said this yesterday.
Really? You`re not sure if it`s accurate. You don`t know if you
should believe the reports, you really don`t know what`s going on, but it`s
definitely day of shame for the Obama -- this is kind of a sensitive
matter, a sensitive ongoing matter that is yet to be resolved. Are you
sure you want to weigh in here?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL KRISTOL, CONSERVATIVE COLUMNIST: To inject yourself in the
middle of it, though, when there`s all kind of negotiations going on and a
fast moving target I think is foolish. He still has not -- they are trying
to transition from a primary campaign mode to general election mode. In
the primary campaign mode, Santorum said something stupid, the Ohio primary
vote is in five days, hit him, hit him right now.
This is -- there`s no need to butt into a fast moving story where the
secretary of state is in Beijing, with delicate negotiations and say it`s
day of shame to the Obama administration. Hillary Clinton is waking
upright now. Let`s see if she can pull this off in the next 12 hours or
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: William Kristol speaking on FOX News Channel obviously a
The 12 hours that he was talking about yesterday when he said that or
last night when he said are just about up now. And this is a fast, fast
moving crisis. The politics around this will continue to reverberate.
But in terms of understanding the resolution to this, we are turning
to a man who has been involved in many crises like these as a former
ambassador and as an international trouble shooter on issues of rights,
activists and difficult governments -- he`s former New Mexico Governor Bill
Governor Richardson, we feel lucky to have you with us here tonight.
Thank you for being here.
BILL RICHARDSON (D), FORMER NEW MEXICO GOVERNOR: Thank you, Rachel,
for having me.
MADDOW: You have been a part of negotiations around human rights
activists, hostage negotiation, prisoner releases. Once Mr. Chen was
inside the U.S. embassy in Beijing, what do you think was the best possible
outcome for the U.S. and for him? What were the choices that the U.S. had?
RICHARDSON: Well, the best outcome could be what`s possibly going to
happen, that Chen and his family protected can go to the United States at
an American university where he will have a platform, where his family is
safe. That is the best outcome.
What I see is the administration, I think, courageously put him in
the U.S. embassy, negotiated at the highest level. When you have the
secretary of state involved, assistant secretary of state, the American
ambassador, the top State Department lawyer -- by the way, two of those,
the State Department lawyer and the American ambassador, Chinese-Americans,
negotiating on behalf of this individual says the Obama administration
really put the human rights front and center. So, if the outcome is going
to be the dispersal of -- or the travel to the United States, to pursue a
human rights career where he`ll have a platform, that`s good.
It also does show, Rachel, at the same time that the Chinese
government -- that backfired, that criticism of Ambassador Locke is
obviously backfiring -- it shows maybe they are maturing in their attitude
on human rights and saying we want this issue resolved.
The American-Chinese relationship is too important. We`ve got North
Korea. We`ve got Iran.
We`ve got the global economic recovery. We`ve got serious Security
Council resolutions. Let`s get this issue resolved.
So, in a way, maybe this outcome is best for everybody and it`s best
for the world that a human rights activist is basically going to get what
he wants for him and his family.
MADDOW: In terms of understanding the various -- I guess the various
motivations for the people that are on sides of the negotiation, one thing
that gets described is this NYU fellowship, this academic posting
essentially for the activist involved here might be a way for the Chinese
government to save face, essentially for a way for this to be resolved in a
way that doesn`t cost anybody politically at home. Is that how you see it?
I mean, obviously, there are hundreds of thousands of Chinese
students and Chinese activists who come to the -- who are allowed by the
Chinese government to the United States every year. Does this essentially
neutralize it from their perspective in terms of it being a pride issue for
RICHARDSON: Well, this fellowship, this offer of going to the United
States on a student visa is a face saver for the Chinese government because
they have many Chinese students, academics going to the United States. So,
it allows them to say, the Chinese, if he satisfies all requirements, he
can get a visa, a student visa.
Now, he still has to get a passport. Chen does not have a passport.
