I don't know if you watched Anderson Cooper last night, but he did some slamming coverage of the Rick Warren debacle on his program. He basically had to referee a heated debate between Hilary Rosen editor-at-large for HuffPost and a CNN contributor, CNN's Roland Martin and Robert Zimmerman, a Democratic National Committee Member and CNN contributor. Hilary Rosen had the afterburners on last night; she had no patience for the attempt by Roland Martin to give legitimacy to Rick Warren and called it “an outrageous mistake.” Read and watch it. (H/t Towleroad re: the video):
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RICK WARREN, PASTOR, SADDLEBACK CHURCH: I'm opposed to having a brother and sister be together and call that marriage. I'm opposed to older guy marrying a child and calling that a marriage. I'm opposed to one guy having multiple wives and calling that marriage.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You think those are equivalent to gays getting married?
WARREN: I do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: It's comments like that from Pastor Rick Warren that made the Internet and blogosphere light up with outrage today when it was announced that President-elect Obama has asked the popular conservative preacher to give the invocation at the inauguration. Now Warren was a big supporter of Proposition 8 which took away marriage rights from gays and lesbians in California. And late today, an Obama spokeswoman said that while the president-elect disagrees with Rick Warren on gay rights issues, he wants this to be the most inclusive inauguration ever.
Let's dig deeper with Hilary Rosen, Robert Zimmerman and Roland Martin.
Hilary, Andrew Sullivan wrote today on his blog. He said, "It's shrewd politics, but if anyone is under any illusion that Obama is interested in advancing gay equality, they should probably sober up now." Is this a slap in the face to the gay community?
ROSEN: You know, from what I gather, every gay person who paid attention to this today felt like we were kicked in the stomach. This is just kind of outrageous that you would choose such a divisive figure to speak out in a blessed prayerful moment at a day of bringing the country together. I think it's kind of an outrageous mistake on the part of the Obama campaign.
COOPER: Roland, of all of the pastors to choose from, why choose someone controversial?
MARTIN: How about choosing Reverend Jeremiah Wright who supports the issue of gay marriage? Obama believes in marriage is between a man and woman. Is that controversial?
Not only that, you have two people who are speaking today who are preachers. You have Rick Warren who is against gay marriage, giving the invocation. You have the Reverend Joseph Lowery who is for gay marriage, giving the benediction.
ROSEN: This is not a policy difference. This is not even about gay marriage. That could be a political or policy difference that obviously Barack Obama has with many gay and lesbian people. This is about the way that Pastor Warren has used homosexuality as a weapon, that he uses religion as a weapon to suggest that gay relationships are akin to -- and pedophilia and other things.
That's the problem. It's not a matter of a policy difference. It's a matter of using this sort of moral religious authority to divide one group from another.
The debate continues below the fold. One thing you'll notice the absence of is any discussion of Warren's outrageous positions re: womb control. Why is this not also front and center? In any case, it gets heated...
COOPER: Let Robert in here.
ZIMMERMAN: Thank you, Roland, for the opportunity. Here is the point. There is no question Reverend Warren's comments are divisive and ignorant. And I for one personally believe in the rights of both gay and lesbians to marry. It's a moral right that should be protected by the law.
But I believe the inauguration of Barack Obama is much bigger than Rick Warren. And I think obviously the goal here is to try to bring everyone together, to bring people to the table who we differ with, so that we can try to in fact bring them around. It's very important to note how the evangelical community has stood up on issues such as world poverty or the AIDS epidemic or in environmental causes.
And we are seeing progress made in vote after vote to bring the vote around for the rights of gays and lesbians to marry.
MARTIN: That's the point there.
ROSEN: Inauguration day is not a political negotiation. That's not what this is for. If you want to have a political negotiation, have it. If you want to talk about issues that Evangelicals and progressives can agree on, do that. But what this is, this is a symbol to America about the kind of people that we respect and want to be, and the messages that they deliver.
MARTIN: Here's the problem --
ROSEN: Roland, I'm kind of outraged.
MARTIN: I understand the outrage. But here is the point that I am making. Your viewpoint is you disagree with him. Obviously on issues when it comes to the homosexuality, gay marriage.
The point I am making is, this is the same pastor who was called a conservative pastor who has a whole different view, using religion when it comes to AIDS, when it comes to -- hold on -- when it comes to poverty, when it comes to global.
ZIMMERMAN: Roland, it doesn't justify Reverend Warren's bigotry.
MARTIN: It goes beyond that. I'm not justifying.
ZIMMERMAN: You're excusing it.
MARTIN: I am making this point that depending upon your view; you can either agree or disagree on his view of religion.
COOPER: I want to read out what the Obama spokesperson has said about this, in reaction to this conference. They said, "The president-elect certainly disagrees with him on [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender] issues, but it has always been his goal to find common ground with people with whom you may disagree on some issues."
Hillary, what does this say about how Obama is going to rule? It does -- to his supporters who don't mind this, they say, look, this shows he is reaching out to people of different faiths, different perspectives, and showing that it's a big tent.
ROSEN: Look, I would make two quick points. First, that glibness about it's a bunch of gays being unhappy that don't agree with him is wrong. The one time the bible was used to justify slavery. If this was a preacher out there using moral weapons against African-Americans, we wouldn't even be having this conversation.
So second of all, the fact that we're actually having this conversation means that this is a mistaken choice. This is a day when people are to be brought together. There are hundreds of preachers across the country with stature and thoughtfulness and other ways to bring this country together on an inauguration day for the new president. That's the choice he should have made.
COOPER: I want to give you each a final thought. Roland?
MARTIN: The bottom line is, Rick Warren is one of the most respected pastors in the country. There are people who obviously agree and disagree. But the bottom line is you've got two preachers that day, one who is for gay rights, one against gay rights.
ROSEN: It's not about gay rights.
ZIMMERMAN: This is not about gay rights.
MARTIN: But the whole argument -- the whole segment has been on that issue.
COOPER: Let Robert give his final thought.
MARTIN: That's the whole argument you have been making.
ZIMMERMAN: Roland, this is not about the issue of gay rights. This is about individual respect for humanity and human decency, and Reverend Warren's comments disqualify him from that. He uses faith to preach fear. And I think what's critical here to note -- and this is what my hope that inauguration day represents is a chance to open up dialogues that haven't existed before. And by opening up these dialogues, we can bring people together around common ground and respect for one know.
COOPER: We're going to have to leave it there. Hilary, your final thought.
ROSEN: It's just that's a conversation the country ought to have. This is not the day to do it. This is a day to make everybody feel good about the new president, and the new direction of the country. And with this choice today, he's making a lot of people feel lousy.
MARTIN: And some folks feel good or feel bad, but I guess the millions who read the "Purpose-Driven Life" or the "Purpose-Driven Church," they somehow don't count, right?
COOPER: Hilary Rosen, Roland Martin --
ROSEN: You could find people everybody likes.
COOPER: -- Robert Zimmerman. Thank you.
ZIMMERMAN: I doubt that these days.
MARTIN: I like both of you.
COOPER: The conversation continues online, AC360.com. Join us there.