The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 12/08/09

Sen. Bernie Sanders, Gov. Ed Rendell, Mark Benjamin, Richard Cohen, Kent Jones

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST:  Good evening, Keith.  Thank you very much for that.

We do have something of a very big show tonight.  There‘s late-breaking news about the apparent demise of the public option in health reform.

We have Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell standing by, momentarily, to assess this apparent just dropped and still as yet unclear bombshell.

We also heard Senator James Inhofe today say publicly that he and I agree about his record, though not much else.

And Richard Cohen—who‘s American nonprofit is linked to a proposed kill the gays law in another country and who himself claims to be able to cure people of the gay—will be here tonight live for the interview.  I‘m not exactly sure what that will be like, but I do hope that you will stick around to find out how it goes.

Big, big, big show ahead this hour.

And here we go.  We begin tonight with that breaking news out of Washington regarding the future of health reform, just moments ago, Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid stood before cameras at the U.S. Capitol to announce a breakthrough of some sort on health reform.


SEN. HARRY REID (D-NEV), MAJORITY LEADER:  I think it‘s fair to say that the debate at this stage has been portrayed a very divisive one and many have assumed that people of different perspectives can‘t come together.  But I think what we were able to work out the last few days, which culminated tonight, belays that fact.  We have a broad agreement.


MADDOW:  We have a broad agreement.  As to what that broad agreement is for, well, “The Associated Press” reporting within the last hour that the Democratic senators have reached a tentative deal to drop the public option, quoting from “The Associated Press,” “to drop a government-run insurance option from health care legislation that‘s now being debated in the United States Senate.”

However, “Reuters” just reporting within the last—just couple of moments, literally since we started the show, that Harry Reid says reports that the government-run public option had been dropped were not true.  So, “The A.P.” reporting that the public option is dead.  “Reuters” quoting Harry Reid saying that the public option is not dead, or at least that reports that it had been dropped already, were not true reports.

As yet, this remains unclear, in terms of what the plan is that Democrats have agreed upon.  But what is true, is that after months of arguing about the public option and the White House de-emphasizing the importance of the public option, even as the president said he supported their being one, the policy itself, the policy of the public option got negotiated over the last few months, down to an almost unrecognizably weak proposal.  We‘ve talked about this on the show in the last few days.

Now, again, according to “The Associated Press,” the public option appears to be dead.  Senator Reid reportedly telling “Reuters” that that‘s not the case—Senator Reid denying the complete death of the public option.

We did report yesterday that Senator Reid is the person who had tasked a group of 10 Democratic senators, liberals and conservatives in the Democratic Caucus, to come to some sort of compromise on the public option.  We don‘t yet know what the character of that compromise is.

But if the public option has been traded away, if it is dead, what could replace it that would keep progressive senators happy?  Two proposals are being mulled over by Senate Democrats right now.  One is the idea of making Medicare, the program that serves older Americans right now, available to less old Americans, available to more people, possibly lowering the eligibility age from 65 to 55.  Another possibility would be some sort of government negotiated plan that would be run by private insurers.

Again, the big news tonight, though, is that a “Gang of 10” Senate Democrats have reportedly reached an agreement on health reform, and that agreement, whatever it is, is being sent to the Congressional Budget Office for scoring.  When the CBO scores something, they talk about what the effect will be on the budget on the deficit, what the fiscal impact would be of a proposed policy.  “The Associated Press” reporting that this agreement would drop the public option from the bill.  “Reuters” quoting Harry Reid saying the public option would not be dropped.

This news breaking right now, not at all yet clear, but joining us now to help shed some light on what‘s really happening is independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.  Senator Sanders is a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

Senator Sanders, thanks for joining us tonight on such short notice.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT:  Good to be with you, Rachel.

MADDOW:  Help me understand what Senator Reid was trying to communicate tonight.  Is the public option is still alive?

SANDERS:  I wish I could.  I think, the truth, CBO was analyzing the numbers on this.  I don‘t think anyone is very clear as to really what is in this package.

But let me—let me be very clear—what I have said repeatedly is we are starting with a bill that is not a particularly strong bill, it does a lot of good things, but at the end of the day, if we are serious about comprehensive universal health care, the only approach is a Medicare for all, single-payer bill.  This is certainly not that.

I have also said that it is not my intention to be voting for legislation which doesn‘t have some strong containment components and a public option is one way that you keep the private insurance companies honest.

Now, what‘s going on right now is 10 senators, five more progressive members and five more conservative members have been kind of locked in a room, working on some agreement.

What I think I can say, one of the ideas that is being looked at as you have just indicated, which is not insignificant, is saying to people who are over 55 years of age—and many of those people have financial problems, and the older you get, the more illness you have—what this plan may be saying to those folks is you can opt-in to Medicare on a premium-based way.  You‘re going to have to pay a premium, but you will be eligible for subsidies, depending on your income.  That is not insignificant.

Furthermore, I think that they are looking at various state options, giving states more flexibility as to how they can provide cost effective health care to all of their people.

So, what you‘re looking at, Rachel, it is not fair, I think—I think it‘s not fair to simply say they are abandoning the public option.  What you‘re looking at is tradeoffs which, in fact, at the end of the day, may be stronger than the very weak public options that both the House and Senate have already passed.

