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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 05/04/12

Guests: Bill Richardson, Peter Zuckerman

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: See? Even in flattery, you`re perfect. Great to see you. Well done. Thanks, man. MICHALE ERIC DYSON, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Great to see you. Thank you. MADDOW: All right. Thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour. There`s a lot going on. But we have to start, because we always start somewhere weird, tonight, we have to start in 1968. In 1968, a former member of Congress, a former United States senator, a former vice president of the United States, an experienced, nationally known sober steady Republican named Richard Nixon is running for president. He, of course, wins in 1968. And then he wins re-election in 1972. He never makes it to the end of the second term because of a little complication called Watergate. That`s a little awkward to talk about now. But in 1968, he was at the height of his appeal, and he was a communist. You see his campaign slogan there, "Forward Together. " This from the Republican National Committee archives from that area. See the slogan at the bottom there? Yes, bushy-haired, smiley, apple cheek, height of his charm -- Richard Nixon, communist. The reason you know that slogan at the bottom there indicates that he`s a communist is because today`s conservatives say so. I thought this was kind of debunked already, but apparently, conservatives -- even know, this is from last night on Glenn Beck`s Internet TV show, conservatives are still stuck on this. President Obama`s web video that came out in the beginning of the week ended with this slogan "Forward". The right just went nuts that the word forward was the Obama campaign`s way of signaling that it is Marxist, that it seeks to impose the economic system invented by Karl Marx on America. That President Obama is a communist, because the word "forward" signals communism. So, Richard Nixon "Forward Together" -- communist. Also the Washington, D.C. metro system -- communist. This Jewish daily newspaper in New York City - communist and Jewish. Whoa! I know, deep, right? And, of course, the state of Wisconsin, which has an awesome flag, which includes the date they were admitted to the Union, has the word Wisconsin on it, which makes it easy to pick out of a crowd of state flags. But the little insignia, the little banner over the frankly very communist- looking arm with hammer, and little firearm and stuff, that has the state slogan on it and the state slogan is "Forward". So, obviously, Wisconsin is communist. Here`s the state slogan as well on the state quarter, with some cheese and some corn and a cow wearing a bell: "Forward" -- communist. Now, is President Obama and the Obama re-election campaign a communist enterprise? They are exactly as communist as Richard Nixon was, and that cow on the quarter. But the word communist has just become sort of another political epithet now. It`s just become a thing that you call somebody if you don`t like them in politics. And because we use that term now as an insult from the right so freely in our politics now, it`s easy to forget that the word communist isn`t just an all purpose, boogey man political term you call anybody who is to the left of you. It`s a real thing. I mean, actual countries are run by actual communists. It`s not just tiny, rogue countries like Cuba and North Korea that are run by communist parties. In fact, the most populous country on earth is run by the communist party, for real. It`s not an insult. China is run by the communist party of China. This is their emblem, hammer and sickle. They are real communists. Real communists who have real departments of propaganda, right? They are state-run media all over the world. But in China, there are major newspapers that are quite directly run out of the propaganda department of the local chapter of the communist party. And "The Washington Post" reports today that four of the communist party controlled propaganda directed newspapers in the city of Beijing have been going hog-wild attacking America`s ambassador to China. They are going after Gary Locke. He`s the former governor of Washington state. He arrived in China as the American ambassador, of course, after Jon Huntsman quit the job in order to pursue his disastrous and short-lived run for the presidency. Famously, Jon Huntsman`s dad who was his main funder for his presidential campaign, he said that had China been able to vote for U.S. president, they definitely would have picked Jon Huntsman. The Chinese people loved Jon Huntsman as America`s ambassador to China. The Chinese people actually kind of liked Gary Locke as an ambassador, too -- and for some of the same reason as they like Jon Huntsman. In a country that`s increasingly disgusted with the arrogance consumption on the part of its elite, Jon Huntsman as U.S. ambassador riding his bike around in China and Gary Locke being autograph at a Starbucks wearing backpack, waiting in line, paying for his own caffeinated treats. Those images went a long way to winning over Chinese public opinion for the American ambassador, past and presence. But in the midst of this diplomatic crisis that the United States is in right now with China, these propaganda state-controlled newspapers have been attacking Ambassador Gary Locke. According to NBC`s Beijing producer, the big headline on the communist party`s "Being Daily" today translates to "the clumsy performance of American politician in the Chen Guangcheng incident." According to "Reuters," the paper goes onto say it`s all