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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 04/18/12

Guests: Karen Tumulty, Gabriel Arana

ED SCHULTZ, "THE ED SHOW" HOST: That`s "THE ED SHOW." I`m Ed Schultz. THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now. Good evening, Rachel. RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Ed. Thank you, my friend. SCHULTZ: You bet. MADDOW: And thanks to you at home staying with us for the next hour. We`re going to do something a little bit different tonight. We`re going to do something we have not previously done. We`re going to put today`s date up right on the screen. Can we do it? Where is it? There we go. Right? Today`s date, a little water mark there. Today`s date is April 18th, 2012, and we are putting that up on the screen because today`s political news has to go into a time capsule. At some point before the election in November, it will become clear that it is time to open the time capsule, because at some point before the election, there will be an effort to convince you that something that is in today`s political news, something that is a real news story, did not happen. A candidate for president will take a totally opposite position to a position that he holds right now, and he will try to convince you that his new position is really what he thought all along. We know that the Mitt Romney for president campaign is planning to do this, because they have explained that they are planning to do this. It was that Etch-a-Sketch moment, right? But the important thing about the Etch-a-Sketch moment was the question that the Romney campaign spokesman was answering when he explained their Etch-a-Sketch plan. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is there a concern that the pressure from Santorum and Gingrich might force the governor to tack so far to the right, it would hurt him with moderate voters in the election? ERIC FEHRNSTORM, ROMNEY ADVISER: Well, I think he hit a reset button for the fall campaign. Everything changes. It`s almost like an Etch-a- Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and we start all over again. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: The question is, to get from the Republican primary campaign to the general election, what are you going to have to do? And the campaign has already said that it will hit the reset button, it will shake the Etch-a-Sketch. It will abandon previously held positions to run Governor Romney instead as a moderate in the general election. And when Mitt Romney announces those new policy positions to try to seem moderate in the general election, will he admit that it is a change from his previously held position? No, that`s the beauty of the Etch-a-Sketch strategy. They will have hit the reset button. The Etch-a-Sketch will have been shaken. History will be erased. They will be starting with a blank slate. And so, time stamp! We are going to date this thing. We are going to seal this thing. And we are going to lock it up in plain view on our Web site, I guess, forever so the original positions that he is changing from will not be lost to history. So, news viewer of the future, I want you to know that today, April 18th, 2012, Mitt Romney was in North Carolina. He had an awkward explanation that he was in North Carolina to prebut the president`s speech that`s going to happen in North Carolina at the Democratic convention, which is several months from now. I know, it was kind of an awkward explanation, was regardless, he was in North Carolina today. And that`s important in terms of timing in the state, because tonight is the eve of early voting starting in North Carolina. Tomorrow morning, in North Carolina, early voting starts on the anti-gay constitutional amendment that Republicans have put on the ballot there. Gay marriage is already illegal in North Carolina, but Republicans in the North Carolina legislature have put a constitutional amendment on the ballot to doubly, triply, extra ban this thing that is already illegal. Their anti-gay constitutional amendment would go so far as to ban not that just any already illegal same-sex marriages, it would also ban all civil unions, all domestic partnerships, all anything. What is Mitt Romney`s position on this bill? What is Mitt Romney`s position on North Carolina`s anti-gay constitutional amendment? We don`t know -- which is a little bit weird, because the Barack Obama re-election campaign has taken a stand on it. The Obama campaign says it is against the anti-gay marriage amendment in North Carolina. And usually when a campaign takes an overt stance like that, that`s the kind of thing that calls for a response from the other side. But so far, nothing from the Romney camp. Our own campaign embed, Garrett Haake, confirms to us tonight that Mr. Romney, even though he is in North Carolina tonight, the night before voting starts -- even though Mr. Obama has taken a side on this issue, Mr. Romney has not taken any position on it. We have not heard beep from the Romney campaign about this. Which, again, is a little bit weird, because in the context of trying to win the Republican nomination for president this year, Mr. Romney has not been shy at all about matters like this. He gave the rabidly anti-gay National Organization for Marriage a $10,000 donation. He was recently endorsed by the National Organization for Marriage. He signed that group`s pledge not only affirming that he is against gay rights when it comes to marriage, but promising that as president, he will overtly work to amend the United States Constitution to make our national constitution anti-gay