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“Family” Member Defends Statements Made To Rachel Maddow, Provides Transcript of Conversation With Sharlet

Timothy Kincaid

January 9th, 2010

In the context of understanding the role of American religious conservatives in African politics, particularly in Uganda, there has been a back-and-forth between Jeff Sharlet, author of The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power., and Bob Hunter, an organizer affiliated with the Family working in Uganda.

On the 7th, Sharlet appeared on Rachel Maddow’s show. He asserted that statements by Hunter on a previous episode were inconsistent with his conversation with Hunter and that both he and Hunter had a copy of the transcript of that conversation.

Hunter also included a letter he sent to Rachel Maddow, reinforcing his contention that he did not know Ethics and Integrity Minister James Nsaba Buturo personally, and “had not even heard of him until this story broke, even from my Uganda friends.” But, as with the rest of us, he has learned of him since then in connection with the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.

The following comment was made to the thread of our posting about that appearance:

Hi, Bob Hunter here.

I thought you might like to see the transcript of the interview Jeff Sharlet and I had, where I make clear that the reason a Senator and a former UN Ambassador were willing to be “bait” was not about a “Jesus footing”, whatever that is (I have never used the phrase) but about trying to bring peace to Uganda. It worked, eventually helping create a few friends from various political perspectives, meeting around the teachings of Jesus about loving enemies and turning cheeks. Here is the transcript that makes this clear:

Bob Hunter:
So now we came back, and we started creating something called Friends of Mengo Hospital U.S.A., which now is run out of Christ Church in Alexandria and has done several million dollars worth of help for that hospital. And I still go to the meetings occasionally. I don’t go all the time, but most of the people on the committee are my friends, and still travel over there. And I always stop in when I go to Uganda. If I’m in Kampala, I feel like I have to go in and see my friends there.

Jeff Sharlet:
Yeah, sure.

Bob Hunter:
So that’s that. And that was how it started. On my second trip, I think it was, I said, “This is crazy. We’re pumping money into here. The whole country was” — there was still gunfire and everything. I said, “The whole country’s falling apart. I’ve got to start working on finding ways to bridge gaps.” And that’s when I walked downtown again — this time I was all by myself — and I walked into the — I walked into the parliament building. It was the strangest thing, because Obote was kind of a dictator, and they were killing people all over the place. But they had — first of all, they had a free press. The press would even print the names of people that Obote killed today. And then they had — parliament had parties, different parties opposing, getting up and calling him a killer and all this stuff. It was bizarre in a way. Why would this be happening? But anyway, so I walked down there, and I tried — I went to — a guy named Paul Semagerere [spelled phonetically] was the head of one of the political parties on DP, it was called, which was against Obote. I met with him. I met with the — I walked down to the speaker’s house, thousands of people trying to get in to see him. They parted like the Red Sea because I was white – I got right into the place.

Jeff Sharlet:
I mean, how would you introduce yourself?

Bob Hunter:
I just said, “I’m Bob Hunter. I’m working with Friends of Mengo Hospital. We’re trying to help the hospital.”

Jeff Sharlet:
So they would see you as a missionary?

Bob Hunter:
Yeah, which I was in a way. And I said, “Basically, all I’m trying to do is find some people who might sit down together and talk about ways to end this. Do you want to keep doing this? Do you want your children doing this and your grandchildren? It doesn’t make sense. You have to find a way out. Otherwise, what’s the point of us helping the hospital?” You know, it’s just like pouring money in [unintelligible]. We will continue to do it, but it’s not getting — it’s not going to solve anything. And so one of the most telling statements, when I talked to one of the guys, I said, “Why don’t you sit with the DP guys and some of these other people, and people even in the bush? Why not sit down and talk?”

Jeff Sharlet:
You’re talking to Obote’s people?