an act. This whole flying economy class, carrying his own backpack, buying coffee with coupons, they say it`s an act. They say he`s putting on a charade of being a regular guy. Quote, "What we have seen is not an ambassador to China who is prudent in his words and actions, but a standard issue American politician who goes out of his way to stir up conflict." This propaganda pile on is the latest development in this huge international controversy around this man, Chen Guangcheng. He`s a human rights activist and lawyer. He has been blind since infancy, which is why you always see him wearing sunglasses. In China, interestingly, you are not allowed to go to law school if you are blind. So, he`s a lawyer, but he`s a self-taught lawyer. He audited law classes that he was not allowed to take properly. But by auditing those classes, he taught himself the law. And what he did with his self-taught legal education is that he sued the Chinese government over their One Child Policy and over other human rights abuses. The response from the government was imprisonment for four years and harsh house imprisonment for nearly two years after that. And those are the circumstances -- house arrest, from which he made a daring, middle of the night -- did I mention blind? -- escape 12 days ago. He actually made his way to the American embassy. Now, first, Mr. Chen told U.S. officials that he wanted to stay in China. U.S. officials worked out a deal in his behalf where he wouldn`t be under house arrest anymore, he could stay in China. He`d be studying at a university in a different part of the country from his hometown. That was the initial deal, that deal fell apart after Mr. Chen was admitted to a hospital to treat a broken foot, injuries he sustained in his middle of the night escape. He, apparently, in the hospital, changed his mind about not wanting to leave China. He decided that his life was in danger, his family and he then made a request to leave China. He said he wanted to leave China and go to the United States. Specifically, he told "The Daily Beast" he would like to leave China with Hillary Clinton on her plane. Secretary Hillary Clinton is in China on unrelated business. She`s there for high level meetings, alongside Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner. As we reported last night, Mr. Chen also phoned into an emergency congressional hearing that was called to discuss his case. He reiterated in the phone call that you can see them holding them up the microphone there, he reiterated that he wanted help from Secretary Clinton. It`s all very dramatic. Right? Last night when we left this story, it was totally up in the air as to what would happen on this today. And the clock is ticking. Today, there does seem to be progress toward a new deal that could get Mr. Chen out of China and to the United States in way that did not escalate this any further. Apparently, Mr. Chen has now been offered a fellowship at NYU`s law school. China has said they will consider his request to become a student or at least a visiting lecturer of some kind in the United States. The U.S. government is saying they expect this request to be expedited. And all of this, of course, is happening in the shadow of Hillary Clinton right now being in China. Secretary Clinton is expected to depart Beijing on Saturday, local time, but Beijing is 12 hours ahead of the East Coast in the United States. So that means she`s going to be leaving momentarily. She`s going to be leaving at some point in the next several hours our time here in the United States. But in the middle of this diplomatic, super high stakes, all but super power stand off between the most powerful country in the world, us, and the biggest country in the world, China, the biggest country in the world is run by communists who have propaganda departments that are having their newspapers just pile on not only the U.S. government as a whole, but specifically our U.S. ambassador. "The Washington Post" reporting today, this is fascinating, that the propagandistic pile on against Gary Locke is generating the opposite of the intended reaction among the Chinese people. Quoting from "The Washington Post," "The attacks drew a ferocious response from China`s Internet users who immediately bombarded the `Being Daily`s` Web site with thousands of comments defending Ambassador Gary Locke. The comments were so numerous and vicious that by evening, "Beijing Daily" had become a banned search term on China`s version of Twitter." So, this is functioning -- I mean, at the human level, right, this is functioning at the level of one sort of heroic human rights activists who is trying to save himself, save his family and be an activist. You`ve also got this operating at the highest level, which is two giant powerful countries having to deal with this as a very high level diplomatic matter - - people at the very highest levels of government involved in this, having to make direct decisions about what to do about it while they are physically in the proximity of the crisis. And now, it is also a media and man on the street issue, for a government that wants its people to feel very, very bad about the American government but whose people don`t really always seem to feel that way. Complicating here at home, here in the United States, is the fact that the Republican candidate for president is also attacking the American government as if he, too, works for "Beijing Daily." (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It`s also apparent, according to these reports, if they`re accurate, that our embassy failed to put in place the kind of verifiable measures that would assure the safety of Mr. Chen and his family. If these reports are true, this is a dark day for freedom and it`s a day of shame for the Obama administration. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Mitt Romney stating clearly that he doesn`t know if any of this information is accurate, but he wants you to know it`s a day of shame for the Obama administration. He said this yesterday. Really? You`re not sure if it`s accurate. You don`t know if you should believe the reports, you really don`t know what`s going on, but it`s definitely day of shame for the Obama -- this is kind of a sensitive matter, a sensitive ongoing matter that is yet to be resolved. Are you sure you want to weigh in here? (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BILL KRISTOL, CONSERVATIVE COLUMNIST: To inject yourself in the middle of it, though, when there`s all kind of negotiations going on and a fast moving target I think is foolish. He still has not -- they are trying to transition from a primary campaign mode to general election mode. In the primary campaign mode, Santorum said something stupid, the Ohio primary vote is in five days, hit him, hit him right now. This is -- there`s no need to butt into a fast moving story where the secretary of state is in Beijing, with delicate negotiations and say it`s day of shame to the Obama administration. Hillary Clinton is waking upright now. Let`s see if she can pull this off in the next 12 hours or not. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: William Kristol speaking on FOX News Channel obviously a communist. Kidding. The 12 hours that he was talking about yesterday when he said that or last night when he said are just about up now. And this is a fast, fast moving crisis. The politics around this will continue to reverberate. But in terms of understanding the resolution to this, we are turning to a man who has been involved in many crises like these as a former ambassador and as an international trouble shooter on issues of rights, activists and difficult governments -- he`s former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson. Governor Richardson, we feel lucky to have you with us here tonight. Thank you for being here. BILL RICHARDSON (D), FORMER NEW MEXICO GOVERNOR: Thank you, Rachel, for having me. MADDOW: You have been a part of negotiations around human rights activists, hostage negotiation, prisoner releases. Once Mr. Chen was inside the U.S. embassy in Beijing, what do you think was the best possible outcome for the U.S. and for him? What were the choices that the U.S. had? RICHARDSON: Well, the best outcome could be what`s possibly going to happen, that Chen and his family protected can go to the United States at an American university where he will have a platform, where his family is safe. That is the best outcome. What I see is the administration, I think, courageously put him in the U.S. embassy, negotiated at the highest level. When you have the secretary of state involved, assistant secretary of state, the American ambassador, the top State Department lawyer -- by the way, two of those, the State Department lawyer and the American ambassador, Chinese-Americans, negotiating on behalf of this individual says the Obama administration really put the human rights front and center. So, if the outcome is going to be the dispersal of -- or the travel to the United States, to pursue a human rights career where he`ll have a platform, that`s good. It also does show, Rachel, at the same time that the Chinese government -- that backfired, that criticism of Ambassador Locke is obviously backfiring -- it shows maybe they are maturing in their attitude on human rights and saying we want this issue resolved. The American-Chinese relationship is too important. We`ve got North Korea. We`ve got Iran. We`ve got the global economic recovery. We`ve got serious Security Council resolutions. Let`s get this issue resolved. So, in a way, maybe this outcome is best for everybody and it`s best for the world that a human rights activist is basically going to get what he wants for him and his family. MADDOW: In terms of understanding the various -- I guess the various motivations for the people that are on sides of the negotiation, one thing that gets described is this NYU fellowship, this academic posting essentially for the activist involved here might be a way for the Chinese government to save face, essentially for a way for this to be resolved in a way that doesn`t cost anybody politically at home. Is that how you see it? I mean, obviously, there are hundreds of thousands of Chinese students and Chinese activists who come to the -- who are allowed by the Chinese government to the United States every year. Does this essentially neutralize it from their perspective in terms of it being a pride issue for their government? RICHARDSON: Well, this fellowship, this offer of going to the United States on a student visa is a face saver for the Chinese government because they have many Chinese students, academics going to the United States. So, it allows them to say, the Chinese, if he satisfies all requirements, he can get a visa, a student visa. Now, he still has to get a passport. Chen does not have a passport. There`s still a little bit of a hurdle. But the fact that the foreign ministry said they`re going to proceed with issuing this visa, the student visa is very positive. But you also have to admire Chen. I mean, the guy has excellent political operative credentials. He calls a congressional hearing. He talks to the press. He says he wants to go on the secretary of state plane. I mean, this guy, politically, is very adept. And that`s good. But I`m also proud that the