marriage. When a federal appeals court in California ruled against Prop 8 this year, when that court handed down a pro-gay rights ruling in California, Mitt Romney responded vociferously, saying, quote, "Today, unelected judges cast aside the will of the people of California who voted to protect traditional marriage. This decision does not end this fight." This fight! He says, "This fight," he is a combatant in the fight against gay marriage. And yet, nothing to say about North Carolina, sir? Mitt Romney could not have taken a more radically anti-gay set of policy positions during the primary campaign. He was against repealing "don`t ask, don`t tell". He made jokes about stopping Massachusetts for being the Las Vegas of gay marriage. He made us sort of a lisping gay joke about a pink tie while talking to Sean Hannity of FOX News. He managed to avoid seeming less anti-gay than Rick Santorum in a political contest, which is really something when you consider Rick Santorum. He`s the man on dog guy after all. And so, today, on April 18th, 2012, that is still where Mitt Romney stands on gay rights. Is that still true in the future? Will he moderate those positions for the general election? Will he try to pretend that he didn`t take all of these anti-gay positions that he, in fact, has taken over the last few months of the primary campaign? Only you in the future have the answer to that. Us back here, on April 18th, we are left essentially with a betting pool, trying to figure out which of his primary stances Mitt Romney shakes the Etch-a-Sketch on first. Him refusing to say anything about North Carolina while he`s in North Carolina, the night before they start voting on a gay rights thing, after having made a huge deal about how anti-gay rights he was in the primary, I sort of feel like this issue is teetering for him already. But I have to tell you, the smart money in the betting pool right now is that he`s going to shake himself clean and start over on the issue of immigration, even before he shakes himself clean and starts over on the issue of being anti- gay. This is Kris Kobach. He is the secretary of state in Kansas. But he`s not only interested I Kansas. He also writes legislation for Republicans and a bunch of other states. And his specialty is anti-immigrant stuff. He is the guy behind the anti-immigrant law in Alabama and the anti-immigrant law in Arizona. Mr. Romney claims Kris Kobach as his adviser on immigration issues. He even cited Mr. Kobach`s papers pleas, SB-1070 Arizona immigration law as a model for the nation. Wow. And when Mitt Romney talks about the issue of immigration, he sounds like Kris Kobach, both in policy terms and in tone. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If I were elected and Congress were to pass the DREAM Act, would I veto it? And the answer is yes. We went to the company and we said, look, you can`t have any illegals working on our property. I`m running for office, for Pete`s sake, I can`t have illegals. The answer is self-deportation, which people decide that they can do better by going home. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Self-deportation was cooked up as a parody by Latinos in California who were amazed by how anti-immigrant the Republican Party was back in the 1990s. It is now being used without irony at all by the Mitt Romney campaign and his anti-immigrant adviser, Kris Kobach. The reason some of the smart money in April 2012, which is when I`m talking to you now, the reason some of the smart money right now is on Mitt Romney shaking himself up and reinventing himself as a not quite so anti- immigrant guy in time for the general election is because the Romney campaign appears right now to be quietly trying to throw Kris Kobach under the bus. "Politico" noted yesterday that Mr. Kobach was left off a list of Romney advisers in a profile of the general election era Romney campaign. And when "Politico" reported that and asked about it -- well, here`s how they said it. Quote, "When I asked the Romney campaign if Kobach was still an adviser, a Romney spokesperson e-mailed back, `supporter`." As in supporter, not adviser. As in, he supports us, that doesn`t necessarily mean that we support him. Kris Kobach, for his part, started squawking immediately, telling everybody who would listen that he is still as much of a Romney adviser as he ever was. Nothing has changed. Nobody is getting rid of him. And by the way, he volunteered, the DREAM Act, which Mitt Romney said he would veto, the new Republican Marco Rubio watered down version of the DREAM Act, Kris Kobach, Mitt Romney adviser on immigration, now says Romney would veto that, too. He would veto the Marco Rubio bill. It`s not anti- immigrant enough. So, here it is future viewer. April 18th, 2012 -- at this stage, Mitt Romney would veto the DREAM Act, his advisor on immigration issues, Kris Kobach, is he still there? Says he would also veto the Marco Rubio watered down version of the DREAM Act. Mr. Romney talks about self-deportation and he`s not kidding. He says that Arizona`s papers, please, law is a model for the nation. That is what is etched on to the sketch of Mitt Romney on April 18th, 2012. Is all of that still true in the future? Only you in the future have the answer to that. And frankly, those are just the issues leaving in terms of what it`s looks like he`s poised to erase and pretend like he never had these positions in the first place for the general election. Those are the leading issues -- the anti-gay issue, the anti-immigrant issue. But there`s competition. I mean, let the record show that on April 18th, 2012, Mitt Romney`s