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Olbermann Ties Stabbing to Ground Zero Mosque Opposition, GOP Strategy is 'Hate'

On Thursday's Countdown show, MSNBC host Keith Olbermann tied together Republican opposition to same-sex marriage, the Ground Zero mosque, and illegal immigration, as he charged that "the Republican method" for electoral success is "hate." The MSNBC host opened the show: "The Republican method for winning elections is hate. Hate somebody. Anybody will do. We have seen it this year with immigrants and now, Muslims. And now, in our fifth story tonight: for the first time, we have a former head of the Republican party confirming that, yes, his party does it. They do it to win and did it in 2004 and 2006 against gay Americans. He said this even though he himself is no longer denying that he, too, is gay."

Without evidence, Olbermann also blamed the stabbing of New York City cab driver Ahmed Sharif on those who oppose construction of a mosque near Ground Zero. Although he later admitted that the mosque was not mentioned by the suspect, the MSNBC host suggested a link as he teased the show:

KEITH OLBERMANN: Karl Rove and the GOP targeted a minority group with fear and hate and legislation in 2004 and 2006 - gays, like Ken Mehlman. And now, the GOP is doing it again - same tactics, different group.

CLIP OF AD: For centuries, Muslims built mosques where they won military victories. Now, they want to build a mosque at Ground Zero.

OLBERMANN: An ad by Larry McCarthy, who was behind the Willie Horton commercial. And the newest ads' metaphorical newest victim.

AHMED SHARIF, STABBING VICTIM: I see his face. There's so much anger and mad at me, and hate. I asked him, "Please, don't kill me. Why do you have to kill me? What I did?"

Unlike Olbermann, on the same day's World News on ABC, correspondent Jeremy Hubbard noted that the suspect, Michael Enright, was involved with a peace group that supports building a mosque near Ground Zero.

As he discussed with columnist Dan Savage former RNC chairman Ken Mehlman's recent admission that he is gay, Olbermann and Savage both dismissed Mehlman's contention that Republicans should get credit from homosexuals for opposing radical Islam because of the movement's anti-gay nature:

OLBERMANN: Mr. Mehlman's suggestion that gay voters ought to vote Republican to oppose the greatest anti-gay force in the world, he`s not out of several other closets of self-delusion, is he?

DAN SAVAGE, COLUMNIST: No. The Bush administration did nothing in the wake of the fall of Baghdad and toppling the Saddam Hussein regime to stop the anti-gay death squads that were roaming Iraq in the first five or six years of the war, murdering gays and lesbians, mostly gay men, with impunity all over Iraq. So, no, and Mehlman didn't speak out, didn`t say anything about that at the time either. No credibility there either.

Later in the same segment, Olbermann also erroneously showed a clip of the Willie Horton ad from the 1988 campaign which showed Horton's mugshot, suggesting that the ad was a product of the George H.W. Bush presidential campaign when, in reality, the Bush ad that referenced Horton never used his image. Olbermann:

The same party that gave us the Mehlman strategy, that gave us the Southern strategy of race-baiting that lived on in campaigns like the Willie Horton ad the first President Bush ran against Mike Dukakis, is today using the same tactic against Muslims, using anti- Muslim hysteria to drum up votes.

Below is a transcript of the relevant portion of the Thursday, August 26 Countdown show on MSNBC, with critical portions in bold:

KEITH OLBERMANN, IN OPENING TEASER: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow? The other revelation of the former chairman of the Republican National Committee: Karl Rove and the GOP targeted a minority group with fear and hate and legislation in 2004 and 2006 - gays, like Ken Mehlman. And now, the GOP is doing it again - same tactics, different group.

CLIP OF AD: For centuries, Muslims built mosques where they won military victories. Now, they want to build a mosque at Ground Zero.

OLBERMANN: An ad by Larry McCarthy, who was behind the Willie Horton commercial. And the newest ads' metaphorical newest victim.

AHMED SHARIF, STABBING VICTIM: I see his face. There's so much anger and mad at me, and hate. I asked him, "Please, don't kill me. Why do you have to kill me? What I did?"

OLBERMANN: Our guest, Congressman Keith Ellison of Minnesota.

The GOP's next targeted group:

JOHN BOEHNER, HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: It's just nonsense to think that taxpayers are subsidizing the fattened salaries and pensions of federal bureaucrats who are out there making it harder to create public sector jobs.