administration -- this is the first time I`ve seen an American administration stand up so much for human rights to get this guy out, to know it could damage the relationship. And the best part is the Chinese government may be saying, look, in the past we`ve been tough on human rights activists. We put him in jail. This time, they appear to want to resolve a diplomatic crisis and that`s good for all sides. MADDOW: Bill Richardson, the former governor of New Mexico, ambassador to the United Nations in the Clinton administration -- thanks for being with us tonight, sir. You were the first guy that I wanted to talk to when we learn that this was still unfolding today. Thanks very much. RICHARDSON: Thank you. MADDOW: All right. It is Friday. And that means it`s a cocktail moment. But also, we`re going to be breaking some news about Mitt Romney`s campaign national finance co-chair. It`s a story we started covering back in February. It has continued to unfold since then. And tonight, it really unfolds in an unexpected way. That`s an exclusive story, and that`s ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Republicans like to present themselves as the party of small government. They say Democrats are the party of big government and small government is better and small government is Republican. And that idea, I`m sure focus groups very well. But it is not true. Look at this. This charts the economy under the last three terms of Republican presidents. It`s the first three years of the last three terms that we had under Republican presidents. They are all named Bush by it`s two different Bush residencies -- two terms of George W. Bush and one term of Poppy Bush. Now, as you can see, both Bush presidencies have modest but some job growth in the private sector. Private sector that bluish line. But when you look at government jobs, the growth in government jobs was a little -- in some cases more pronounced than it was in the private sector. Now, check this out. These are the last three terms of Democratic presidents. This is on the Democratic side. There`s both Clinton terms and President Obama`s first term. We`re looking at the first three years of the last three Democratic terms. And you see pretty big private sector job gains under Clinton. Modest gains there under President Obama. But even though Republicans like to say they are the party of big government, Democrats do not appear to be the party of big government. Look at government jobs under the last three Democratic presidential terms. With President Obama, the current president, you see government jobs dropping like a stone falling through water, right? That`s called austerity. Austerity is the thing keeping economic recovery slow and fragile. Private sector growth, non-government job growth under President Obama has actually been pretty remarkable. "The New York Times" noting today that the private sector grew faster in the first three years of the Obama administration than it did in both the George W. Bush`s terms as well as a the first three years of the George H.W. Bush administration. Only Bill Clinton had faster growth. Businesses have added 4 million jobs under President Obama`s economy. The private sector is growing and growing and growing. The reason the recovery is still slow overall is frankly because of ever shrinking numbers of government jobs. The most serious weight on the job market according to the man who is John McCain`s campaign economic advisor in 2008 is not jobs in the private sector, those are coming back game busters, it`s government jobs -- specifically, state and local government jobs. That`s the drag on hiring. Public sector jobs and public sector jobs are, in fact, jobs -- jobs which Democrats would like to fund more of but Republicans say must be slashed. On Tuesday of this week, the Republican Party`s presumptive presidential nominee took a break from criticizing Obama for noting the anniversary of Osama bin Laden`s death. He took break from that criticism so he himself could take some time to note the anniversary of Osama bin Laden`s death. Mitt Romney on Tuesday joined Rudy Giuliani to campaign at a New York City fire station on the anniversary of killing bin Laden. And at that photo op event, Mr. Romney got to talking with firefighters and they explained to him what it means in economic terms to work as a New York City firefighter these days. After he left New York, Mr. Romney felt compelled to share the story of these struggling hard working firefighters. He felt compelled to share their story with the high dollar donors at $2,500 a plate Romney fundraiser at the Pentagon City, Virginia, Ritz Carlton. Mr. Romney told that high-dollar audience, full of people who paid $2,500 to hang out with him that night, he told them, quote, "I spoke with a fireman yesterday and he has a one bedroom apartment and his wife is pregnant and he can`t afford a second bedroom. I asked the firefighters I was meeting with, about 15 of them, how many had to take another job to make ends meet. Almost every one of them had." Shocking. Shocking, right? Relayed to these campaign donors that you might think that the moral of story is Mitt Romney wants the firefighters to be paid more. Mitt Romney does not want these firefighters to be paid more. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROMNEY: Then there was the stimulus itself, $787 billion of borrowing. It primarily protected people in the governmental sector, which is probably the sector that should be shrinking. We will stop the unfairness of government workers getting better pay and benefits than the very taxpayers they serve. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Yes, lousy government workers getting paid too much, like those New York city firefighters and their unfairly large salaries that have them taking second jobs about which you`re telling heartrending tales to your donors. Mitt Romney`s core economic position is to rail against the government -- government jobs, government pay, government growth. Mr. Romney wrote an op-ed today in a form of open-letter to President Obama. He said, quote, "Undoing the damage you`ve done will be a daunting challenge. But I`ve learned a thing or two about how government policies can kill private investment and stifle job creation, and I have a plan to get government out of the way." He says he would return the country to the principles of limited government. He said, quote, and bluntly, "Our government is too big." Lousy government full of those lousy overpaid government jobs, all these horrible people working for the government -- they are the problem in America. That is the core economic message of a campaign that sees economics as its core message. Firefighters great for a photo-op, but after all, they are what`s wrong with the country. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: May the force be with you. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, Luke, may the force be with you. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: What`s today? Today is the 4th of May. May 4th. May the fourth. May the fourth be with you. Today is International Star Wars Day. And this year, May the fourth be with you, International Star Wars Day falls on a Friday. And on Fridays on this show, we do cocktails moments. So, today`s cocktail moment, of course, Bantha milk, blue milk, like from "Star Wars," like they were drinking at the beginning, remember? Bantha milk apparently comes from this lovely creature, the Bantha. You know, though, as appealing Bantha milk cocktail does sounds, I actually think Bantha milk might have been our second best cocktail moment idea for the day. Our first idea will be coming up at the end of the show. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: OK. 1999, all over the state of Idaho, this rather ominous billboard starts turning up on roads across the state. "Should public television promote the homosexual lifestyle to your children? Think about it." Never put a billboard with a message that provocative that ends with a question mark and has a lot of blank white space on it. This is what happened I think in Idaho Falls. But somewhere in Idaho, somebody answered the question in spray paint in a way the billboard funders probably did not want. "Should public TV promote the homosexual lifestyle to your children? Yes." An unauthorized spray paint addition there. That was 1999. The man who helped pay for those billboards in Idaho in 1990 is now a national finance co-share of the Mitt Romney for president campaign. His name is Frank VanderSloot. He runs a company called Melaleuca. He`s one of the richest men in Idaho, whicfh ends up mattering a lot in Idaho politics. Do you remember when Larry Craig, the Republican senator got caught with the wide stance in that airport bathroom. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) LARRY CRAIG (R), FORMER U.S. SENATOR: Let me be clear. I`m not gay. I never have been gay. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Larry Craig emphatically not gay, left the United States Senate any way and was replaced by another Idaho Republican named James Risch. Mr. Risch, at that point, the state`s lieutenant governor, rented the private jet of Frank VanderSloot to fly around the state in his successful campaign to replace Larry Craig in the Senate. Mr. VanderSloot comes up a lot in Idaho politics. And now, he`s not only a national finance co-chair of the Mitt Romney for president campaign, he`s also directly held fund-raisers for Mr. Romney. He has donated to the super PAC supporting Mr. Romney, as well as to the Romney for president campaign. A few years after he helped finance the homosexual lifestyle billboards around Idaho. Mr. VanderSloot also got very, very involved in an award-winning investigative series published by a small Idaho newspaper called "The Post Register". The series started with a tip about a child molestation case at a local Boy Scout camp. Following that lead, the paper published that Boy Scout officials and Mormon Church officials had been warned about child molesters within local Boy Scout troops. They had known about it and kept them in the organization and ultimately facilitated their further access to kids. It was a brutal and disturbing investigation that, of course, went right at the most powerful pillars of that community. For that reporting, the Scripps Howard Foundation awarded the newspaper their award for distinguished service to the First Amendment. The reporter on the story, a young man named Peter Zuckerman, won the Livingston Award for his reporting on that series. It`s a price that recognizes the nation`s best journalists under the age of 35. Now, part of the response to that reporting from that little newspaper in Idaho Falls was this -- as you can see, it`s sort of typeset to make it look like it was part of the newspaper but this is actually an ad. It was a full page ad run by Frank VanderSloot, now a national finance co-chair of the Mitt Romney campaign. The ad was placed to criticize the newspaper for publishing the story, and it and others like it were published in the newspaper that had aired the series in the first place. This particular version of the ad went on in some length about the fact that the reporter, young Mr. Zuckerman, is gay. It described him as a, quote, "declared