Bob Hunter:
I’m talking to one of Obote’s guys. He says, “Because the president would think it was a coup.” There’s another reason you need secrecy sometimes. And he was this — he was afraid he’d die. And that’s when I met Andrew Young’s daughter at the airport on the way home from that trip, and she was a missionary in Gulu, which was pretty common. She was with Habitat, and she said, “Here’s my” — I told her the story of trying to get people together. I said, “Your father could help get these people together.” And she gave me his number, and I called him –

Jeff Sharlet:
And he’s already been working with the Fellowship, hadn’t he?

Bob Hunter:
Yeah, but I didn’t know that. I wasn’t really very connected at this point.

Jeff Sharlet:
This is, now, primarily through the Friends of Mengo part [spelled phonetically] –

Bob Hunter:
Yeah, really Friends of Mengo is where I was going.

Jeff Sharlet:
Now, had you lost touch with all these guys?

Bob Hunter:
At Mengo?

Jeff Sharlet:
No, these guys, Coe and so on, at this point?

Bob Hunter:
I probably saw him once or twice during this –

Jeff Sharlet:
Were you living here?

Bob Hunter:
No, no, no, that was later, probably — oh, I’d guess ’83-’84, something like that.

Jeff Sharlet:
So you call Andrew Young.

Bob Hunter:
I called Andrew Young, and he was running for reelection as mayor in Atlanta, said he wouldn’t go because he was in the middle of a big fight, and then called me back a couple of days later and said, “Yeah, I really want to see my daughter. It’s one thing to be — I could stand before the Ku Klux Klan people at my door with guns and stuff. I do that, but I’ve never felt as scared as I do thinking of my daughter over there. So I’d like to go.” I said, “Okay, I’ll arrange your money. You’ve got it, but you’ve got to give me a day.”

Jeff Sharlet:
And what is it — you wanted him to be sort of a mediator?

Bob Hunter:
I said, “You will be — we’ll have — I want to be able to tell the people we’re going to have a meeting for ministers and top-type level people. It will be one meeting, and you’ve got to come with all the other guys there too, or you don’t get to meet Andrew Young.” That was pretty powerful.

Jeff Sharlet:
And why did they want to meet Andrew? And why did they want to meet Andrew Young?

Bob Hunter:
Because he was famous. I mean, he was very famous in Africa.

Jeff Sharlet:
In Uganda?

Bob Hunter:
Oh, yeah. I mean, he was a UN rep and all that before that. He was like a rock star. They sent — President Obote sent out, you know, the army and everybody to meet us at the airport, and they put us in these cars that swept us off to this really terrible place where we stayed. You know, the government — and they shooed everybody off the roads, because, you know, here comes Andrew Young. And the Russian — it was some day for Russia. It was, you know, still Soviet, but they wanted Andrew Young. “Will you please come and just make an appearance?”

Jeff Sharlet:
At their –

Bob Hunter:
At their party. At their party at the embassy, yeah, for some day — Independence Day, or whatever they call it; anti-czar day, or whatever they called it. And so he walked in, and people were just thronging to him, it was like — and I just stood in the back and watched. He said, “Watch how fast I can learn to get through an embassy party. Hit all the right people and get out.” He said, “You have to do that if you’re an ambassador to the UN, because every day is one or two days of a country.”

Jeff Sharlet:
Yeah, yeah, right.

Bob Hunter:
So, yeah, so it’s like that. And then –

[speaking simultaneously]

Bob Hunter:
We met with Obote.

Jeff Sharlet:
You and Young?

Bob Hunter:
Me and Young, and then we met with this group.

Jeff Sharlet:
Of the opponents?

Bob Hunter:
Well, no –

Jeff Sharlet:
With everybody?

Bob Hunter:
With Obote’s ministers and some of Obote’s people [unintelligible – Note: Bob Hunter believes he said “opposition”] people. And you know, it didn’t necessarily get exactly anywhere yet, but I came back with Grassley and others and kept using them as tools to get these people to come.

Jeff Sharlet:
So your third trip was with Grassley?

Bob Hunter:
Third or fourth.