MADDOW:  Let me ask you just clarifying question though about these tradeoffs.  I absolutely hear you in terms of the progressive nature of expanding Medicare to be available to a larger group of people.  Medicare after all is a single-payer system.  And it is the sort of thing that progressives and people very concerned about cost containment have talked about doing for health reform.

I understand why something like that may be a boon to progressives who would be asked to be trading away something like the public option, at least ideologically makes a lot of sense.  I don‘t understand how a government-managed, essentially, menu of private insurance options is a progressive choice.  Why that would be something that progressives would be satisfied with and might even give up the public option in return for?

SANDERS:  Well, you‘re right.


SANDERS:  The problem is, what we are looking at is a very conservative institution, the Republicans have decided that despite the disintegration of our health care system, they‘re more interested in representing the private insurance companies than the American people.  They‘re out of the picture.  So, you‘re down to 60 people, including some pretty conservative people.

So, I think what‘s going on in that room is trying to do the best that they can do within that context.  The other part of the tradeoff, by the way, may also be an expansion of Medicaid.  And if you add to Medicaid the development of many new community health centers, you will be providing a lot more health care access to lower income people.  If you do an opt-in for people 55 years of age through Medicare, you‘re also providing a significant benefit.

So, the details, it‘s difficult for me to give you an explanation because nobody really has the final word on what‘s going on.  But what you‘re looking at again is a tradeoff, expanding Medicaid, opening up Medicare to millions of more people, and weakening the so-called public option.

MADDOW:  Independent senator, Bernie Sanders of Vermont, thank you for

helping us trying to figure this out tonight as this is breaking right now

·         really appreciate it, sir.


SANDERS:  You‘re welcome.  Take care.

MADDOW:  Joining us now is the Democratic governor of Pennsylvania, Ed Rendell.

Governor Rendell, thank you very much for coming back on the show.

It‘s good to have you here.


MADDOW:  We are just getting this breaking news and it‘s not at all clear what exactly has been sent to the Congressional Budget Office for scoring.  Some conflicting reports tonight that the public option may be being dropped by Senate Democrats in favor of some other more or less progressive options.  Is the public option a make or break, do or die, game-breaker for you?

RENDELL:  Well, not necessarily.

First, I want to say that Senator Sanders is absolutely right that we can expand Medicare down to 55-year-olds with a premium pay-in.  Pennsylvania‘s done that with the CHIP program, Rachel.  We go above the federal subsidy of 100 percent and allow people to buy in, and we basically covered all of our children.  If we could do that for 55 and above, those are the people most likely in this economy to be unemployed and most likely not be able to find new jobs.  So, that would be a Godsend.

Moving Medicaid up to 133 percent or 150 percent of poverty would add a lot of Americans, usually those single moms with kids who are having trouble staying above water.  That would be a Godsend.

We‘d get more people in to what is, as you said essentially, a single payer.  But the problem is, for all of the rest of us, eliminating the public option, eliminating competition, and means there‘s very little cost-containment, and that was going to hurt small business, it‘s going to hurt individuals, it‘s going to hurt all the rest of us.

The only way this federally-managed or federally-supervised plan of private insurance companies makes sense, if they give it teeth.  If the federal agency that oversees has some teeth to adjust rates or to roll back rates if rates get out of hand.  Absent that, it‘s a paper tiger.

MADDOW:  It‘s—yes, it seems to me—and again, we are just trying to figure out what‘s going on here because we don‘t have a clear statement of what the policy agreement is—but it seems to me it makes a lot of sense to talk about expanding the existing government-run programs that we know work, Medicaid, Medicare, SCHIP, community health centers, these other programs that we talked about.

RENDELL:  Yes, it makes sense.

MADDOW:  But to talk about making some sort of—I guess it would be like a nonprofit government-owned store that sells expensive private for-profit products doesn‘t actually seem like a big progressive move forward.

RENDELL:  Unless the federal agency has the oversight to regulate prices.

Let me give you a quick snapshot.  In Pennsylvania, the insurance commissioner regulates car insurance.  As a result, in the last seven years, car insurance has gone up less than inflation.  We don‘t regulate health insurance.  Health insurance has gone up seven times faster than inflation.

So, it makes no sense.  Unless the federal agency that oversees this new plan has some teeth to regulate a roll back or slow down rate increases, then it‘s truly a piper tiger and worthless.

But remember what Senator Sanders said, the way we were talking about public options, I never had much faith in the trigger plan at all, Rachel, because the triggers can be manipulated, the insurance companies can, you know, do one year of reform to avoid the trigger, and then go back to business as usual.  So, I never had much faith in the trigger.

I liked the opt-out, I like the opt-in less, but I like the opt-out, states are in unless they opt-out, that would be a good plan.  But I never had much confidence.  And it looked like the trigger was the only plan, public option plan that had any viability, and I never had much confidence in that.  And you heard Senator Sanders say, and he‘s as progressive as they get, that these were not great public option plans that we‘re talking about.

MADDOW:  And again, what we‘re faced with is sort of a distance between the policy and the politics as I see it, and I think in a way, you really just well described, the policy had been whittled down to the point where it may not have done much at all.  CBO estimating it would be less than 1 percent of people who would be in the public option, in terms of policy.  But in terms of politics, progressives had drawn a real line in the sand and said, “Ideologically, we want there to be a public option here.”

And I do think and I‘m curious to know whether or not you agree that progressives are going to need to hear something in return, if that public option gets taken away, that there needs to be some big public commitment.