homosexual" and also described him as individually biased as a reporter. We covered this story a few months ago, back in February, for a couple of reasons. First, biggest picture here, while there`s always been campaign donors and politically influential campaign donors, in this post- Citizens United, we are now in a new phase in American politics where gazillionaires can give unlimited amounts of money to support candidates. And that unlimited spending by people with essentially unlimited resources creates a whole new category of influential, rich person in politics like we`ve never had before. So, now, in this post-Citizens United world, getting know your candidates in many cases means getting to know your candidates` gazillionaires. Frank VanderSloot is one of Mitt Romney`s key gazillionaires. And his politics are therefore relevant for understanding Mitt Romney`s politics, his campaign and his candidacy. But more interesting than just Frank VanderSloot`s politics is how he functions as a political actor, which is mostly up until this point been in Idaho. But it`s starting feel like it may now be nationwide. I mean, it is a basic truth of politics that when you start behaving as a political actor, you get discussed in a political context. If you`re involved, for example, in putting up billboards, raising the specter of the homosexual lifestyle all around your state, and you`re taking out full page ads attacking the reporting of local newspapers, if you become a national finance co-chair of a presidential campaign, you have made yourself a political figure. And people discussing politics on those that you`ve been engaging in will therefore be discussing you. That basic dyad of public figures getting public scrutiny is something that Frank VanderSloot deals with differently than most other people who have chosen to become political public figures. It`s not just that young reporter at that local newspaper in Idaho, when people have blogged about Mr. VanderSloot and his politics, they have frequently found themselves facing copyright infringement lawsuits for doing things like posting the photo of him that is publicly displayed on his company`s Web site. In 2007, this leftie leaning Idaho blog which is 43rd State Blues, they posted a blog entry critical of Mr. VanderSloot`s politics. The blog said they received a letter from Mr. VanderSloot`s lawyers telling them to take the blog post down within 24 hours or they`d find themselves sued. The blog did take down the post. They did not want to be sued. But when they posted a copy of the lawyer`s letter in order to explain to their readers why they had taken down the blog post that had previously been there, Mr. VanderSloot then sued them. They sued them for copyright infringement for posting the letter. And so, when we reported on Mr. VanderSloot in February, when he reported on Mr. VanderSloot and his politics and his role in the Romney campaign and his story of doing this kind of thing -- surprise. We got contacted by Mr. VanderSloot and his lawyers. First, they requested that we take down the web version of the segment that we did about Mr. VanderSloot. They asked that we remove it from the Internet. No. They also tried to insist that their written communications to NBC News about this matter were confidential and not for publication. Of course, we didn`t enter into sort of any confidentiality agreement with them. You`re writing a letter to a news organization. With all due respect, we can do anything we want with that. That`s the whole free part of the free press. Ultimately, the specific thing they wanted to criticize about our coverage is they say when they published that ad about that young reporter at that Idaho newspaper and went on at length about that young reporter being gay while they were attacking him for being biased, they say that was not outing him as we described it in our broadcast because of the fact that that reporter -- because of the fact that the reporter is gay had previously been discussed on an Idaho radio station and in a blog post that he had previously written. Now, that is true. It should be noted that for most people that read this local newspaper but did not listen to that one radio show, Frank VanderSloot, in all likelihood, was the person breaking the news about this young man`s sexual orientation, by printing it in that paper in that ad. But in this back and forth between Mitt Romney`s national finance co- chair and his lawyers, we do actually have some news to break which is that he is actually apologizing. I have the statement right here. Joining us now for the interview is the man to whom Mr. VanderSloot is apologizing, Peter Zuckerman, who in 2005 is a reporter at Idaho`s "Post Register" newspaper, and now is an independent journalist. He has a new book actually coming out called "Buried in the Sky." That will be out soon. Peter, thank you for joining us. Let me read you this statement. This is from Frank VanderSloot, "I am a strong supporter of the argument that gay and lesbian people should" -- this is the wrong statement. This is the wrong statement. Oh, we`ve got it here. Here we go. I`m handed the wrong thing. Quote, "We believe that Peter Zuckerman is a good man who did a poor job reporting the facts on an important story in 2005. The entire community was buzzing about Mr. Zuckerman`s sexual orientation after a local radio talk show had talked about it for days. We came to Mr. Zuckerman`s defense and chastised the talk show for bringing his sexual orientation into the debate. I apologize for any personal pain because of our involvement. That was not our intent." Obviously, that statement ends with an