There`s still a little bit of a hurdle.
But the fact that the foreign ministry said they`re going to proceed
with issuing this visa, the student visa is very positive. But you also
have to admire Chen.
I mean, the guy has excellent political operative credentials. He
calls a congressional hearing. He talks to the press. He says he wants to
go on the secretary of state plane.
I mean, this guy, politically, is very adept. And that`s good.
But I`m also proud that the administration -- this is the first time
I`ve seen an American administration stand up so much for human rights to
get this guy out, to know it could damage the relationship. And the best
part is the Chinese government may be saying, look, in the past we`ve been
tough on human rights activists. We put him in jail. This time, they
appear to want to resolve a diplomatic crisis and that`s good for all
MADDOW: Bill Richardson, the former governor of New Mexico,
ambassador to the United Nations in the Clinton administration -- thanks
for being with us tonight, sir. You were the first guy that I wanted to
talk to when we learn that this was still unfolding today. Thanks very
RICHARDSON: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. It is Friday. And that means it`s a cocktail
moment. But also, we`re going to be breaking some news about Mitt Romney`s
campaign national finance co-chair. It`s a story we started covering back
in February. It has continued to unfold since then.
And tonight, it really unfolds in an unexpected way. That`s an
exclusive story, and that`s ahead.
MADDOW: Republicans like to present themselves as the party of small
government. They say Democrats are the party of big government and small
government is better and small government is Republican. And that idea,
I`m sure focus groups very well.
But it is not true. Look at this. This charts the economy under the
last three terms of Republican presidents. It`s the first three years of
the last three terms that we had under Republican presidents. They are all
named Bush by it`s two different Bush residencies -- two terms of George W.
Bush and one term of Poppy Bush.
Now, as you can see, both Bush presidencies have modest but some job
growth in the private sector. Private sector that bluish line. But when
you look at government jobs, the growth in government jobs was a little --
in some cases more pronounced than it was in the private sector.
Now, check this out. These are the last three terms of Democratic
presidents. This is on the Democratic side. There`s both Clinton terms
and President Obama`s first term. We`re looking at the first three years
of the last three Democratic terms.
And you see pretty big private sector job gains under Clinton.
Modest gains there under President Obama. But even though Republicans like
to say they are the party of big government, Democrats do not appear to be
the party of big government.
Look at government jobs under the last three Democratic presidential
terms. With President Obama, the current president, you see government
jobs dropping like a stone falling through water, right? That`s called
austerity. Austerity is the thing keeping economic recovery slow and
Private sector growth, non-government job growth under President
Obama has actually been pretty remarkable. "The New York Times" noting
today that the private sector grew faster in the first three years of the
Obama administration than it did in both the George W. Bush`s terms as well
as a the first three years of the George H.W. Bush administration. Only
Bill Clinton had faster growth.
Businesses have added 4 million jobs under President Obama`s economy.
The private sector is growing and growing and growing. The reason the
recovery is still slow overall is frankly because of ever shrinking numbers
of government jobs.
The most serious weight on the job market according to the man who is
John McCain`s campaign economic advisor in 2008 is not jobs in the private
sector, those are coming back game busters, it`s government jobs --
specifically, state and local government jobs. That`s the drag on hiring.
Public sector jobs and public sector jobs are, in fact, jobs -- jobs which
Democrats would like to fund more of but Republicans say must be slashed.
On Tuesday of this week, the Republican Party`s presumptive
presidential nominee took a break from criticizing Obama for noting the
anniversary of Osama bin Laden`s death. He took break from that criticism
so he himself could take some time to note the anniversary of Osama bin
Laden`s death. Mitt Romney on Tuesday joined Rudy Giuliani to campaign at
a New York City fire station on the anniversary of killing bin Laden.
And at that photo op event, Mr. Romney got to talking with
firefighters and they explained to him what it means in economic terms to
work as a New York City firefighter these days. After he left New York,
Mr. Romney felt compelled to share the story of these struggling hard
working firefighters. He felt compelled to share their story with the high
dollar donors at $2,500 a plate Romney fundraiser at the Pentagon City,
Virginia, Ritz Carlton.