Jeff Sharlet:
Third or fourth. So I mean, when you met with Obote –

Bob Hunter:
[unintelligible] we had three members of the Bundestag with us too. That was on, you know, one of his trips –

Jeff Sharlet:
Was that Decker? (A Fellowship person from Germany, a former Member of Parliament there)

Bob Hunter:
Yeah, Rudolf.

Jeff Sharlet:
It was still — I just didn’t realize–

Bob Hunter:
Rudolf fought me to death. He didn’t want to go to Uganda, “We’re going to a dirty country.” [laughter] But the [laughs] — “[unintelligible] we’ll get in so much trouble.” One of the funniest times I’ve had in all my trips to Africa was when I showed up with all the Germans and Grassley. I’m a liberal. He’s a conservative. I’m a Democrat, and he’s a Republican. He’s a — and we had these three members of the Bundestag who were from different parties: Green, Social Democrat, and Christian Democrat. And so we could say, “Look, look at this picture of all these different people from countries that used to fight, from political parties who do fight. We’re here all together to find a way through.” And years later, people say, “I remember the makeup. I don’t remember who said what.” But you know, so it was a good visual, and so — but here’s the funny thing. They pick us up at the airport, the two embassies, take us to the German embassy.

Jeff Sharlet:
The U.S. and Germany?

Bob Hunter:
The U.S. and German ambassadors and all of us. The U.S. — the German ambassador says to the head of the German delegation, a guy named [unintelligible], “Why are you here? Why are you here? For heaven’s sakes, this country is a basket case. You shouldn’t be here. You’re giving them cover. You’re making Obote look better.” And all this kind of stuff. Okay? So he says, “I don’t know why we’re here. Grassley wanted us to come.” So he turns to Grassley and says, “Same question for you, Senator. Why are you here?” He says, “I don’t know. Hunter wanted me to come.” [laughs] So he turns to me and he says, “Why are you here, Hunter? Why did you bring all these people here?” I said, “Well, we’d like to try to build a bridge of reconciliation across some divided people.”

And he said, “And who are the pillars upon which you are going to build this bridge of reconciliation?” I said, “I don’t know, but God does.” He says, “That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.” And I said, “Look, you’ve got all this money, you and America. You’ve got all this diplomatic skill. And look at this country. Can we make it worse?” [laughs] And you know, and people started laughing then and they sort of relaxed about us being there.

Jeff Sharlet:
Who was this who was grilling you? This was the German ambassador?

Bob Hunter:
The German ambassador. Put me in very practical [spelled phonetically] [inaudible].

Jeff Sharlet:
And why did Grassley want to go?

Bob Hunter:
I think at that point, probably it was Doug (Coe) who was trying to encourage him to go and be involved in Africa.

Jeff Sharlet:
I mean, Grassley I look at as kind of a puzzling figure, a guy who’s known for personal integrity, and you know — when people say the Family are a bunch of crooks, I say, “No, no. Look, if I ever lost my wallet, I would want Chuck Grassley to find it, because he’ll walk from Iowa to New York to get it back to me.” But –

Bob Hunter:
That’s true. I’ve traveled with him a couple times.

Jeff Sharlet:
But the question — I mean, you know, he also campaigns on — his first campaign was pretty racist.

Bob Hunter:
Yeah, I don’t know.

Jeff Sharlet:
He campaigned against bussing in Iowa. You know, the three black kids in Iowa should stay on their farm.

Bob Hunter:
Yeah, I don’t know why. I think it probably was Doug’s encouragement that he went. And when I got back and told him about the Andrew Young experience and how it actually worked, he said, “Well, maybe others could help you with that,” basically. I think he encouraged Grassley to go to Africa and just be involved in Africa.

Jeff Sharlet:
So the idea — it’s not that Grassley or Young would sit down and do mediating. They would be sort of –

Bob Hunter:
For me –

Jeff Sharlet:
“Hey, if you want to come and see this person, then you’re going to have to sit down,” and he says something nice.

Bob Hunter:
They were bait.