RENDELL:  Absolutely.  And you‘re right, but remember, you have you one of the most progressive senators in the entire body, Bernie Sanders, on.  And he said that the tradeoffs of expanding Medicare to people 55 and above with the premium pay-in, and expanding Medicaid may have been an important plus, particularly the senators who believe that single-payer may be the way to go, because those are, in essence, single-payer plans.

But what worries me about that, and I‘m with Senator Sanders, I think rather than a watered-down public option, if those two things are in the bill, that‘s a pretty decent tradeoff.  But I‘m worried about the rest of us, the small businesses and the rest of us whose rates are going to keep escalating because there‘s no competition and no control.

In some states—in my state, Rachel, in virtually every single media market in my state, one health care company has 70 percent, 75 percent of the market, and they‘re a monopoly, essentially a monopoly.  There‘s no competition.  They set rates or still, they set low levels of reimbursement to doctors and hospitals.

MADDOW:  Competition, cost control, competition, cost control, competition, cost control.  That‘s all anybody‘s been staying.

RENDELL:  Absolutely.


RENDELL:  Right.  Unless we can have real regulation, a regulatory scheme.  If my insurance commissioner could regulate health care costs in Pennsylvania, we would control costs.  We would whip that curve down dramatically, but nobody‘s proposing that far as I can tell.

MADDOW:  You just did here on THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW.  Democratic Governor Ed Rendell.

RENDELL:  There you go.

MADDOW:  . of Pennsylvania, thank you very much for your time tonight, sir.  We really appreciate it.

RENDELL:  Thanks, Rachel.

MADDOW:  For the last week, we have reported about American evangelicals who may have inspired another country‘s proposed law to execute people for being gay.  One of the core American teachings that‘s been so inspirational to this other country is that gay people can be cured of being gay.  They can be made ex-gay.

Coming up next, we‘ll talk with Salon‘s Mark Benjamin.  He went undercover to experience and report on the ex-gay activist movement.

And later on the interview, I‘ll talk with Richard Cohen, author of a book called, “Coming Out Straight,” who thinks he can heal homosexuality.  We‘ll have plenty to talk about with Mr. Cohen.

Stay with us.


MADDOW:  We‘ve been closely watching developments overseas, and the fallout here at home surrounding one country‘s debate over legislation that would execute people for being gay.  The anti-homosexuality bill of 2009 calls for a sentence of life in prison for being gay; death by hanging for being gay and HIV positive; three years in prison for knowing someone is gay and not reporting them to authorities, presumably for prosecution.  And that‘s just some of it.

This is actual legislation that “Reuters” reports is likely to soon become law in the nation of Uganda.  But the bill also has many connections to conservative politicians and activists here in the U.S.

Today, the largest gay rights group in the state of Iowa, the group called One Iowa, based in Des Moines, issued a petition calling on their own Iowa senator, Chuck Grassley, to quote, “publicly denounce the bill and use his influence in Africa to stop the legislation.”

Why ask Chuck Grassley to get involved with this Uganda legislative issue?  What influence might Chuck Grassley have there?  Well, Chuck Grassley is a member of the secretive religious organization known as the Family, famous for operating the C Street house in Washington, D.C.

And the Family has been proudly interventionist in Uganda

specifically.  Over the years, they‘ve been publicly—for them, at least

·         bragging about their influence in that country.  The Family reportedly counts among its members in Uganda both the legislator who introduced the “kill the gays” bill, and the country‘s president, Yoweri Museveni.


In his book on the Family, journalist Jeff Sharlet describes the President Museveni as, quote, “the Family‘s key man in Africa.”

Members of the Family in Washington, including Congressman Joe Pitts and Bart Stupak, were instrumental in steering millions of U.S. dollars destined for fighting AIDS in Uganda into abstinence-only and anti-condom programs.  After a lot of success using condom promotion, the American-encouraged change in policy is credited with a reversal and Uganda‘s once promising progress in the fight against HIV and AIDS.

But it‘s not just American politicians in the Family who are associated with “kill the gays” bill in Uganda.  It‘s also American religious conservatives more broadly.  Just as the Family has been politically influential in Uganda, American religious conservatives have been influential in promoting Ugandan pastors and politicians who are behind this scary bill.

Megachurch pastor and author of the “Purpose-Driven Life,” Rick Warren, for example, proclaimed Uganda to be a purpose-driven nation.  He traveled to Uganda to declare himself to be on their side as Ugandan-Anglican bishops the Church of England for being too pro-gay.  And he repeatedly invited a Uganda minister who‘s a key proponent of the “kill the gays” bill to visit at his California church.  In fact, that pro-“kill the gays” bill minister is so close to Warren and his family that Warren‘s wife publicly called him “brother.”

Rick Warren has since tried to distance himself from the “kill the gays” pastor, but he‘s pointedly not denouncing the “kill the gays” legislation.

The third American connection to the “kill the gays” bill is perhaps the most unsettling.  Following the interventionist trail already blazed by these other American conservatives, the spark to the tinder in this already very homophobic country, the spark that appears to have led directly to “kill the gays” bill is the American right wing cause celebre that is the ex-gay movement.

Despite being debunked at home by the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Association of Social Workers, et cetera, et cetera, ad nauseam, some American conservatives continue to promote the idea that people can be cured of homosexuality.