Mr. Romney told that high-dollar audience, full of people who paid
$2,500 to hang out with him that night, he told them, quote, "I spoke with
a fireman yesterday and he has a one bedroom apartment and his wife is
pregnant and he can`t afford a second bedroom. I asked the firefighters I
was meeting with, about 15 of them, how many had to take another job to
make ends meet. Almost every one of them had."
Shocking. Shocking, right? Relayed to these campaign donors that
you might think that the moral of story is Mitt Romney wants the
firefighters to be paid more. Mitt Romney does not want these firefighters
to be paid more.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: Then there was the stimulus itself, $787 billion of
borrowing. It primarily protected people in the governmental sector, which
is probably the sector that should be shrinking.
We will stop the unfairness of government workers getting better pay
and benefits than the very taxpayers they serve.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Yes, lousy government workers getting paid too much, like
those New York city firefighters and their unfairly large salaries that
have them taking second jobs about which you`re telling heartrending tales
to your donors.
Mitt Romney`s core economic position is to rail against the
government -- government jobs, government pay, government growth.
Mr. Romney wrote an op-ed today in a form of open-letter to President
Obama. He said, quote, "Undoing the damage you`ve done will be a daunting
challenge. But I`ve learned a thing or two about how government policies
can kill private investment and stifle job creation, and I have a plan to
get government out of the way." He says he would return the country to the
principles of limited government. He said, quote, and bluntly, "Our
government is too big."
Lousy government full of those lousy overpaid government jobs, all
these horrible people working for the government -- they are the problem in
America. That is the core economic message of a campaign that sees
economics as its core message. Firefighters great for a photo-op, but
after all, they are what`s wrong with the country.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: May the force be with you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, Luke, may the force be with you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: What`s today? Today is the 4th of May. May 4th. May the
fourth. May the fourth be with you.
Today is International Star Wars Day. And this year, May the fourth
be with you, International Star Wars Day falls on a Friday. And on Fridays
on this show, we do cocktails moments. So, today`s cocktail moment, of
course, Bantha milk, blue milk, like from "Star Wars," like they were
drinking at the beginning, remember?
Bantha milk apparently comes from this lovely creature, the Bantha.
You know, though, as appealing Bantha milk cocktail does sounds, I actually
think Bantha milk might have been our second best cocktail moment idea for
the day. Our first idea will be coming up at the end of the show.
MADDOW: OK. 1999, all over the state of Idaho, this rather ominous
billboard starts turning up on roads across the state. "Should public
television promote the homosexual lifestyle to your children? Think about
Never put a billboard with a message that provocative that ends with
a question mark and has a lot of blank white space on it. This is what
happened I think in Idaho Falls. But somewhere in Idaho, somebody answered
the question in spray paint in a way the billboard funders probably did not
"Should public TV promote the homosexual lifestyle to your children?
Yes." An unauthorized spray paint addition there.
That was 1999. The man who helped pay for those billboards in Idaho
in 1990 is now a national finance co-share of the Mitt Romney for president
campaign. His name is Frank VanderSloot. He runs a company called
Melaleuca. He`s one of the richest men in Idaho, whicfh ends up mattering
a lot in Idaho politics.
Do you remember when Larry Craig, the Republican senator got caught
with the wide stance in that airport bathroom.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LARRY CRAIG (R), FORMER U.S. SENATOR: Let me be clear. I`m not gay.
I never have been gay.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Larry Craig emphatically not gay, left the United States
Senate any way and was replaced by another Idaho Republican named James
Risch. Mr. Risch, at that point, the state`s lieutenant governor, rented
the private jet of Frank VanderSloot to fly around the state in his
successful campaign to replace Larry Craig in the Senate.