Jeff Sharlet:
But he doesn’t get –

Bob Hunter:
They wouldn’t like to hear me say that, but that’s what they were. I mean, I made that clear to Andrew Young –

END OF TRANSCRIPT ——————–

I also thought I would share part of a letter I sent to Rachel Maddow, explaining the confusion about Buturo. Here it is:

As I said on air with you Tuesday night, I thought you were very fair to me on the program. But I really did think I was treated unfairly last night on your show, particularly on the ethics minister issue, in your introduction and then later by Jeff Sharlet.

Here’s the transcript of that part of Tuesday’s show:

MADDOW: Is the president of Uganda an associate of The Family?
HUNTER: The president of Uganda is – there‘s no membership, but he is related to The Family. I‘ve met with him several times, not for a decade, but I‘ve met with him several times. I know his wife and I‘ve actually played games on the floor of his office with him. So I -
MADDOW: How about David Bahati, the legislator who‘s introduced the kill-the-gays bill?
HUNTER: I met David Bahati. He came here to a national prayer breakfast and so I met him when he was here. I‘ve never heard of the other guy, the minister of ethics you talk about. I never met him.
MADDOW: He also describes himself as an associate of The Family, which is why I described him that way, James Nsaba Buturo.
HUNTER: Yes. As I said, there are 10,000 groups around the world that are sort of affiliated with The Family. Now, I agree that these guys are involved. But when they came to the group at the national prayer breakfast in October in 2009, when Bahati came and said, “We‘re thinking of introducing a bill,” he got kicked back as Jeff Sharlet has reported from the members of The Family right there well before the bill was introduced, several days before.

I thought I was very honest about all 3 guys you asked me about, saying that “Now, I agree that these guys are involved.” I went further, admitting a very close, play games on the floor, personal relationship with the President and meeting with Bahati here at a National Prayer Breakfast. (I’ve had quite a few emails asking what Museveni and I did on the floor!) On Buturo, I thought I had said, “I’d never heard of him. I’ve never met him.” Maybe I misspoke and said, “I’ve” as the transcript has it rather than “I’d” as I thought I was saying. I certainly did not say what Mr. Sharlet said I said on your show last night, which was “I don’t know the guy.” Obviously I had heard about him, on Warren Throckmorton’s blog, in the New York Times story, and even in the introduction to my appearance on the very program when I made the statements. I discussed Buturo with Jeff and even sent him the transcript of our conversation (that I had transcribed at a cost paid for out of my own pocket). On the show, I simply meant, in the context of talking about relationships I had with Museveni and Bahati, that I had no relationship with Buturo at all and had not even heard of him until this story broke, even from my Uganda friends. I think you demonized me as if I was trying to mislead you and your viewers for what might be a part of one word blunder on my part that was corrected in the very next breath when I agreed that, “these guys are involved.”

Thanks for reading this.

Comments

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Jeff Sharlet
January 9th, 2010 | LINK

I spoke to Bob Hunter this evening after this went up on Box Turtle. The bottom line is that we’re in agreement on some central points: The bill, proposed and supported by men in relationship with the Family — David Bahati, James Nsaba Buturo, and Yoweri Museveni — is wrong and must be stopped; the Family has been too secretive, which has hindered its ability to take a stand; and Hunter is doing the right thing by going public in order to make that stand.

My use of the phrase “Jesus footing” was not derogatory. It was, as I told Bob tonight, in recognition of the Family’s long stated goal of a “God-led government.” The particular document I had in mind — related to Senator Jim Inhofe’s extensive work in Uganda on behalf of the Family — describes one aspect of the Africa work thusly:

“2. THE EXECUTION OF THE VISION
A. A congressman and/or Senator from the United States will befriend the leader of another country and tell him/her how Jesus and His teachings will help his country and its poor.
B. U.S. leader and foreign leader will select 5 men (mentors) from the foreign country to commit to learn about Jesus and how He will help themselves, their country and the poor.

“… We will teach the mentors to confess their sins (known or unknown) and to ask the Holy Spirit of Christ to live in them, and to teach them how to live, what to think and what to say.”