American ex-gay activists traveled to Uganda in March to lead a conference there about how gay people are only gay because they refuse to be cured.

The American Psychological Association, just a couple of months ago, put out a comprehensive reporting debunking this industry that claims to be able to change people from gay to straight.  And it is an industry.

In a moment, we‘re going to be joined by Richard Cohen, who heads up an organization called the International Healing Foundation, which promotes a wide variety of gay-curing products.

For example, according to their brochure, you can attend a tender loving care healing seminar for a cost of only $450 per couple.

For another $450, you can enroll in a three-month teleconference class.  Yes, three months of phone calls for just $450.

For $75, there‘s this entire five C.D. series on healing your homosexuality or you can take home a different 16-disc C.D. series “Coming Out Straight” for $49.95, which frankly, just numerically speaking, seems like a better deal.

If you‘d like to become a sexual reorientation coach yourself—yes, I said reorientation—the C.D. series and manual for that is only $349.95.

Again, in just a moment, we will talk to the man who is selling all of that.

But first, we‘re joined by Mark Benjamin, national correspondent for  In 2005, on assignment for Salon, Mark went undercover, posing as a gay man at one point to report on the ex-gay industry.

Mark, thanks very much for coming on this show.  It‘s good to see you.

MARK BENJAMIN, SALON NATL. CORRESPONDENT:  Thanks so much for having me, Rachel.

MADDOW:  So, you wrote this four-part series about so-called reparative therapy for Salon.  In the second part of the series, you actually pretended to be gay and sought counseling.  What sort of therapy or counseling did you get?

BENJAMIN:  Well, this reparative therapy comes in a number of flavors.  I attended two times of conversion therapy sessions.  One was free, it was held in the basement of a Christian church where there was a lot of praying, you know, group hugs and prayers.  And they essentially cast the devil out of you, and they tell you if you still feel gay, you just basically not praying hard enough.

The other was a sort of more advanced, I guess would be the one word kind of therapy where I went to a licensed counselor‘s office, sat in a comfortable chair, and met with this counselor.  The basic supposition of this conversion therapy was that as a child—it was sort of Freudian in a way—as a child I apparently hadn‘t developed close enough or meaningful relationships with other males, and my sub-conscious later in life turned that into the desire to want to have sex with males.

It was also fraught with a lot of bizarre stereotypes.  For example, I was told that there was a correlation between poor eye-hand coordination and being gay.  So, it was a very bizarre session.

MADDOW:  Which that opens up a whole realm of videogame marketing presumably.

In reporting this series, Mark, I know you also talked to a lot of people who had been through this sort of reparative therapy, not in an investigative way, but because they really did want to not be gay any more.  Did you find any evidence, any people that suggested to you that it actually works?

BENJAMIN:  I did not.  I found people who claimed that it works, but they were all in the business.  In other words, they were selling books.  They were doing, you know, work, like Richard Cohen does, you know, allegedly, that it‘s to show that it works.

So, I found people that were making money off it saying that it works, but what I did find was a lot of people who spent a lot of money and many, many years trying to reconcile their Christianity and the fact that they were homosexual for as long as they could remember.  And there‘s a lot of really—you know, there‘s a lot of pain out there.

I mean, one of the reasons I went undercover in the first place, it‘s the only time I‘ve ever done it in my career, because I think there‘s a death toll here.  I mean, I came across people who attempted suicide, and people who I was told who did commit suicide, because they tried and tried and tried to not be gay and they couldn‘t.  And eventually, they didn‘t see any other way out.  It‘s very, very troubling.

MADDOW:  Mark, as you mentioned, we‘re going to be speaking with Richard Cohen in just a moment.  He says, and I was looking at some of his most recent literature just today, he says that he has cured thousands of people of being gay.

You came across Richard Cohen specifically in your reporting?

BENJAMIN:  I did, and I recall—I believe I asked him.  As a matter of fact, I did ask him whether he could produce some of these patients so that I could interview them.  I think the other thing to be very careful about is a lot of these conversion mills or whatever you want to call them had—do a very interesting little twist on logic.

In other words, the conversion people and the field—the modern field of psychiatry both agree on the definition of homosexuality, which is a desire to have sex with someone of your own sex.  However, in their results category, you‘re find a lot of these conversion mills count as success stories, people who simply are not having sex with those of the same sex, even though they might want to do so all day long.

So, there‘s a little bit of a twist, there‘s a little bit of shell game going on.  It will be interesting to see which Richard claims he‘s achieved.

MADDOW:  I agree.  Mark Benjamin, national correspondent for

·         thanks very much for coming on the show.  I appreciate it.


BENJAMIN:  Thanks for having me, Rachel.

MADDOW:  So, we just heard what it‘s like to be on the receiving end of ex-gay treatment.  Now, let‘s hear from someone who says he can cure gay people—gay men at least—in part by cuddling with them.  His name is Richard Cohen, just discussed him with Mark Benjamin.  Richard Cohen is the subject of the interview tonight.  You will not want to miss this.  That‘s next.

But, first, “One More Thing “about the reaction here at home, and the connection to American politicians of this “kill the gays” bill in Uganda.  We called Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley‘s office today to find out if the senator had any comment on One Iowa petition calling on him to denounce the “kill the gays” bill or whether he has any comment on the bill itself.  The senator‘s office did get our request for comment.  Our producer spoke to a staff member but the senator and his staff have not provided us with a statement.