Mr. VanderSloot comes up a lot in Idaho politics. And now, he`s not
only a national finance co-chair of the Mitt Romney for president campaign,
he`s also directly held fund-raisers for Mr. Romney. He has donated to the
super PAC supporting Mr. Romney, as well as to the Romney for president
A few years after he helped finance the homosexual lifestyle
billboards around Idaho. Mr. VanderSloot also got very, very involved in
an award-winning investigative series published by a small Idaho newspaper
called "The Post Register". The series started with a tip about a child
molestation case at a local Boy Scout camp.
Following that lead, the paper published that Boy Scout officials and
Mormon Church officials had been warned about child molesters within local
Boy Scout troops. They had known about it and kept them in the
organization and ultimately facilitated their further access to kids. It
was a brutal and disturbing investigation that, of course, went right at
the most powerful pillars of that community. For that reporting, the
Scripps Howard Foundation awarded the newspaper their award for
distinguished service to the First Amendment.
The reporter on the story, a young man named Peter Zuckerman, won the
Livingston Award for his reporting on that series. It`s a price that
recognizes the nation`s best journalists under the age of 35.
Now, part of the response to that reporting from that little
newspaper in Idaho Falls was this -- as you can see, it`s sort of typeset
to make it look like it was part of the newspaper but this is actually an
ad. It was a full page ad run by Frank VanderSloot, now a national finance
co-chair of the Mitt Romney campaign. The ad was placed to criticize the
newspaper for publishing the story, and it and others like it were
published in the newspaper that had aired the series in the first place.
This particular version of the ad went on in some length about the
fact that the reporter, young Mr. Zuckerman, is gay. It described him as
a, quote, "declared homosexual" and also described him as individually
biased as a reporter.
We covered this story a few months ago, back in February, for a
couple of reasons. First, biggest picture here, while there`s always been
campaign donors and politically influential campaign donors, in this post-
Citizens United, we are now in a new phase in American politics where
gazillionaires can give unlimited amounts of money to support candidates.
And that unlimited spending by people with essentially unlimited resources
creates a whole new category of influential, rich person in politics like
we`ve never had before.
So, now, in this post-Citizens United world, getting know your
candidates in many cases means getting to know your candidates`
gazillionaires. Frank VanderSloot is one of Mitt Romney`s key
gazillionaires. And his politics are therefore relevant for understanding
Mitt Romney`s politics, his campaign and his candidacy.
But more interesting than just Frank VanderSloot`s politics is how he
functions as a political actor, which is mostly up until this point been in
Idaho. But it`s starting feel like it may now be nationwide. I mean, it
is a basic truth of politics that when you start behaving as a political
actor, you get discussed in a political context.
If you`re involved, for example, in putting up billboards, raising
the specter of the homosexual lifestyle all around your state, and you`re
taking out full page ads attacking the reporting of local newspapers, if
you become a national finance co-chair of a presidential campaign, you have
made yourself a political figure. And people discussing politics on those
that you`ve been engaging in will therefore be discussing you. That basic
dyad of public figures getting public scrutiny is something that Frank
VanderSloot deals with differently than most other people who have chosen
to become political public figures.
It`s not just that young reporter at that local newspaper in Idaho,
when people have blogged about Mr. VanderSloot and his politics, they have
frequently found themselves facing copyright infringement lawsuits for
doing things like posting the photo of him that is publicly displayed on
his company`s Web site.
In 2007, this leftie leaning Idaho blog which is 43rd State Blues,
they posted a blog entry critical of Mr. VanderSloot`s politics. The blog
said they received a letter from Mr. VanderSloot`s lawyers telling them to
take the blog post down within 24 hours or they`d find themselves sued.
The blog did take down the post. They did not want to be sued.
But when they posted a copy of the lawyer`s letter in order to
explain to their readers why they had taken down the blog post that had
previously been there, Mr. VanderSloot then sued them. They sued them for
copyright infringement for posting the letter.