position on Medicare is that he is in favor of abolishing Medicare as it stands and replacing it with the Paul Ryan house Republican plan. The Paul Ryan house Republican plan would replace Medicare with a system of coupons. So seniors, instead of getting Medicare, will get coupons to get a discount on buying insurance on the regular private insurance market. Good luck, grandma. Don`t forget your coupons. That is Mitt Romney`s position on Medicare, as of April 18th, 2012. In the future, is he still running on that? As of April 18th, as of today, Mitt Romney is apparently in favor of abolishing HUD, the Department of Housing and Urban Development. He admitted that to a group of campaign donors this weekend. Democrats are poised to point out this week that eliminating HUD among many other things would have the effect of throwing thousands of homeless war veterans out on to the streets. So, in the future, does Mitt Romney still want to abolish HUD? Or has that one been shaken off the Etch-a-Sketch too? In the future, are we still fighting about contraception? Because as of April 18th, 2012, as of today, Mitt Romney`s position is that he is in favor of not just overturning Roe versus Wade, which would have the effect of making abortion illegal in most of the country, he says that he is also in favor of states passing personhood legislation as well. Personhood legislation would define a fertilized egg as a person. The reason they want to do that is because it would render all abortions illegal in all circumstances. It would also likely ban the most popular forms of contraception in America, hormonal contraception. It would ban the pill. Mitt Romney is in favor of states being allowed to ban the pill. He told Mike Huckabee on FOX News that had he been able to use an amendment like that to ban the pill in Massachusetts while he was governor, he would have done that. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MIKE HUCKABEE, FOX NEWS: Would you have supported the constitutional amendment that would have established the definition of life at conception? ROMNEY: Absolutely. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: "Absolutely." Hey, you, watching this in the future, does Mitt Romney still believe that? Does he admit that he ever did believe equipment it? So, today is April 18th. The transition from primary campaign to the general election campaign is underway and every candidate in history, every candidate on the Democratic side and on the Republican side, has had to make some kind of pivot to reflect they are done just talking to members of their own party and they now need to talk to the whole country. But for those of us reporting on the campaign and watching the campaign unfold, we have never before had the advantage of the campaign letting us know in advance, forewarning us, telling us that they are going to not just abandon previously held positions, they are going to pretend that those previously held positions were not previously held. And so with Mitt Romney in North Carolina today, avoiding the gay marriage question, which is amazing, let us cheerfully refuse to go along with the plan for us to all forget all but the current news cycle. Let us cheerfully refuse to go along with the plan that you, in the future, will be completely unaware of what happened in the headlines on a day like April 18th, 2012. Joining us now is Karen Tumulty. She`s a national political reporter for "The Washington Post." Karen, it`s great to have you here. Thanks for being here. KAREN TUMULTY, WASHINGTON POST: Hi, Rachel. MADDOW: So, the Etch-a-Sketch plan is not an accusation, it is what the campaign says it is going to do. Of the policy positions that Mr. Romney took in the primary, which do you think the campaign sees as the ones they would most like to change for the general, if any? TUMULTY: Well, I think it is pretty clear, and it`s clear, because Mitt Romney himself said so, that if he does not up his showing with Latino voters, that he is, in his words, doomed. So this was, of course, what a number of reporters overheard at a fund-raiser on Sunday night. So he said, basically, that they have got to, essentially, come up with some way to sort of square the party on the immigration issue. So I think what you are going to see is, I would be very shocked if he didn`t embrace Marco Rubio`s version of the DREAM Act. MADDOW: In terms of how that happens, I mean, Kris Kobach is obviously a lightning rod in terms of immigration politics, mostly because of his role in the Alabama and Arizona laws, but he`s just becoming increasingly famous. He has been a known and stated adviser to Governor Romney on immigration issues, not just for this presidential campaign, but for his previous campaign in 2008 as well. Do you make the pivot on immigration by pretending that that did not happen? By trying to get Kris Kobach to come along with you in changing your positions, by throwing him under the bus? What do you do? TUMULTY: Well, I think what the campaign says that adviser is not really a title and that he essentially was never in the campaign, but he did campaign with Mitt Romney. He is the intellectual force behind this concept of self-deportation, which Mitt Romney supports. So I think what you`re going to see is that they`re essentially not going to be seen with him. Basically, the issue here is that of these nine swing states, six of them have large and really significant Latino populations. And Mitt Romney`s own actual adviser on Latino issues, who`s a guy named Al Cardin, a former state party leader in Florida told me that essentially, in six states, where Latinos are