OLBERMANN: Federal bureaucrats like his staff and himself, and "John of Orange" himself.

...

OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York. The Republican method for winning elections is hate. Hate somebody. Anybody will do. We have seen it this year with immigrants and now, Muslims. And now, in our fifth story tonight: For the first time, we have a former head of the Republican party confirming that, yes, his party does it. They do it to win and did it in 2004 and 2006 against gay Americans. He said this even though he himself is no longer denying that he, too, is gay.

Ken Mehlman, former chairman of the Republican National Committee, is the most powerful Republican confirmed to be gay, Mehlman outing himself. In an interview with the Atlantic magazine`s Web site, Mehlman also confirming years of accusations that the Republican party, when he was the Bush/Cheney campaign manager in 2004 and again as RNC chief in 2006, used a strategy of putting anti-gay measures, specifically limiting the right to marry, on state ballots around the country. Mehlman, the Atlantic reports, quote, "was aware that Karl Rove, President Bush's chief strategic advisor, had been working with Republicans to make sure that anti-gay initiatives and referenda would appear on November ballots in 2004 and 2006 to help Republicans.

Mehlman telling Advocate.com, quote, "There were a lot of people, including people that supported the federal marriage amendments, for example, that worried about this being divisive." Mehlman today told the Advocate, quote, "I think if you look at the 11 states where there were marriage amendments on the ballot in terms of numbers, Bush's relative improvement versus the 2000 campaign was less than in the other states. I think President Bush won, in my judgment, because of, most importantly, national security."

Of course, marriage amendments only got on the ballot in states that were primarily Bush country anyway. But one state can tip an election - like Ohio did - Ohio, which had one of those 11 marriage initiatives on the ballot, a fact political analysts said in 2004 was essential to Mr. Bush's victory there. Mr. Bush only won Ohio by 136,000. It gave him the presidency. Family Research Council president, Tony Perkins, telling the Washington Post in 2004 that gay marriage was, quote, "the hood ornament on the family values wagon that carried the President to a second term." Rove had famously predicted that Mr. Bush, having lost the popular vote in 2000, would need four million more evangelical Christian votes in 2004. Prior to the election, Rove and Mehlman held weekly conference calls with leaders from the religious right. By Election Day, they had anti-gay marriage initiatives on the ballots in 11 states, most of the states Bush would have won anyway, but also in states like Ohio and in Kentucky, where Republican Senator Jim Bunning was in jeopardy, and, without Mr. Bush campaigning heavily in the state considered safe Bush territory, an anti-gay marriage initiative helped turn out evangelical voters who also propelled Bunning to victory.

Mr. Mehlman today is an investment executive. He's now an advocate for gay marriage but remains a Republican, telling the Atlantic that gay people should support Republicans because Republicans oppose Islamic jihad, which is, quote, "the greatest anti-gay force in the world."

Let's turn to syndicated columnist, Dan Savage, editorial director for the Seattle newspaper, the Stranger, and author of "The Commitment: Love, Sex, Marriage, and My Family." Dan, good evening.

DAN SAVAGE, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN: How does the history of 2004 look now that we have this admission from Mr. Mehlman? Both admissions, I should say.

SAVAGE: Well, this admission doesn't shock anybody in the gay community. This is really on the par with Ricky Martin coming out if Ricky Martin had had a hand in the insanely homophobic Bush campaign in 2004, which of course, he did not. Wake me when Levi Johnston comes out.

OLBERMANN: Mr. Mehlman says about critics of his role in that, what is bluntly an anti-gay strategy: "If they can't offer support, at least offer understanding." Over to you.

SAVAGE: We understand. We understand that Ken Mehlman had a chance to come out when he could have made a difference. And now, he's only out and needs to make amends and has a great deal of amends to make. We understand that he rose quickly through the ranks in the Republican party and wound up at the top.

And, like a lot of gay people, perhaps was closeted and suppressing his desires and channeling all of his energies into work. That doesn't excuse his role in fomenting anti-gay bigotry in this country and putting off the day when gay and lesbian people in America enjoy our full civil equality. He has a lot of amends to make. And one fund-raiser for a marriage equality organization isn't going to do it.

OLBERMANN: Mr. Mehlman's suggestion that gay voters ought to vote Republican to oppose the greatest anti-gay force in the world, he's not out of several other closets of self-delusion, is he?