Bob says he’s unfamiliar with this document. I believe him. There’s a lot of paperwork in the Family. And, to be fair, Bob’s pretty busy doing consumer advocacy work.

We also agreed that a there’s no point in us having a pissing match here in America while Uganda burns, so to speak. So, in that spirit, I’m going to take Bob’s word that he was simply trying to clarify the record; accept his apology for saying that I’ve disowned my book (a misunderstanding, he says); and leave the transcript above to speak for itself. It was an on the record conversation. “Bait” is “bait,” the use of a big name to bring people to the table behind the scenes. Whether that’s a good approach is in the eye of the beholder. I think it’s fair to say — and that Bob would at least in part agree – that in the case of Jim Inhofe, the fiercely anti-gay senator identified by a 2003-4 budget as responsible for maintaining relationships with leaders of 11 African nations, including Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi — the “bait” may have brought his own baggage.

But Hunter, thank God, is cut from a different cloth. The point is that Bob is trying to bring peace and human rights to Uganda. We can disagree about how to do that, we can even disagree about what constitutes “peace,” but right now, on the brink of murder, our disagreements don’t matter as much as our common cause.

Kevin Andrews
January 10th, 2010 | LINK

Peace at what price?
The demonization of the LGBT Communities in line with the Cults of Jesus Bigotry?
These Cult of Jesus Theocrats, are the biggest threat to the United States Security and to Global Peace because of the Hate and Bigotry they spew as a “normal” process of conversation with anyone.
We, in the United States, are very able to understand the bias presented from their foundations of bigotry and hate but the bottom line end result of their meddling in the affairs of African States is clear to the Global Community. This is American Cult of Jesus Nazism at it’s finest and is beyond comprehension how and why this subversive Cult of Jesus is accepted without being a declared PAC within Washington.
Inhof, Grassley and all the members of the C-Street Family deserve censure and expulsion from the Congress and Senate of the United States of America because of this subversive alliance and the reality of their acts in misrepresenting America to the leaders of Uganda.
Disgusting and reprehensible Cults of Jesus behavior and all appearing as endorsed by the political office of the people presenting this hate and bigotry. That’s unacceptable behavior from any American.

Mel
January 10th, 2010 | LINK

Jeff Sharlet is one of the best things to happen to the Rachel Maddow show. Thank you so much for your investigative work.

robbaydj
January 10th, 2010 | LINK

Kevin Andrews you have no idea what your talking about. Have you listened at all to Mr. Hunter’s Argument. Tell me Mr. Andrews what evidence do you have to support your claims. Bob Hunter and other people in the fellowship are trying to stop this bill. What have you done Kevin to stop this awful bill. Oh yeah nothing! So before you go blogging hatred all around try to look a little deeper. Now is the time to work together. Let’s work to stop this bill! Not blame a group of people who not only have nothing to do with it but are trying to stop it.
Before this bill Bob Hunter has never been involved in any other Bill in that Uganda, the Ugandans view outside negotiations to legislation neocolonialism. Unfortunately the majority of Ugandans support the bill, but in this case obviously the majority of Uganda is wrong. But good news!
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/8448197.stm
it looks like the Ugandan Government Minister says gay death penalty unnecessary. Well that’s a start but there is still a long road ahead to work to stop the bill, for Gay Rights in Uganda and around Africa. The Fellowship should have a Gay Speaker at the Prayer Breakfast). But if they made it a reality Kevin would still blog hatred while others try to bridge gaps.
Bob Hunter started NICO “National Insurance Consumer Organization” with Ralph Nadar after he left the Carter Administration. He’s a bleeding heart liberal which proves that the “Family” is not conservative. Al Gore, Hillary Clinton, Mother Theresa have all been involved with this group as well as Sister Rose Marie of Northern Uganda who has help thousands of young teenage mothers get back on there feet and won the CNN hero’s award. There is no conspiracy. In Uganda Bob Hunter has helped hospitals, and helped the “Lost Children” of Northern Uganda get educations and food and shelter. Bob has helped thousands of people who fall victim to big insurance all over this country and has supported Universal Health Care.

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