And so, when we reported on Mr. VanderSloot in February, when he
reported on Mr. VanderSloot and his politics and his role in the Romney
campaign and his story of doing this kind of thing -- surprise.
We got contacted by Mr. VanderSloot and his lawyers. First, they
requested that we take down the web version of the segment that we did
about Mr. VanderSloot. They asked that we remove it from the Internet.
They also tried to insist that their written communications to NBC
News about this matter were confidential and not for publication. Of
course, we didn`t enter into sort of any confidentiality agreement with
them. You`re writing a letter to a news organization. With all due
respect, we can do anything we want with that. That`s the whole free part
of the free press.
Ultimately, the specific thing they wanted to criticize about our
coverage is they say when they published that ad about that young reporter
at that Idaho newspaper and went on at length about that young reporter
being gay while they were attacking him for being biased, they say that was
not outing him as we described it in our broadcast because of the fact that
that reporter -- because of the fact that the reporter is gay had
previously been discussed on an Idaho radio station and in a blog post that
he had previously written.
Now, that is true. It should be noted that for most people that read
this local newspaper but did not listen to that one radio show, Frank
VanderSloot, in all likelihood, was the person breaking the news about this
young man`s sexual orientation, by printing it in that paper in that ad.
But in this back and forth between Mitt Romney`s national finance co-
chair and his lawyers, we do actually have some news to break which is that
he is actually apologizing. I have the statement right here.
Joining us now for the interview is the man to whom Mr. VanderSloot
is apologizing, Peter Zuckerman, who in 2005 is a reporter at Idaho`s "Post
Register" newspaper, and now is an independent journalist. He has a new
book actually coming out called "Buried in the Sky." That will be out
Peter, thank you for joining us. Let me read you this statement.
This is from Frank VanderSloot, "I am a strong supporter of the
argument that gay and lesbian people should" -- this is the wrong
statement. This is the wrong statement. Oh, we`ve got it here.
Here we go. I`m handed the wrong thing.
Quote, "We believe that Peter Zuckerman is a good man who did a poor
job reporting the facts on an important story in 2005. The entire
community was buzzing about Mr. Zuckerman`s sexual orientation after a
local radio talk show had talked about it for days. We came to Mr.
Zuckerman`s defense and chastised the talk show for bringing his sexual
orientation into the debate.
I apologize for any personal pain because of our involvement. That
was not our intent."
Obviously, that statement ends with an apology. But there is a lot
Let me just ask your reaction to that statement, first.
PETER ZUCKERMAN, FMR. IDAHO FALLS "POST REGISTER" WRITER: Wow. It`s
a start. It doesn`t ring true to my experience.
MADDOW: What was the impact in your life when Frank VanderSloot ran
these full page ads in your newspaper in Idaho, talking about the fact that
you were gay and attacking your reporting?
ZUCKERMAN: There was a tremendous impact on me both personally and
professionally. Personally, it was really hard when my boyfriend, at the
time, came home and said, "I don`t have my job anymore. They know I`m gay.
They know about my relationship with you. They don`t want me there
And it was really hard for him. He actually got sick soon afterwards
and was in bed for a month. I didn`t know how we were going to pay the
It was really hard when people started leaving notes on my doorstep,
when somebody kept calling in the middle of the night threatening to rape
me with his handgun. That was -- I mean, that was really terrible.
And then professionally, it became much harder to do my job because,
yes, Idaho Falls was buzzing about my sexual orientation. And, you know,
when I tried to talk to people, they would say things like, "Oh, I can`t
talk to you. You`re a homosexual. We don`t associate with that."
MADDOW: Did all of this happen because you were being discussed on a
local radio show or did this happen not until your name appeared on the ad?
ZUCKERMAN: This did not happen until my name appeared in the ad.
MADDOW: When he says he wasn`t outing you, everybody knew already,
you dispute that contention?
ZUCKERMAN: I absolutely dispute that contention. "The Idaho Falls
Post Register" was the place I worked. It was my colleagues I worked with.
It was the people on my beat.