SAVAGE: No. The Bush administration did nothing in the wake of the fall of Baghdad and toppling the Saddam Hussein regime to stop the anti-gay death squads that were roaming Iraq in the first five or six years of the war, murdering gays and lesbians, mostly gay men, with impunity all over Iraq. So, no, and Mehlman didn't speak out, didn't say anything about that at the time either. No credibility there either.

OLBERMANN: He was widely praised for acknowledging and regretting the Republican Southern Strategy, which, of course, stoked white racial hatred and particularly fear against blacks to turn out the white vote, '60s, '70s to some degree, maybe the '80s, maybe the '90s.

We now know he was saying this at the same time that he has executing the same strategy, just a different target group: gays. And now, he wants Americans to vote for the party that is currently doing the same exact thing, using the same exact strategy, with a new fill in the blank, only it's, you know, earlier this year, immigrants, now, more Muslims. We may come back to immigrants. It's hard to tell. How does this cycle end if it does, Dan?

SAVAGE: I think it ends six years ago from now in 2016 when then-former RNC chair, Michael Steele, comes out as a Muslim. I don't know when it ends. Will they ever run out of people to hate and to campaign against and to vilify? They can't run on their economic record. Whenever the Republicans are in charge, they drive the car into the ditch, as President Obama is running around saying. So they have to hate and they have to stoke hate to drive voters and to scare voters, to scare their evangelical white Southern shrinking base to the polls. It's disgusting and it needs to stop. And I`m in despair of really it ever stopping.

OLBERMANN: And I shouldn't diminish the importance of this particular nature, this particular example of this strategy because it also involves people directing hatred towards a group to which they belong but cannot or will not say they belong. There's an extra dimension that really is tragic to it, is it not?

SAVAGE: It is tragic. And it's a particularly gay tragedy, because we have the option of coming out or not coming out. Living with integrity or not living with integrity. Selling our souls as Ken Mehlman did, or not selling our souls. And it's Ken Mehlman's personal tragedy, but it's also, the damage he inflicted, the role he played, it's inexcusable. And, again, as I said earlier, he has a lot of amends to make, more than one fund-raiser. And, hopefully, he is confronting not just his own conscience but people in his political party, his so-called political allies, about their homophobia, about the Republican party`s homophobia.

OLBERMANN: Columnist Dan Savage, also of Seattle`s newspaper, the Stranger, author of "The Commitment," thanks as always for your time, Dan.

SAVAGE: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: The same party that gave us the Mehlman strategy, that gave us the Southern strategy of race-baiting that lived on in campaigns like the Willie Horton ad the first President Bush ran against Mike Dukakis, is today using the same tactic against Muslims, using anti- Muslim hysteria to drum up votes. In this case, a new ad you're looking at now, false and misleading, about the proposed Islamic center, Park 51, near Ground Zero, targeting Iowa Democrat Bruce Braley, introduced by, literally, the same GOP firm that made the Willie Horton ad. Intentionally divisive? Openly divisive? Listen to Republican Congressman John Fleming talk about his Democratic opponent, an opponent who is literally a Methodist pastor.

REP. JOHN FLEMING (R-LA), AUDIO: He's going to say, you know, we need to get along better. We need to work and we need to stretch across the aisle. We have two competing world views here, and there is no way that we're going to reach across the aisle. One is going to have to win. We're either going to have to go down the socialist road and become like Western Europe and create, I guess, really a godless society, an atheist society, or we're going to continue down the other pathway where we believe in freedom of speech, individual liberties, and we remain a Christian nation. So we're going to have to win that battle-

OLBERMANN: So, there you have it, Christian or atheist. In New York today, we learned that the man who attacked a Muslim cab driver here did not mention the Islamic center proposed for just over two blocks from Ground Zero. But the religion that has been vilified by mosque opponents, vilified by Republican politicians heading into this year's election, that religion, the knife-wielding attacker certainly did mention that religion.

SHARIF: He asked me where I'm from. I answer him, Bangladesh. Then question, am I Muslim? Yes, I am Muslim. Then he told me, Assalamu Alaikum, I return, Wa Alaikum Assalam. And said this month of Ramadan, how I'm doing. I said, I'm doing good today. And he started making fun of the month of Ramadan. Then I decided to keep my mouth shout.