big portions of the population, Mitt Romney has to win 40 percent of the Latino vote to win the election. And right now, he`s running in the 20s among Latinos nationally. MADDOW: When the Romney campaign made the decision to embrace not just Kobach, which was a decision made back in 2008, but to embrace Pete Wilson. Pete Wilson, of course, was the California governor, sort of lost to history. He`s not a particularly famous Republican. He`s very famous in California, particularly among Latinos for Prop 187 and for some other controversial measures taken in California that led to the initial satire of the term "self-deportation" as an anti-Pete Wilson satirical protest. When Mitt Romney went and dug Pete Wilson out of the sort of ash heap of history, this obscure that no one`s really heard of, unless they really remember him angrily about his anti-immigration politics, were they cognizant of the fact that that would affect their standing among Latino voters? The perception of his extremism on immigration issues? TUMULTY: Well, at the time, his top priority was winning the Republican primary. And essentially he ran to the right of his opponents in the Republican primary. He sparred with Newt Gingrich over this whole self-deportation idea. He was really critical of Rick Perry on granting in-state tuition to illegal immigrants. He was very much -- Mitt Romney was, trying to prove that he was the staunchest opponent of illegal immigration in the race. And at that point, Pete Wilson was an ally in that. MADDOW: Karen Tumulty, national political reporter for "The Washington Post," joining us in the time capsule today -- Karen, thanks very much for talking with us tonight. I really appreciate it. TUMULTY: Thank you, Rachel. MADDOW: I have to say, having a little time stamp on the segment sort of makes me feel like hello, hello. Sort of makes me feel like I`m a postcard, you know what I mean? Doesn`t it look like a little postmark? Anyway. "Debunktion Junction" is dead ahead, including a really weird one from today`s politics about buses deliberately driving around in circles in order to make a political point. Did you see this today? It`s very weird. That`s next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Hey, you know that show on Bravo, "Watch What Happens Live"? I`m going to be on that show tonight. I`m a little nervous. I`m told I should be nervous. Also, best new thing in the world today is still ahead. It`s a really good one, totally unexpected, laugh out loud, funny, best new thing in the world and it pertains to license plates. That`s coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: "Debunktion Junction," what`s my function? First up, President Obama made a campaign stop at a community college in Ohio today to talk about the economy and jobs. Mitt Romney is set to make a campaign stop in Ohio tomorrow, but in the meantime, President Obama was there today and the Romney campaign wanted to do something to counter the president`s appearance and all the attention that came with it. So that leads us to this believe it or not moment in today`s news. True or false, as a political counterattack, a Mitt Romney campaign bus drove in circles today, around and around and around the community college campus where President Obama was speaking today. Is that true or false? True. This was an actual plan. Quoting from UPI`s coverage today, quote, "Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney`s campaign bus loaded up with state surrogates and phone bank volunteers was to drive circles around the college while Obama was there," the Romney campaign said. A Romney campaign spokesperson talking about this bracketing strategy, telling "The Washington Post", quote, "Our campaign is going to go toe to toe and post up against the Obama machine every day." That`s right, the Romney campaign bus is going to go toe to toe up against the Obama machine, following the president everywhere he goes, doing donuts in the parking lot of every Obama event for the rest of the campaign. This is a strategy. All right. Next up, Democrats in the Obama campaign have been putting tons of public pressure on Mitt Romney to release more of his tax returns. Mitt Romney released two years of tax records earlier this year, after his fellow Republicans put a ton of public pressure on him. That`s how we know he made $45 million over the last two years without working and paid an effective tax rate of about 14 percent on those earnings. Mr. Romney`s own father released 12 years of tax returns when he ran for president, so the pressure, of course, is still on. But Mr. Romney has a new excuse as to why he has only released a couple of years` worth of returns. Mr. Romney now says there`s precedent for only releasing a couple of years` worth of tax returns. There`s precedent, he says, on the Democratic side. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why not release your tax returns? Why not go back ten years? ROMNEY: Well, we`ve had people run for president before, and they`ve released two years. John Kerry released two years of taxes. John McCain released two years of taxes. I`ve released one already, put the estimate out for the next year. We`ll have two years of taxes. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: We`ll have two years of taxes, what`s the problem? The Democrats did the same thing. Is that true or false? John Kerry only released two years worth of tax returns when he ran for president in 2004. Is that true or false? False. Mitt Romney was incorrect about John Kerry`s tax returns. Sam Stein at "Huffington Post" pointing out today that when Mr. Kerry ran for president in 2004, he`d actually released 20 years of tax returns, not two, but 20. So, Governor Romney, that is not true. Time for whatever your new excuse is for not releasing your tax returns. Also, you should probably say you`re sorry for getting that wrong and you should probably correct the record, right? And finally, the low and slow space shuttle flight over Washington, D.C. yesterday mesmerized the capital, and frankly us too. And in the light of that show-stopping tribute, is it true or false that that amazing flyover was a once in a lifetime event? That nothing like that is ever going to happen again? Is that true or false? False! Actually, it turns out that incredible spectacle of a space shuttle mounted to a 747, flying low through the air of the landmarks to meet its people, that is going to be repeated, only a little bit different next time. The folks at NASA announcing this week that NASA`s special 747 shuttle carrier with the shuttle Enterprise mounted on top is set to fly at a low altitude over New York City on April 23rd. So we`ll get another show, much like the one we got when the space shuttle Discovery flew over D.C., when the space shuttle Enterprise flies over Gotham later this month. Which is true and cool. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Virginia`s governor needs a job. In Virginia, you can`t serve in the top spot for conservative terms, and although he will not come right out and say it, Governor Bob McDonnell of Virginia has long been giving every possible signal that he would sorely, dearly, are you there, God, it`s me, Bob, love, love, love to have Mitt Romney pick him for vice president. He doesn`t have a next job. He`d be great at that, right? Mr. McDonnell has a couple of hurdles here. Exhibit A, he appears to gain Mitt Romney a grand total of one point in the polls in his home state. The Quinnipiac University survey last month finding that he`s no help for the National Republican Party. Exhibit B, the Virginia governor is polling at 1 percent among Republican voters when they are asked who they like to see sharing the ticket with Romney. Mr. McDonnell polls lower than someone else. He polls lower than none/no one. And he polls lower than that electoral powerhouse, no opinion. But Bob McDonnell has a dream. Bob McDonnell has a plan for helping Bob McDonnell. Because even though he cannot run for re-election in Virginia and even though no named Mitt Romney has asked him to run for anything else, Bob McDonnell is about to run campaign ads for himself. "Washington Post" reporting that he will start airing, quote, "positive TV ads in the coming weeks." What are you running for, Gov? After a few positive TV ads, who knows, he may triple his standings in the veep stakes, in which case he would still be next to last. Still coming up in the best new thing in the world is the even bigger obstacle to Governor McDonnell`s vice presidential hopeful and the thing Virginia residents are doing to make sure the world never forgets about that thing. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: I`ve been looking forward to doing this story for a long time. You ready? Behold. "The Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of Mental Disorders, Volume IV" -- this book is super boring looking and also super important. The DSM, they call it. It is the reference that psychiatrists and therapists and insurance companies and drug companies all consult when they decide if you have a mental disorder. So did your insurance company kick in to help cover the cost of you going to therapy or your antidepressants? If so, this book and your diagnosis based on what`s in this book is part of why. And it has a big cultural impact beyond medicine -- a big part of how we define as a culture what counts as a sickness, what counts as a mental disorder is framed by what`s in the DSM. That`s why it was a big deal in 1973 when the American Psychiatric Association decided that homosexuality no longer constituted a psychiatric disorder. They delisted it as a psychiatric disorder in the DSM. For decades, basically forever, psychiatrists had, with this book said, if you`re gay, you`re sick. You have a medical ailment, a mental disorder. There is something wrong with you. And so, in 1973, when psychiatrists moved to change that, it caused a lot of controversy. One of the prime movers behind that change was this man, Dr. Robert L. Spitzer, a Columbia University professor and psychiatrist who worked on revising the DSM that year. In 1973, he argued for taking being gay off the list of mental illnesses by saying, quote, "Many homosexuals are satisfied with their sexual orientation and demonstrate no generalized impairment." It does not sound revolutionary now, but it was back then. Among the people rocked by this change in the DSM was an industry that claimed to be able to heal gay people of their supposed illness. Suddenly, these folks were being told by the American Psychiatric Association, hey, you are trying to heal people who aren`t sick. The anti-gay, "we can cure you" folks did stick around for years, for decades, even, but frankly, they were on the fringes of quackery, of pseudo-religious, pseudo-anti-gay politics. Until something crazy happened. In 2001, this came out. Can some gay men and lesbians change their sexual orientation? This was not published in some quack, fringe, wishful thinking anti- gay publication. It was not a vanity publishing thing. This was published in a well-regarded peer-reviewed medical journal called "The Archives of Sexual Behavior". And this piece was not published by some anti-gay true believer who