Yes, a handful of people knew I`m gay. My boyfriend knew I was gay.
My parents and boss knew I was gay. My boss knew I`m gay.
But most -- I hadn`t told anybody on my beat that I`m gay and for
good reason, because I was worried they wouldn`t talk to me.
And I feel like the worse part isn`t so much that I was harassed, but
was that this was really important story that needed to get out there.
This was a story about child molesters in the boy scouts. It was about
trying to protect kids from these kind of pedophiles.
And by making it so hard for me to gather information, it actually
really limited the story. There`s a lot more to that story that I was not
able to get. And this was a major contributor for one of reasons I
couldn`t get it.
MADDOW: Mr. VanderSloot is a political figure of national importance
now. HE`S national finance co-chair for Mitt Romney`s presidential
Having been in Idaho, how would you describe his political role? His
political presence in the community and do you think it`s reasonable to try
to extrapolate that to national level?
ZUCKERMAN: Absolutely reasonable. He is probably the wealthiest
person in Idaho -- certainly the wealthiest person in eastern Idaho. He`s
had his hands in a lot of campaigns often times as a donor. I don`t know
how active he is in actually deciding what the message is.
But he is also a pretty well-respected person in Idaho Falls among
people who are really extremely conservative. And what does it say about
Romney, I think, this isn`t a story about being gay or straight. It`s
about who the president leans on when he needs money, who the president
seeks advice from. You know, it`s about who does the president hire
because who you hire is one of most important things a president does --
and we need to know who he`s hiring as his national finance co-chair.
MADDOW: And in your reporting you did in Idaho, in any of the
reporting that you have done, have you ever dealt with somebody who is as
interventionist in terms of trying to control the coverage that a
publication that you were involved in was actually standing behind?
ZUCKERMAN: Not quite like this. I`ve never had somebody run paid
ads in the newspaper I`m working at as trying to discredit me as a person.
MADDOW: Peter Zuckerman, former "Post Register" reporter, was award-
wining reporter for that series that attracted so much attention. I will
say as way of thanking you for being here, that you have a new book coming
out, which is called "Buried in the Sky: The Extraordinary Story of the
Sherpa Clumbers on K2`s Deadliest Day," which obviously has nothing to do
with this subject whatsoever but congratulations on that.
ZUCKERMAN: Oh, thank you. I worked very hard.
MADDOW: I appreciate it.
ZUCKERMAN: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. I should note that we invited Frank VanderSloot
to join us a number of times, he declined our request. He did however
speak with members of my staff today off the record, but would not agree to
speak on the record or come on the air.
In addition to the statement that he provided to us in regards to Mr.
Zuckerman, Mr. VanderSloot also provided us one other statement regarding
his involvement in those homosexual lifestyle billboards, those billboards
that were put up in Idaho that he helped to finance. You can find both of
those statements from Mitt Romney`s national finance co-chair, Frank
VanderSloot, posted at our blog, which is MaddowBlog.com.
And, Mr. VanderSloot, if you are watching, you are still very, very
welcome to come on this show. You have my number.
All right. Cocktail moment coming up.
MADDOW: This weekend, there will be arraignments again for five men
accused of masterminding and conspiring to pull off the 9/11 attacks. The
most famous of the five defendants is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who we used
to think of as looking like this. But who now after years in U.S. custody
looks more like this.
This trial was initially going to be held in real criminal court. In
November 2009, the U.S. attorney general announced that a federal court in
Manhattan would be the venue.
But after an uproar about how awful it would be to try terrorism
defendants in real U.S. courts, the administration reversed course. And
tomorrow`s arraignment will be held instead at Guantanamo. It will not be
a real court trial. It will be a military tribunal.
The few terrorism cases that have been pushed through this relatively
untested ad hoc military tribunal system have actually produced results
more lenient on average than terrorism cases tried in real American courts.
But the fear of trying an important terrorism case in a real court in New
York is such that many tomorrow`s proceedings will be offshore in Cuba.