So, no comment at least for now, on the proposed death penalty for gays.  If we get a senator from—if we get a statement from Senator Grassley on the subject, we will let you know.  But so far, nothing.


MADDOW:  The subject of the interview tonight is the head of a group called the International Healing Foundation, and all reporting on a proposed law to execute people for being gay in Uganda.  We turned up evidence of strong links between conservative U.S. politicians who are part of the secretive religious group, The Family, a.k.a. C Street, and people in Uganda who introduced and are pushing the kill-the-gays bill. 

But we also turned up more direct connections between the kill-

the-gays bill and other American activists.  In March, the International

Healing Foundation, which is based in Maryland, sent one of its staffers to

Uganda to speak to parliament there and to speak at a conference organized

by the main promoter of the kill-the-gays bill. 

His message was that gay people are gay by choice and a gay person who wants to be straight can be straight.  That speech to parliament and the anti-gay conference took place in March of this year. 

After the conference in April, the conference organizer arranged for an anti-homosexuality petition to be delivered to the Ugandan parliament.  And within a month, on April 29th, the kill-the-gays bill had been introduced with the anti-gay conference organizer sitting in the gallery for that occasion. 

Here is that conference organizer and the lead proponent of the kill-the-gays bill, Stephen Langa, praising the influence and authority of our next guest. 


STEPHEN LANGA, PROPONENT, KILL-THE-GAYS BILL:  Homosexuality is not about sex, but about seeking the love of the father or the mother.  OK.  It‘s not about sex really.  Although sex happens to be in it, but a person really is seeking for the love of the father, love of the mother. 

Richard Cohen is one of the writers, who, - one of very authoritative writers who has written on the subject.  He himself was a former homosexual.  He studied psychology, psychiatry, psychotherapy and used himself as a guinea pig and was able to come out of his homosexuality.  And today, he‘s a married man with three children.  This is him, “Coming Out Straight.”


MADDOW:  Joining us now is Richard Cohen, author of the book, “Coming Out Straight: Understanding and Healing Homosexuality.”  Mr. Cohen is also head of the International Healing Foundation, which purports to be able to turn gay people straight.  Mr. Cohen, thank you very much for being with us tonight.  I really appreciate your time.

RICHARD COHEN, AUTHOR, “COMING OUT STRAIGHT”:  Thank you for having me, Rachel.  

MADDOW:  First, let me ask you if I‘ve gotten any facts wrong in anything I just said.  I know you haven‘t been happy with our coverage.  

COHEN:  Well, thank you.  I appreciate that.  I appreciate this opportunity.  You know, Uganda got it wrong, and I‘m sorry to say you did too, Rachel.  And I‘m grateful to be here to set the record straight about the misrepresentation of our work. 

Since the 1950s, the Uganda government has punished people for engaging in homosexual behavior, so this is not new.  We were invited in the spring of this year as you said.  We sent Caleb Brundage and he shared his wonderful story of change from homosexual to heterosexual. 

And he told them to have compassion, love and understanding for all people who experience homosexual feelings.  So we do not believe in this legislation.  We had no knowledge of it, and we disavow all relationship to it. 

We are promoting loving people, loving all homosexual people, people who choose to live a homosexual life or decide to live that, and those who decide to come out straight like myself and Caleb.  

MADDOW:  Are you troubled at all to see Stephen Langa holding your book up and citing “Coming Out Straight” as inspiration.  He is the main proponent of the kill-the-gays bill.  Does that trouble you at all? 

COHEN:  Well, if you listen to his words, he only said that I was teaching about some of the causes, what we believe are the causes of homosexuality.  We believe that nobody‘s born this way.  You keep saying we think people choose to be gay.  We do not believe that. 

I believe that, psychologically, there are many causes to this phenomena, which means change is possible.  So we are not a political organization.  We‘re a therapeutic, counseling organization who provides help to men and women with unwanted same-sex attraction and their family members.  We do not believe in this legislation, Rachel.  We believe in tolerance and love for all people.  

MADDOW:  I understand that you don‘t think of yourself as a political organization.  The reason you‘ve been a subject of discussion on this show, and the reason I wanted to talk to you tonight is because your teaching and your activism have been used for a political purpose which is to promote this bill. 

COHEN:  Yes.  

MADDOW:  I mean, as you said, Uganda has a -

COHEN:  That is -

MADDOW:  Let me just - Uganda has a history, as you said, going back many decades of criminalizing homosexuality. 

COHEN:  Yes. 

MADDOW:  But you have told them, particularly in your book, “Coming Out Straight,” which I understand you donated multiple copies of to this organization that‘s promoting this bill.  You‘re telling them exactly what they need to hear in order to justify the kill-the-gays bill.  I mean, your book portrays gay people as predators who must be stopped to protect the innocent. 

COHEN:  Oh, no, no, no.  

MADDOW:  It doesn‘t? 

COHEN:  No, no, no.  Not at all.  And in fact, Caleb told me he, with passion, shared to these people what he experienced as a homosexual man and as you heard Stephen Langa say, that people are searching for love.  How could they punish? 

It‘s just incomprehensible that they would - like, you know, as you have said over the last few days in this bill, that they would want to incarcerate or to criminally punish these men and women.  We are totally against that.  We are for your rights and anyone‘s rights to live a homosexual life.  And we‘re for the rights for those who seek change and want to come out straight. 