was trying and failing to pull on the guise of scientific authority to justify being super anti-gay. Look at the author of this. Look, Robert L. Spitzer. That would be the same Dr. Robert L. Spitzer who had been so instrumental in delisting homosexuality as a mental disorder in 1973. In 2001, 28 years after, Dr. Spitzer told the country that being gay doesn`t make you sick, he published this, this study, which says he studied a couple hundred patients and he found that you could, in some instances, pray away the gay! You could get rid of your homosexuality through therapy or something. He said some gay people, essentially, could be turned straight. The anti-gay groups, "the being gay is a choice" people, the you can be cured of your homosexuality folks, they were over the moon. Look at this press release from a pray away the gay group called NARTH, the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality. Their press release, prominent psychiatrist announces new study results. Some gays can change! Ever since this study came out in 2001, 11 years ago, Dr. Robert Spitzer`s work has been cited as proof that if you want it enough, you can turn yourself from gay to straight. The "cure the gay" people have spent that last 11 years moving to the center of anti-gay politics in the United States. They have become as mainstream as you can get in the anti-gay political world. When President George W. Bush urged Congress in 2006 to amend the United States constitution, to make it anti-gay marriage, the Bush White House made sure that a contingent of people who specialize in supposedly curing gay people were in attendance at the White House announcement. This is a press release from Exodus International, one of the big ex- gay cure the gay groups. Quote, "Worldwide network of former homosexuals to take part in Rose Garden ceremony as Bush endorses marriage protection amendment." Quote, "The lives of thousands of former homosexuals, like me, verify that homosexuality is not an immutable trait, therefore marriage is not a civil right to be casually granted to any group who demands it," so says Alan Chambers president of the Exodus International. Recognize the guy there on the right? That is Karl Rove with the then vice president of Exodus International at a photo taken at the White House, the "cure the gay" people at the White House. This year presidential candidate Michele Bachmann`s husband runs a counseling center in Minnesota that is reported to have tried to change patient`s sexual orientation. Marcus Bachmann denies that that`s a service that he offers, but frankly, it is rather convincingly reported in "The Nation" and elsewhere. Also, remember the weird speech that Rick Perry gave during the campaign where he hugged that syrup bottle and everyone wondered if there wasn`t something a little off about Rick Perry that night. That was a group in front of a group called Cornerstone in New Hampshire, an anti-gay group in New Hampshire. Their research page on helpful links lists four helpful links on homosexuality, four helpful organizations, all of which are organizations that claim to be able to cure gay people -- to be able to cure people of having the affliction known as "the gay." The presumptive Republican nominee this year, Mitt Romney, his anti- gay politics are also now homosexuality can be cured politics. We reported on this on this show a while back. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MADDOW: The Romney`s charity, with the Romney`s money, supports a lot of conservative causes that the Romneys support. CNN did a report on this the other day, finding out that this foundation has supported like pro-gun groups and the conservative think tank at Stanford and some medical stuff. But they also support to the tune of $10,000 in one year alone a group called the Massachusetts Family Institute. The Massachusetts Family Institute is an anti-gay group based in Boston, Massachusetts, that advocates all sorts of anti-gay causes. And that explains that if anybody is gay, well, you should quit that. Quote, "We encourage the healing of individuals who wish to change their choice of lifestyle through the work of Exodus International, Love Won Out, and Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays." And how do these recommended groups from the Romney-funded organization propose that you do that? They promote magic therapy by which you can be cured of your affliction. Like our old friend, Richard Cohen advertised. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REPORTER: Another technique, bioenergetics, designed to help clients release memories stored in the muscles, in this case by hitting a pillow with a tennis racket. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was angry at my mother. So I started saying, mom! Mom! Mom! Mom! Why! Did! You! Do! That! To! Me? (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: What Mitt Romney has been funding as charity is actually advocacy of the predatory quack industry that sells parents on the idea that you can ship off your gay son to a guy like this and he`ll ship him back to you straight. (END VIDEOTAPE) MADDOW: It was not an oversight that Mitt Romney`s charity gave money to one of these pseudo-scientific "cure the gay" groups. It was not an accident, because this is what anti-gay politics are like now. They have the "you can be cured of the gay" message right at the heart of what they do in politics. It has been like that since the bombshell Robert Spitzer study mainstreamed this kind of thinking back in 2001. It has been that way for 11 years now. It has been that way for 11 years, until