Maddow catches pastor Rick Warren in two falsehoods

After more than a week of intense pressure from activist groups and the media, prominent US conservatives linked to a proposed Ugandan law that would see gay and HIV-positive people executed, or at least imprisoned for life, are beginning to distance themselves from the measure.

MSNBC's Rachel Maddow reported Thursday night that pastor Rick Warren, the prominent leader of California's Saddleback Church who led the prayer at President Obama's inauguration, has finally condemned the bill before the Ugandan parliament.

But Maddow caught Warren out in two falsehoods. The MSNBC host noted that Warren told Newsweek last month that "it is not my political calling, as a pastor in America, to comment or interfere in the political process of other nations."

Maddow then chronicled Warren's involvement in Ugandan politics, noting that he had traveled to the country in 2008, where he told listeners that gay rights are "not a civil rights issue," because homosexuality is not to be tolerated.

She noted that Warren hosted Ugandan pastor Martin Ssempa at his church. Ssempa is one of the figures behind Uganda's proposed anti-gay law, and Maddow noted he has run condom-burning campaigns, despite condoms' success in reducing AIDS infections in a country that has one of the highest AIDS rates in the world.

Maddow also caught Warren out in another lie, this one having to do with California's Proposition 8, which last year reversed the state's court-ordered permission of gay marriage.

"During the whole Proposition 8 thing, I never once went to a meeting, never once issued a statement, never once even gave an endorsement in the two years Prop 8 was going," Warren said.

Maddow then aired a video clip from October, 2008, in which Warren said: "Let me just say this very clearly. We support Proposition 8. And if you believe what the Bible says about marriage, you need to support Proposition 8."


Oklahoma Republican Senator James Inhofe, who according to Maddow "made repeated trips to Uganda in recent years," has condemned the propsed Ugandan law "after days of silence," Maddow noted.

"I was shocked and appalled to learn through media reports of the legislation being considered in Uganda regarding homosexuality," Inhofe said in a statement. "I do not, nor have I ever, supported or condoned the abhorrent legislation being considered in the Ugandan parliament."

Meanwhile, controversy swirled around Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA), who -- rather than condemning the Uganda bill -- took the time to explain that he doesn't have time to comment on the proposed law.

“I’ve got a fulltime job reading bills in Congress without reading the bills in another 190 countries,” the Mason City, Iowa, Globe-Gazette quoted Grassley. "Surely nobody in Iowa expects me to keep up on issues that are in the parliaments of other countries. Besides I don’t know anything about it.”

Maddow wasn't buying it. The MSNBC host pointed out that Grassley has been linked to "The Family," a religious organization that some say was behind the Ugandan anti-gay law. Maddow noted that the Ugandan bill was originally announced at a Family-sponsored event.


Following outrage in the Western world, the Ugandan parliament has reportedly softened the anti-gay bill, removing the death penalty from the punishments to be meted out to homosexuals.

"The minister for ethics and integrity, James Nsaba Buturo, reportedly said a more 'refined' set of punishments would be favored instead of execution," reports Jessica Geen at PinkNews.

This video is from MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show, broadcast Dec. 10, 2009.

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