apology. But there is a lot in that. Let me just ask your reaction to that statement, first. PETER ZUCKERMAN, FMR. IDAHO FALLS "POST REGISTER" WRITER: Wow. It`s a start. It doesn`t ring true to my experience. MADDOW: What was the impact in your life when Frank VanderSloot ran these full page ads in your newspaper in Idaho, talking about the fact that you were gay and attacking your reporting? ZUCKERMAN: There was a tremendous impact on me both personally and professionally. Personally, it was really hard when my boyfriend, at the time, came home and said, "I don`t have my job anymore. They know I`m gay. They know about my relationship with you. They don`t want me there anymore." And it was really hard for him. He actually got sick soon afterwards and was in bed for a month. I didn`t know how we were going to pay the bills. It was really hard when people started leaving notes on my doorstep, when somebody kept calling in the middle of the night threatening to rape me with his handgun. That was -- I mean, that was really terrible. And then professionally, it became much harder to do my job because, yes, Idaho Falls was buzzing about my sexual orientation. And, you know, when I tried to talk to people, they would say things like, "Oh, I can`t talk to you. You`re a homosexual. We don`t associate with that." MADDOW: Did all of this happen because you were being discussed on a local radio show or did this happen not until your name appeared on the ad? ZUCKERMAN: This did not happen until my name appeared in the ad. MADDOW: When he says he wasn`t outing you, everybody knew already, you dispute that contention? ZUCKERMAN: I absolutely dispute that contention. "The Idaho Falls Post Register" was the place I worked. It was my colleagues I worked with. It was the people on my beat. Yes, a handful of people knew I`m gay. My boyfriend knew I was gay. My parents and boss knew I was gay. My boss knew I`m gay. But most -- I hadn`t told anybody on my beat that I`m gay and for good reason, because I was worried they wouldn`t talk to me. And I feel like the worse part isn`t so much that I was harassed, but was that this was really important story that needed to get out there. This was a story about child molesters in the boy scouts. It was about trying to protect kids from these kind of pedophiles. And by making it so hard for me to gather information, it actually really limited the story. There`s a lot more to that story that I was not able to get. And this was a major contributor for one of reasons I couldn`t get it. MADDOW: Mr. VanderSloot is a political figure of national importance now. HE`S national finance co-chair for Mitt Romney`s presidential campaign. Having been in Idaho, how would you describe his political role? His political presence in the community and do you think it`s reasonable to try to extrapolate that to national level? ZUCKERMAN: Absolutely reasonable. He is probably the wealthiest person in Idaho -- certainly the wealthiest person in eastern Idaho. He`s had his hands in a lot of campaigns often times as a donor. I don`t know how active he is in actually deciding what the message is. But he is also a pretty well-respected person in Idaho Falls among people who are really extremely conservative. And what does it say about Romney, I think, this isn`t a story about being gay or straight. It`s about who the president leans on when he needs money, who the president seeks advice from. You know, it`s about who does the president hire because who you hire is one of most important things a president does -- and we need to know who he`s hiring as his national finance co-chair. MADDOW: And in your reporting you did in Idaho, in any of the reporting that you have done, have you ever dealt with somebody who is as interventionist in terms of trying to control the coverage that a publication that you were involved in was actually standing behind? ZUCKERMAN: Not quite like this. I`ve never had somebody run paid ads in the newspaper I`m working at as trying to discredit me as a person. MADDOW: Peter Zuckerman, former "Post Register" reporter, was award- wining reporter for that series that attracted so much attention. I will say as way of thanking you for being here, that you have a new book coming out, which is called "Buried in the Sky: The Extraordinary Story of the Sherpa Clumbers on K2`s Deadliest Day," which obviously has nothing to do with this subject whatsoever but congratulations on that. ZUCKERMAN: Oh, thank you. I worked very hard. MADDOW: I appreciate it. ZUCKERMAN: Thank you. MADDOW: All right. I should note that we invited Frank VanderSloot to join us a number of times, he declined our request. He did however speak with members of my staff today off the record, but would not agree to speak on the record or come on the air. In addition to the statement that he provided to us in regards to Mr. Zuckerman, Mr. VanderSloot also provided us one other statement regarding his involvement in those homosexual lifestyle billboards, those billboards that were put up in Idaho that he helped to finance. You can find both of those statements from Mitt Romney`s national finance co-chair, Frank VanderSloot, posted at our blog, which is And, Mr. VanderSloot, if you are watching, you are still very, very welcome to come on this show. You have my number. All right. Cocktail moment coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: This weekend, there will be arraignments again for five men accused of masterminding and conspiring to pull off the 9/11 attacks. The most famous of the five defendants is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who we used to think of as looking like this. But who now after