MADDOW:  Let me try to make more comprehensible to you.  The

legislator who sponsored the bill told the Associated Press today, that he

insists these strict measures, which I know you abhor -

COHEN:  Yes.

MADDOW:  But these strict measure they‘re proposing, including execution, are necessary in their country to prevent homosexuals from recruiting school children. 

COHEN:  Yes.

MADDOW:  Let me ask - I‘ll just read from your book, OK?  Page 49, “Homosexuals are at least 12 times more likely to molest children than heterosexuals.  Homosexual teachers are at least seven times more likely to molest a pupil.  Homosexual teachers are estimated to have committed at least 25 percent of pupil molestation; 40 percent of molestation assaults were made by those who engage in homosexuality.”

This is the claim that you make in your book that exactly feeds these folks who want to execute people for being gay, what they need in order to justify that.  Do you stand by what you said in your book? 

COHEN:  Actually, you know, that one particular quote, when I do republish it, reprint it, we will extract that from it, because we don‘t want such things to be used against homosexual persons. 

MADDOW:  That quote is cited - you cite somebody named Paul Cameron as the source of that book. 

COHEN:  Yes.  

MADDOW:  Paul Cameron has been kicked out of the American Psychological Association, the Nebraska Psychological Association, and the Canadian Psychological Association.

COHEN:  Yes.  Right. 

MADDOW:  Then, he tried to make himself a sociologist.  He got kicked out of the American Sociological Association.  This is - I know you say you‘re not going to include it in edition three.  I‘m reading from the second edition here. 

COHEN:  Right.

MADDOW:  But this is made up information, fake authoritative stuff that, in other countries, is being taken as science and used to justify quite literally killing gay people.  Do you see now why you‘re being used in a political context here? 

COHEN:  I see that they‘re using it, but you took that one little quote out of a 300-page book. 

MADDOW:  Yes. 

COHEN:  And the thrust and the gist of the text is why people have same-sex attraction and the opportunity for those with unwanted homosexual feelings to come out of homosexuality.  There‘s nothing in there against people who experience same-sex attraction. 

And again, our teaching in this country, when we went to Uganda and all over the world, because I‘ve helped thousands of people worldwide, Rachel, come out of homosexuality. 

And again, our method is one of love and compassion and understanding.  Our Web site is “”  And people can see our words for ourselves that we‘re about loving people.

MADDOW:  I‘m happy to help.  I mean, I realize I was taking the risk of helping promote you in the way that you think about these things by putting you on the air. 

But I do think you‘ve actually got blood on your hands here because of the way that you‘ve been using - your organization has been used and your staffer has been used to make this legislation a reality in Uganda and I do think it‘s going to become law. 

So let me just ask you about something that you wanted to be

taken in greater context.  Your other recent book, “Gay Children, Straight

Parents” -

COHEN:  Yes. 

MADDOW:  I actually have to say, I sort of particularly resent this

book because I think people might pick it up without realizing that it‘s a

homosexuality-can-be-cured book, so I think you‘ve probably heard a lot of

people with this, but -

COHEN:  Well -


COHEN:  May I stop you for just a moment?  Over the last few days, you have been very pejoratively saying we cure the gay away, and it was pray the gay away.  We don‘t believe in any of that.  We never use the “cure” word at all. 

We don‘t tell people to pray this away.  That would be ridiculous, because there‘s strong, psychological underpinning for homosexual desires.  So we‘re not trying to tell anybody what to do, Rachel.  Again, we offer effective counseling, very effective for those with unwanted same sex attraction.

And the “Gay Children, Straight Parents” book is for family members.  And whether the kids change or not, we say - in that book, I say, that‘s not the goal of this treatment plan.  It‘s to learn to love your children well. 

MADDOW:  I will just quote to you from your own most recent newsletter, “For the past 40 years, members of the gay rights movement have been indoctrinating members of society targeting the youth.  As a result of their strategic plan, millions of innocent young children have been enrolled into this false teaching and led into a homosexual lifestyle.” 

The idea that you‘re not promoting the idea that gay people are something to be feared or that there‘s any threat from gay people or that you say anything people as belied by your own words.  The idea that you‘re not promoting cures when you say that change is possible, changing from homosexuality to heterosexuality is possible, is a matter of semantics. 

But I want to raise this issue of what causes homosexuality which, as you point out, is essential to your way of thinking.  Your most recent book, “Gay Children, Straight Parents” which, again, says nothing about changing people from being gay on the cover, which I think I resent, regardless. 

Page 72 to 74, you say, “Among the list of factors that may lead

to homosexual desires -“ 

COHEN:  Yes.

MADDOW:  Divorce, death of a parent, adoption, religion, race. 

COHEN:  Race?  That‘s not in there.  

MADDOW:  Yes, it is - page 75 of your book with your name on the cover. 


MADDOW:  I have to ask you - every single one of those ideas is insane

to me.  I mean, the idea that a divorce makes you gay for example -   


COHEN:  No, no, no. 

MADDOW:  You described it as a factor that contributes to homosexuality desire, OK?

COHEN:  You‘re taking it out of context, Rachel.

MADDOW:  No, I‘m reading it from your book, Dude.  But let me -

COHEN:  Yes.  But read what it says before the factors.  It says there

are many causes.  It‘s never one thing alone.  It‘s a confounding of

factors that leads anybody to have homosexual feelings.  So you‘re thinking


MADDOW:  It is important - I‘ll read to you, “It is important to understand why your child or loved one experiences same sex attraction.”