last week when all of a sudden it stopped being like that, because last week Dr. Robert Spitzer made it known that he would please like to take that study back from 2001. He would like to retract it. It does not mean what people think it means and he wishes it would not have published. Last week, the "American Prospect" magazine published a remarkable piece of reporting, including the explosive revelation that Dr. Spitzer is renouncing this 2001 study that changed gay politics in America ever since. Dr. Spitzer says he wishes he could retract the study from the journal in which it was originally published. He says that efforts to cure gay people of homosexuality, quote, "can be quite harmful"; acknowledging that he did not study a representative sample of people, but instead counted on people sent to him from anti-gay groups. Dr. Spitzer now says, quote, "The findings can be considered evidence for what those who have undergone ex-gay therapy say about it, but nothing more." Dr. Spitzer essentially saying that study was not science, it was just a series of anecdotes. He`s sorry it was published. He wants to take it back. So what does this do to all the cure the gay people? Do they go back to being seen as quacks, or do Republicans keep inviting them to the White House and speaking before them as presidential candidates? What happens next? Well, the first thing that happens next is the interview on this subject. Back in a second. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. RICK PERRY (R), TEXAS: I come from a state where, you know, they have this little place called the Alamo and they declared victory or death. You know, we`re kind of into those slogans, man. It`s like, live free or die, victory or death. Bring it! (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Obviously, there were a number of problems with that Rick Perry speech on the Republican presidential campaign trail last fall. None of which I need to explain to you. It`s as plain as the nose on your face, or as plain as the bottle of syrup in the governor`s tender embrace at the end of the speech, when he just left to be alone with the syrup. But one of the more subtle, between the lines problems, with that speech is that it was delivered before an anti-gay group in New Hampshire that like many anti-gay groups now, bases its anti-gay political arguments around a core pseudo medical argument that being gay is a curable thing, that you can change your sexual orientation if you work on it. The core mainstream scientific justification for that argument has just been blown up by reporting from our next guest. Gabriel Arana is a reporter and web editor at "The American Prospect". He`s the new author of their new bombshell, "My So-called Ex-Gay Life." Mr. Arana, thanks very much for being here. It`s nice to have you here. GABRIEL ARANA, "MY SO-CALLED EX-GAY LIFE" WRITER: Thanks for having me. MADDOW: Your story included this revelation that Dr. Robert Spitzer wants to retract his fame 2001 study that supposedly proved that gay people can be cured of homosexuality if they want it enough. When you set out to write this story, did you know that was going to happen? Were you surprised by this revelation from Dr. Spitzer? ARANA: I really didn`t know it was going to happen. I went to visit him at his home in Princeton, and I wanted to speak with him more generally about his place in the history of psychiatry. As you mentioned, before the commercial break, he spearheaded the effort to declassify homosexuality as a mental illness in 1973 and then in 2001, dropped this bombshell that was very damaging to a lot of people. And so, he`s obviously an iconoclast. And I was curious about both his role in the 1973 declassification of homosexuality and then what led him to undertake the 2001 study. And then as we spoke, he started to express regret for both having conducted his study and also how it had been used by the ex-gay movement. MADDOW: So it was both about seeing the impact of how his study was used in the real world, but also some regret about the scientific basis of his findings? ARANA: That`s right. After his study was published, he endured a barrage of criticism from his colleagues in the psychiatric and psychological communities, as well as from gay rights movement. The most noteworthy of the criticisms was that he had recruited participants for his studies from ex-gay organizations and then relied on these self-reports from patients of ex-gay therapists to conclude that change for at least a highly motivated group of gay people was possible. And in the intervening 11 years, he started to doubt the credibility of these people. And strangely enough, I was originally referred to a study as a success story and now I`m married to a man. So, you can see how that went. MADDOW: Part of the reason this piece of yours in the "American Prospect" was so powerful is because of the personal story that you bring to it. I mean, your parents encouraged you to seek therapy, to try to become straight. Your therapist at the time was the head of one of these you can be cured of homosexuality organizations. You write really beautifully about why you agreed to the therapy. This person telling you, you could make your parents happy. You could be normal. When you were undergoing the therapy, did you ever feel like it was working? ARANA: I can answer that question in two parts. If the question is, did I ever feel that my sexual orientation was changing? The answer is no. So the way therapy works is that you`re encouraged to view your sexuality as the result of gender misidentification. So in the case of gay men, in