years in U.S. custody looks more like this. This trial was initially going to be held in real criminal court. In November 2009, the U.S. attorney general announced that a federal court in Manhattan would be the venue. But after an uproar about how awful it would be to try terrorism defendants in real U.S. courts, the administration reversed course. And tomorrow`s arraignment will be held instead at Guantanamo. It will not be a real court trial. It will be a military tribunal. The few terrorism cases that have been pushed through this relatively untested ad hoc military tribunal system have actually produced results more lenient on average than terrorism cases tried in real American courts. But the fear of trying an important terrorism case in a real court in New York is such that many tomorrow`s proceedings will be offshore in Cuba. This week, by the way, there was a conviction in what law enforcement says was the most serious terrorist plot on U.S. soil since 9/11. A real plot by real al Qaeda affiliated terrorists to bomb the New York City subway system in 2009. The conviction was on Tuesday, in federal district court in Brooklyn in New York. I feel the need to tell you it was on Tuesday because when it happened, nobody really noticed. Life went on in Brooklyn and in New York City and in New York state and in America totally uninterrupted. Nobody much noticed, but justice was served in a real court. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Happy Friday. Cocktail moment before we all go to prison. All right. There are three main things we associate with the Kentucky Derby, right? Number one, horses. As in these fellas, these beauties will be running for the roses at Churchill Downs tomorrow with very, very teeny, teeny, teeny, tiny but very strong little men on top of them. Number two, we think of women in bag fancy hats. And number three, we think of a very, very specific preparation of booze. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, now, if here at the derby, you have to have a mint julep. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You have to. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have to. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: You have to. All right. Hard truth time here on THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW. Usually there isn`t any hard truth in the cocktail moment, but hard truth: most people don`t like mint juleps. I don`t mean to offend. I personally love them mint juleps, but I like whiskey straight from the bottle, too. I mean, a mint julep is a really, really strong drink. It`s essentially, if you make it right, it`s essentially just really cold bourbon inflected with minty sweetness. If you are not somebody who love straight whiskey, who is a practiced julep drinker, your first time out, you are probably not going to like your first mint julep if it is made properly, especially if it is made properly. That`s why there are so many things that aren`t really mint juleps masquerading as them, because a real mint julep, people taste it for the first time and go -- arg! And so, people end up like, you know, filling it up with southern comfort or something to make it more palatable. But for tonight`s cocktail moment, ahead of the Kentucky derby, I`m going to do you a favor. Rather than show you how to make a mint julep, which is an acquired taste, I am instead going to show you how to acquire the taste for a mint julep. This is how you train yourself to like the taste of a mint julep if you don`t already like one. And it has the added benefit of being one of the great old man drinks of all time. It`s called the stinger. Is there an old man in your life? Who is a brown liquor drinker? Ask if he likes the stinger. All right. So, a stinger is -- it`s one of those drinks that has slightly different proportions depending on your taste, depending how much of a sweet tooth you have. But the way I make it is two and a quarter ounces off cognac or brand brandy. We`re using cognac. And then -- it`s crazy, it`s going to drive you nuts, creme de menthe. But you have to get the good stuff. You have to get a good brand and you want the white kind, not the green kind. You want three quarters of an ounce of that. You could do less if you want less of a sweet taste. And that`s it. It`s really simple to make. Now, usually any drink that just has spirits in it that doesn`t have any, like fruit juice or milk or anything in it, you would stir instead of shake. But weirdly, with a stinger, you shake this one. So it`s just cognac and cream de menthe. I know it sounds crazy, but this is the kind of the way you have to train yourself in order to be able to drink a julep because all a julep is, is sweetened minty whiskey. So teaching yourself how to drink one, you can maybe start with sweetened minty brandy or cognac. The key and the thing that makes it a lot more palatable and this is true for bad beer too is to make it just absolutely frigid. That`s why you shake it with ice even though it`s only spirits and you pour it over ice. That`s like really lot of ice. It ends up being a very, very cold drink. And it is also an acquired taste but it is now the as acquired a taste as a mint julep. So train yourself up on stingers. Get credit for drinking old man drinks without having to suffer through a Rob Roy and, eventually, you will find yourself being willing to switch your brown liquor for something -- you know, and switch your mint for real mint instead of had something out of a gooey bottle. The recipe of the stinger is on our blog But now, you know where you have to go -- prison. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END