COHEN:  Correct. 

MADDOW:  “You may ask yourself, ‘What did I do wrong?  What did we do wrong?  Who did this to our child?‘  Rarely is one thing alone responsible for same sex attraction.  It‘s a result of a combination of variables.” 

Following is a list of 10 factors that may lead to homosexual desires.  And under other factors, number 10 - divorce, death of a parent, adoption, religion, race. 

COHEN:  Now, read -

MADDOW:  How exactly does race make you gay?  What are you talking about?  

COHEN:  Keep reading what the book says.  

MADDOW:  About race? 

COHEN:  No, about what‘s under that.  You just read the heading.  Now, read the rest of the text. 

MADDOW:  Divorce, death of a parent, adoption, religion, race, rejection by opposite sex peers.  You go into the rejection about - you want me to read the rejection of an opposite-sex peer?  I‘m not sure I have the stomach for that.  “An adopted child, a boy with a fragile sense of gender identity -“ let me ask you about what you said here.  How does race make a person gay?  It‘s your book.  

COHEN:  OK.  The main factors that will lead somebody to experience

same-sex attraction - again, it‘s multi-factorial.  But basically, a boy

doesn‘t bond well with his dad, the girl -

MADDOW:  No.  Specifically, I want to ask you why you included race there.  How does race make you gay? 

COHEN:  It doesn‘t.  

MADDOW:  OK.  All right.  Are you a licensed therapist? 

COHEN:  I have practiced psychotherapy under the requirements of every state that I‘ve practiced in and resided in over the last 20 years.  And I‘ve helped thousands of men and women come out of homosexuality.  

MADDOW:  But you are not licensed?

COHEN:  No, I‘m not.  But I‘ve always practiced within the legal requirements of every state.  

MADDOW:  The American Counseling Association kicked you out in 2002

COHEN:  Yes. 

MADDOW:  … or 2003 for ethical reasons.  Are you certified as any sort of clinician at all?

COHEN:  The American Counseling Association - actually, I‘m glad you brought that up.  I‘m a victim, Rachel, of a hate crime.  They took the heinous complaint of one client and used that as an excuse to kick me out of their non-licensing trade organization. 

The acting president was a gay man.  They don‘t like our work.  And it‘s a lack of tolerance on their part.  They don‘t allow people the right of self-determination to choose if they wish to come out of homosexuality.  So shame on the ACA for their intolerance. 

MADDOW:  I will say that the ACA kicked you out because of ethical concerns about your financial relationship with your clients and using them to promote yourself …

COHEN:  Do you know what -

MADDOW:  … not because that you‘re anti-gay.  But I think it‘s important to note though, and I want - just in case this gets heard in Uganda or in any other country where they‘re considering basing anti-gay legislation to remove all human rights from gay people on the basis of your claim that gay people don‘t have to be that way if they don‘t want to be.

If anybody‘s watching this anywhere in the world because you‘re

considering using this, I want you to know that Richard Cohen is not

licensed by any American or any other licensing body whatsoever.  And I

think you have represented yourself, especially by putting your master‘s

degree behind your name on the cover of your book, as if you‘re an

authority here, as if you represent some sort of -

COHEN:  I am a professional psychotherapist, Rachel.  And my credentials are that I came out of homosexuality.  I‘ve been married 27 and a half years to my beautiful wife.  We have three great children.  And again, over 20 years, I‘ve helped thousands of men and women in this country and worldwide come out of homosexuality. 

“” - we know that people can change if they want to.  We do not support this Ugandan legislation.  People who have same sex attractions, whether they chose to live a homosexual life like yourself, Rachel, or like me who made a decision to come out of it, we all need to be treated with respect, love and compassion.  

MADDOW:  Because your credentials are not scientific and they‘re not

professional -

COHEN:  I have a degree in psychotherapy. 

MADDOW:  Wait, wait, wait.  You just said, because they are - you‘re not licensed by any accrediting body.  And so you just stated that your credentials are your personal experience of not being gay anymore. 

If those are the basis of your credentials, I feel like although this is weird for me to ask you, because this is personal.  I have to ask you, it‘s the basis on which you are making these claims that are being unfortunately taken seriously all around the world. 

Since you have been married, have you is been attracted to men? 

Have you ever had a relationship with a man since you got married? 

COHEN:  If you read my book, “Coming Out Straight,” and I know you

have it.  You have been looking at it today, so you know the answer to this

question already.  You‘re just -

MADDOW:  What is it? 

COHEN:  In the beginning of the relationship, I was told before marriage, find the right woman and she‘ll straighten you out, and that was ridiculous.  What I learned in my own healing process, and my own journey was that I wasn‘t looking for a sexual relationship with a man.

I was trying to experience the un-obtained bond that never happened with my dad and myself and with other guys in preadolescence.  And after puberty, those needs become sexualized.  So when I healed those wounds and when I experienced healthy love with guys, my same sex attractions left me, Rachel.  And I‘m living my dream today.  

MADDOW:  It should be noted, though, that when other people, like the promoter of the anti-gay, kill-the-gays legislation in Uganda cites you as an inspiration, it‘s not only talking about the things that are in your book that you say that you‘ll now take out. 