my case, I was not close enough with my father and too close with my mother. And you learn to interpret both your childhood, your past experiences through that lens and then talk about how that initial childhood drama has a bearing on your life now. So, I felt that -- I felt that I was understanding myself given this frame. But, you know, obviously, I wasn`t coming to any true understanding. It`s just I sort of learned to speak the language. MADDOW: Well, the combination of your personal story and this revelation that you elicit from this doctor who has played such a key role, I think in the whole forgive the phrase, reorientation of anti-gay politics in America is -- it`s a remarkable piece of reporting and it`s step one and what we`re going to see is a real change, a real reckoning in anti-gay politics. So, congratulations on this as a scoop, Gabriel Arana. And thank you for being here, I really appreciate it. ARANA: Thanks for having me. MADDOW: All right. If you want to learn more about the original study and the retraction of the study and what might happen next, we`ve got some supporting materials about this posted at Best new thing in the world is really good last night. I thought last night`s was good about the kids and the chess. But tonight is maybe even better. Best new thing, coming up next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: OK. Best new thing in the world today comes from an unlikely place, but bear with me, the payoff is totally worth it. In the commonwealth of Virginia this year, Republicans in the legislature busied themselves passing legislation to force Virginia women to undergo medically unnecessary vaginal probe ultrasounds if they wanted to get an abortion in the state. Governor Bob McDonnell ended up signing a measure that does mandate medically unnecessary ultrasounds for Virginia women, it just doesn`t specify that they have to be vaginal probe ones. Regardless of that last-minute amendment, the governor had wholeheartedly supported the vaginal probe bill before. And by the time he signed the state`s new law, the backlash already ensured that he will be known as governor vaginal probe or maybe governor ultrasound. The story also generated these special edition Bob McDonnell commemorative vaginal probes from our audience. This one in honor of what used to be his vice presidential ambitions says, "I can see the White House from here." And then the project got bigger and more real. A viewer named Cara Bone (ph) of Spotsylvania, Virginia, suggested that we visit the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicle`s Web site where you can buy specialty license plates, most for charities. You pay a little extra for the plate and the money goes to the charity which sponsors that plate so you can buy a plate for the Appalachian Trail, for example. You can buy a plate to help the Brook Trout. Yay, Brookies. If you`re a member, you can buy a plate to help the Sons of Confederate Veterans. There`s this one supporting the Virginia League for Planned Parenthood. It`s the "Trust Women, Respect Choice" plate. After the tip from Cara in Spotsylvania, when we put this on the blog, the story started to change. The Virginia DMV let`s you customize your own plate. You take the Planned Parenthood plate, or the Brookie plate, or any plate, and within certain limits, you type in what you want it to say. For instance, I typed in "You`re no doctor," and got congratulations, the message you requested is available. Mandy Perez (ph) sent this one. No VP 4U. My favorite early on came from Alex Brandt Silasky (ph). It says "Womb R8R." Obvious, right? But something better was on the way. Check this out. Holly Ban (ph) of New Mexico, one day, out of the blue, sends us this. Yes. Get your own show. You can say it how you want. I say it Virginia. We had a little intramural debate whether this license plate would be approved really by the commonwealth of Virginia. Can you say Virginia with a Y on your license plate in the land of governor vaginal probe? On Monday, miracle of miracles, we got an answer. We got an answer from the Delano (ph) family of Williamsburg, Virginia. They saw the extensive coverage of the Virginia license plates on our blog and when their Virginia license plate expired, they went out and blessed the Delanos of Williamsburg, they got this license plate. This is not Photoshop. This is the actual plate. Virginia with a Y right on their car in the commonwealth of Virginia. David and Sandy Delano put this tag on their Prius, right between the class warfare bumper sticker and the one for the Human Rights Campaign. They are now driving the most liberal car in the entire realm of governor vaginal probe. David says Sandy I asked their kids if this was maybe too much. One of their sons said and I quote, "No, you need to rock that, mom." But, wait, there`s more. Yesterday, we got another one. It`s from Becky Kirkland Krimcoe (ph) of Virginia. Even before our blog posts. Vicky Kirkland Krimcoe had had it with the situation in Virginia. Her plates expired in March and this is what she got this to replace them. Tada! Yes, Virginia, you can vajajay. And with Bob McDonnell in charge, just driving around vajajay on your car is its own political act. Virginia is for vajajays. Anti-mandated ultrasound Virginia license plates and t he cheerful but unyielding dissent of the people who put them in their cars and then send us pictures of them -- obviously that is the best new thing in the world today, right? Now it is time for "THE LAST WORD" with Lawrence O`Donnell. Have a great night. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END