He started yelling and screaming, "This is the check post, this is the check post, you mother (BLEEP). I have to put you down." This is the time. I have to take King Abdullah to the check point. I said, "What are you talking about? What check point? What are you talking about?" In this time, I saw the knife coming to my neck.

OLBERMANN: Let's turn to Democratic Congressman Keith Ellison of Minnesota, the first Muslim to serve in the U.S. Congress. Congressman, thank you for your time tonight.

REP. KEITH ELLISON (D-MN): Pleased to be here, Keith. How are you?

OLBERMANN: Oh, disturbed, I guess that's a good word for it.

ELLISON: Yeah.

OLBERMANN: Mr. Fleming of the House says our choice is between a society that is officially godless, or being a Christian nation. Isn't that a choice that we made already a couple of hundred years ago, or am I misreading documents?

ELLISON: Yeah, well, I'll tell you, I think that Thomas Jefferson would be shocked to hear that's the choice in front of us. I think we have a choice between religious freedom or religious intolerance. And unfortunately, Mr. Fleming is choosing intolerance. You know, it's so important, I mean, look, they have created a social, political cultural environment where somebody thinks it's a good idea to attack a person with a knife because they're Muslim. You know, political rhetoric has consequences. And I believe that we are, they are lighting a match on a very dangerous set of circumstances, one of which we just heard about.

OLBERMANN: The Southern Strategy that we talked about, the Mehlman strategy, the anti-immigrant strategy, anti-Hispanic strategy from earlier this year, now, anti-Muslim. What, what is this?

ELLISON: Well, this is distraction and diversion. I mean, it's true, it's true agitation of people's hatreds, but really, it's because, you know, they have a failed economic program and they don't want people to look at it. So what they do is they appeal to people's worse most base instincts, which is to hate the other. And this is something that, as you correctly point out, is tried and unfortunately true. But, you know, you remember, Reagan was talking about welfare queens. And now, and then we went on to Willie Horton. And then we went on to, I mean, just the, just the divisive thing that they come up with a new one every single election. And when the vast majority of Americans wake up to this and reach out to each other and not on each other, then they will not be able to pull it.

OLBERMANN: Is that the only solution of this? Because it does seem that this pattern is repeating, just with a different "fill in the blank" here. I mean, if Republicans swap out a different group to target every year, why haven't Democrats figured out a way to beat it every year?

ELLISON: Well, because I think that we have too many Democrats who operate on a basis of fear. You know, if we would just stand up and say, look, you know, we have a First Amendment and a heritage of religious tolerance that we are proud of and we are not going to back off of that, we would win. That would be winning election strategy. It would be good policy, it would be good politics. But so often, they catch us by surprise, and we end up trying to triangulate and capitulating. And it's just a sad thing. I ask Democrats, progressives, liberals, to stand up and be proud of our Constitution and be proud of our heritage of equality, liberty. And because if we don`t stand up for these ideals, the people who want to divide us and whip up hate and division, they will be active, and, unfortunately, they may be successful.

OLBERMANN: Where we started this segment, Congressman, with Ken Mehlman, not so much his personal revelations but his revelations about what was strategitized in terms of putting these anti-gay measures on the ballots in '04 and '06 to bring out the Republican base and a little more.

Do you have any response to what he also said in this, which, where he said gay people should vote for Republicans because Republicans oppose Islamic jihad, which he called the greatest anti-gay force in the world?

ELLISON: You know, that just says to me that Mr. Mehlman still has not woken up. He still is stuck on trying to vilify and scapegoat people. I mean, I would hope that he would make a real change and really turn over a new leaf and say, you know what, scapegoating gays is wrong, scapegoating Muslims is wrong, Catholics, let's just get out of that and really get a public ethic where we try to get Americans to come together around these basic issues of identity and respect. So, you know, he still hasn't gotten it. And, unfortunately, you know, he's still suffering some similar delusion that kept him being dishonest for so long.

OLBERMANN: Congressman Keith Ellison of Minnesota, it's always a pleasure. Thanks for your time.

ELLISON: Thank you.

OLBERMANN: Think the GOP has run out of minority groups to target and smear? No. Next, John Boehner attacks those federal bureaucrats with fattened salaries and pensions. federal bureaucrats, like John Boehner.

-Brad Wilmouth is a news analyst at the Media Research Center.