He‘s also talking about your marriage as evidence of your cure,

as the fact that you have come out of homosexuality.  You‘ve been cured by

the fact that you‘re married.  So the fact that you continued to have same

sex relationships even after getting married -

COHEN:  You‘re mischaracterizing that.  As I said, I got married stupidly.  People who say get married it will take it away are ridiculous. 


COHEN:  I was only looking for the right kind of love.  That‘s one reason I became a therapist because people didn‘t know how to help me then.  And so, I was told, like you were saying, “Just pray and God will take it away.”  It doesn‘t work like that, because there‘s deep psychological reasons for this. 

When I dealt with them since that time, Rachel, I‘m strictly attracted to my wife and to women.  It‘s not on my radar screen.  Change is really possible.  

MADDOW:  I will just note for the record that all responsible professional authorities in this field report that change is not really possible.  There‘s no evidence of what Mr. Cohen suggests.

COHEN:  Oh, there are many studies -

MADDOW:  But nevertheless, he is operating an organization that would like to sell you a lot of products that would convince you that it is true. 

Mr. Cohen, I wish you personal good luck.  I thank you for taking the time to come on to the show.  I know you‘ve been unhappy with our conversation about your work thus far.  But I hope at least you feel like you‘ve been treated fairly tonight. 

COHEN:  Thank you, Rachel.  I appreciate it very much.  

MADDOW:  Thanks very much.  Richard Cohen is the author of “Coming Out Straight,” and as we said, head of an organization that says they can turn people straight if you buy their DVDs and books and pay for their trainings.  We will be, I guess, right back. 


MADDOW:  Because there has been so much change in the political universe in the past year, the headlines are now often populated by people you might not have heard of before recently.  So as you know, we started a segment here called TMI to help provide us with the salient details of who some of these previously un-famous folks are. 

Tonight, our TMI correspondent Kent Jones has our first TMI update.  Kent, what have we got here? 

KENT JONES, POP CULTURIST:  Hi, Rachel.  You know, last week‘s TMI was about Oklahoma Senator James “Mountain” Inhofe who has become a national figure as a big old climate change hater and, in general, is one of the most conservative members of Congress. 


SEN. JAMES INHOFE (R-OK):  In the recorded history of our family, we‘ve never had a divorce or any kind of a homosexual relationship. 


JONES:  OK.  Apparently, Sen. James “Mountain” Inhofe is a TMI devotee because at a Heritage Foundation luncheon today, he had this to say about you, quote, “I‘ve grown to like that gal.  She thinks she‘s saying such hateful things about me, but they‘re all true.  The things she says she doesn‘t like are contrary to the beliefs of the 90 percent of the people of America.”

Very, very interesting.  You know, for one, he likes you.  He calls you gal. 

MADDOW:  Yes? 

JONES:  And the second thing we learned is that he believes that 90 percent of America is with him on the issues.  Now, what about when he says things like this? 


INHOFE:  It‘s not whether or not we‘re going through a global warming period.  We were.  We‘re not now. 


JONES:  Except the United Nations Weather Agency said this decade is on track to be the hottest since the record started in 1850 and that 2009 is the fifth warmest year ever. 

And according to a “Washington Post”-ABC News poll 72 percent of Americans think global warming - yes, it is happening.  Well, maybe 90 percent agree with Sen. Inhofe on something else. 


INHOFE:  There‘s never been a documented case of torture in Guantanamo.  This is all a fabrication of the terrorists and those individuals in the Middle East who try to make it look like we‘re torturing people. 


JONES:  Sen. Inhofe should add this to the reading list of the non-terrorist authored report by the International Committee of the Red Cross on the treatment of 14 high-valued detainees in CIA custody.  You know, he could do that. 

MADDOW:  Nobody thinks that 90 percent of people - he‘s glad that we‘re talking about his record because 90 percent of people are going to agree with him. 

JONES:  Yes.

MADDOW:  I mean, I do feel bad that he thinks that I‘m trying to be hateful.  I mean, I think we‘re just trying to show what Sen. Inhofe thinks about the world. 

JONES:  Yes.

MADDOW:  It is nice that we‘re not actually having a disagreement about the facts.  We all agree about the facts of his record. 

JONES:  Right, yes. 

MADDOW:  It‘s just he thinks when the facts of his record - when his positions on things are promoted to the country it will be awesome for him politically because everybody agrees with him. 

JONES:  Right.

MADDOW:  Whereas I believe telling that the facts of his record to the country will be not so awesome for him politically. 

JONES:  Less awesome. 

MADDOW:  Less awesome. 

JONES:  He still likes you, though. 

MADDOW:  And I would call him gal back, but after that last segment, I feel like I‘m going to get in trouble.  Thanks very much, Kent.  We appreciate it. 

Coming up on “COUNTDOWN,” Gov. Howard Dean joins Keith with his prescription for health reform.  And we will be right back.


MADDOW:  Where did the time go?  Actually, I totally know where it went, and you do, too.  Wow.  Quick programming note about another program for you.  The nice people on the sixth floor of this building asked if I would be a guest on Jimmy Fallon‘s show tonight which was a totally flattering request and I totally did it. 

There are cocktails involved and Jimmy‘s show can be seen on NBC, the network starting at 12:37 a.m.  Yes, 12:37.  There are things about TV I will never understand.  Thanks very much for tuning in tonight.  We hope to see you here tomorrow night.  “COUNTDOWN” with Keith Olbermann starts right now. 



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