This week, by the way, there was a conviction in what law enforcement
says was the most serious terrorist plot on U.S. soil since 9/11. A real
plot by real al Qaeda affiliated terrorists to bomb the New York City
subway system in 2009. The conviction was on Tuesday, in federal district
court in Brooklyn in New York.
I feel the need to tell you it was on Tuesday because when it
happened, nobody really noticed. Life went on in Brooklyn and in New York
City and in New York state and in America totally uninterrupted. Nobody
much noticed, but justice was served in a real court.
MADDOW: Happy Friday. Cocktail moment before we all go to prison.
All right. There are three main things we associate with the
Kentucky Derby, right?
Number one, horses. As in these fellas, these beauties will be
running for the roses at Churchill Downs tomorrow with very, very teeny,
teeny, teeny, tiny but very strong little men on top of them.
Number two, we think of women in bag fancy hats.
And number three, we think of a very, very specific preparation of
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, now, if here at the derby, you have to have
a mint julep.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You have to.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have to.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: You have to. All right. Hard truth time here on THE RACHEL
Usually there isn`t any hard truth in the cocktail moment, but hard
truth: most people don`t like mint juleps. I don`t mean to offend. I
personally love them mint juleps, but I like whiskey straight from the
bottle, too. I mean, a mint julep is a really, really strong drink. It`s
essentially, if you make it right, it`s essentially just really cold
bourbon inflected with minty sweetness.
If you are not somebody who love straight whiskey, who is a practiced
julep drinker, your first time out, you are probably not going to like your
first mint julep if it is made properly, especially if it is made properly.
That`s why there are so many things that aren`t really mint juleps
masquerading as them, because a real mint julep, people taste it for the
first time and go -- arg!
And so, people end up like, you know, filling it up with southern
comfort or something to make it more palatable.
But for tonight`s cocktail moment, ahead of the Kentucky derby, I`m
going to do you a favor. Rather than show you how to make a mint julep,
which is an acquired taste, I am instead going to show you how to acquire
the taste for a mint julep. This is how you train yourself to like the
taste of a mint julep if you don`t already like one. And it has the added
benefit of being one of the great old man drinks of all time. It`s called
Is there an old man in your life? Who is a brown liquor drinker?
Ask if he likes the stinger.
All right. So, a stinger is -- it`s one of those drinks that has
slightly different proportions depending on your taste, depending how much
of a sweet tooth you have. But the way I make it is two and a quarter
ounces off cognac or brand brandy. We`re using cognac.
And then -- it`s crazy, it`s going to drive you nuts, creme de
menthe. But you have to get the good stuff. You have to get a good brand
and you want the white kind, not the green kind. You want three quarters
of an ounce of that. You could do less if you want less of a sweet taste.
And that`s it. It`s really simple to make. Now, usually any drink
that just has spirits in it that doesn`t have any, like fruit juice or milk
or anything in it, you would stir instead of shake. But weirdly, with a
stinger, you shake this one.
So it`s just cognac and cream de menthe. I know it sounds crazy, but
this is the kind of the way you have to train yourself in order to be able
to drink a julep because all a julep is, is sweetened minty whiskey. So
teaching yourself how to drink one, you can maybe start with sweetened
minty brandy or cognac.
The key and the thing that makes it a lot more palatable and this is
true for bad beer too is to make it just absolutely frigid. That`s why you
shake it with ice even though it`s only spirits and you pour it over ice.
That`s like really lot of ice. It ends up being a very, very cold drink.
And it is also an acquired taste but it is now the as acquired a
taste as a mint julep. So train yourself up on stingers. Get credit for
drinking old man drinks without having to suffer through a Rob Roy and,
eventually, you will find yourself being willing to switch your brown
liquor for something -- you know, and switch your mint for real mint
instead of had something out of a gooey bottle.
The recipe of the stinger is on our blog Maddowblog.com. But now,
you know where you have to go -- prison.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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