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Santorum Comes Under Heat After Comments Liken Homosexuality to Incest, Other Crimes

Aired April 22, 2003 - 16:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: A Senate Republican leader likens homosexuality to incest and other crimes. Will gay rights groups turn Rick Santorum into the next Trent Lott?

Civil rights groups are angry.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The governor is taking a big, black beehive.

ANNOUNCER: So our sons and daughters of the confederacy. But Georgia lawmakers seem on the brink of approving a new flag anyway.

Hollywood celebrities rolling out the red carpet and opening their wallets for the 2004 Democrats. We'll have the scoop on the stars and their favorite candidates.

Now, live from Washington, JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS.


JUDY WOODRUFF, HOST: Thank you for joining us.

Well, this time it is some comparing what is happening now to Rick Santorum to what happened to Trent Lott a couple of months ago.

As our Jonathan Karl explains, Rick Santorum's remarks about homosexuals offended gay rights, groups and now Senate Democrats are joining the outcry.


JONATHAN KARL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Senator Santorum sparked the controversy when he told the Associated Press, "If the Supreme Court says you have the right to consensual gay sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery, you have the right to anything." Gay Republicans demanded an apology.

PATRICK GUERRUIRD, LOG CABIN REPUBLICANS: If you would ask most Americans if they compare gay and lesbian Americans to polygamists and folks who are involved in incest and the other categories that he used, I think there's very few folks in the mainstream that would articulate those same views.

KARL: But Santorum stands by his comments, saying in a written statement he was specifically talking about the pending case before the Supreme Court on whether states can prosecute homosexuals for having consensual sex. If such laws are struck down, he said, so can laws against polygamy and incest. He added, "I am a firm believer that all are equal under the Constitution. My comments should not be misconstrued in any way as a statement on individual lifestyles."

Santorum is underfire from Democrats and gay Republicans, but he is winning praise from some conservative groups.

GENEVIEVE WOOD, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: And I think the Republican Party would do well to follow Senator Santorum if they want to see pro-family voters show up on Election Day.

KARL: But Santorum's comments may complicate his party's efforts to reach out to gays.

GUERRUIRD: The president has made it clear that his vision of our Republican party is one that is inclusive, and that includes everyone in the American family. And Senator Santorum's comments are counter to the president's position and outreach to all Americans.

KARL: During the 2000 presidential campaign, George W. Bush made a point of meeting with gay Republicans. And at the Republican convention, the party gave gay Congressman Jim Colby a prime-time speaking slot, a move that prompted a silent protest from some of the delegates.


KARL: A slew of Democrats have put out statements condemning Santorum's comments, including Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle, several of the party's candidates for president. And the Democratic senatorial campaign put out a statement calling on Senator Santorum to resign from his leadership position in the Senate. Now, despite all that, the White House has studiously stayed away from making any comments. As a matter of fact, Judy, most Republicans, including the Republican National Committee, have had a simple no comment when asked about this story.

WOODRUFF: So no one, Jonathan Karl, at the White House, or elsewhere, in the Republican leadership is saying whether they support his comments or agree with them?

KARL: No, and as a matter of fact, as you probably know, the White House has not even taken a position on that anti-sodomy case before the Supreme Court.

WOODRUFF: OK. Jon Karl, thank you very much.

Well, former House speaker Newt Gingrich knows a thing or two about controversy and he was back at it today, stirring controversy, that is. In a speech to the American Enterprise Institute Gingrich blasted Colin Powell's State Department and its performance in the lead-up to the war in Iraq.


NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: The last seven months have involved six months of diplomatic failure, and one month of military success. The first days after military victory indicate the pattern of diplomatic failure is beginning once again and threatens to undue the effects of military victory.


WOODRUFF: But the White House is defending Powell, saying that he has been following the president's diplomatic marching orders, that allowed for the military success in Iraq.


ARI FLEISCHER, PRESS SECRETARY, WHITE HOUSE: This is a process that the president decided on in his speech to the United Nations in September. And the fact of the matter is the State Department, Secretary Powell did a excellent job of ushering through the process. There are others who complicated the process in the Security Council that in no way is reflective of the State Department or what the president thinks about the State Department or Secretary Powell's superb efforts.


WOODRUFF: As for the State Department's next step, Newt Gingrich also criticized Secretary Powell's plans to go to Syria, saying that that is ludicrous to meet with the terrorist supporting, secret police wielding dictator, in Gingrich's words.

Well, now we turn to the state of Georgia and the latest round in the long-running feud over the state flag. The state Senate today is debating a plan to give Georgia its third banner in just over two years. The old flag was dominated by the Confederate battle emblem that many African-Americans and others find offensive. So former Democratic Governor Roy Barnes had come up with a compromise that featured many versions of various flags from Georgia's history.

Well, now, newly elected GOP Governor Sonny Perdue has proposed a variation on the Confederate stars and bars. It's a temporary compromise that could become permanent, depending on the outcome of a referendum next year. But some Southern heritage groups say they are still not satisfied. They want to go back to the Georgia flag featuring the controversial rebel x. Civil rights leaders also are rejecting the compromise.


MICHAEL BOND, ATLANTA NAACP: We are here to oppose House Bill 380, which is the flag referendum bill. A choice between two Confederate flags or the Confederate-type flag is no choice for Georgia.


WOODRUFF: These groups may not like it, but the state house in Georgia already has approved that compromised flag. The state Senate is expected to do the same thing.

CNN's Brian Cabell is following the fireworks live at the Georgia state capital. Brian, what is going on right now in the Senate debate?

BRIAN CABELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Judy, the debate continues. And, in fact, it could continue for a good long time. It's unlimited, we are told, which means we could go on into the evening. But the expectation here is certainly that this legislation will pass, and that, in fact, Georgia may have a brand new state flag as early as tomorrow, right after the governor signs it. But as I say, the debate continues hot and heavy here throughout the afternoon.

WOODRUFF: Brian, you've been covering this story for quite some time. It certainly gets a little convoluted at times. But as far as you can tell, how many people are really happy with this latest design of the state flag?

CABELL: Now an awful lot of people are happy with it, but nobody is happy with any of the flags, it seems. Of course, African- Americans don't like the 1956 flag, the one with the Confederate battle banner, the battle emblem. They certainly don't like that. Nobody seems to have liked the one that was imposed in 2001. It was more or less strong armed through the state legislature by Roy Barnes. And so now they have come up with a brand new one that people aren't especially happy with, but it's something new. And so there is a hope that perhaps they can find a compromise on this one.

But right now, we're looking at four flags. We're talking about a pre-1956 flag. We're talking about a '56 flag. We're talking about a 2001 flag, and now we're talking about a proposed flag. And I'm told there are only six of those existing right now. And, as I say, if this legislation passes today, that one may go up as early as tomorrow.

WOODRUFF: Brian is there a clear political winner or clear loser out of all of this?

CABELL: Probably not at this point. Certainly Governor Perdue was the within who raised this issue in the election campaign. Some say he was appealing to the rural Democrats who wanted the old state flag, the objectionable one. But some people have said he's raised the issue, and now he's going to back off and said, you take care of it. So, he certainly hasn't emerge as a leader so much here. And nobody else has really come to the fore at this point. We're going to have to wait and see what happens. But certainly over the next year, Georgians may well be voting on this, another March referendum as to whether they want this new flag, or they want to go back to another flag.

So, nobody is really a leader at this point, Judy. WOODRUFF: And it also sounds like the real test is just keeping these flags straight. All right, Brian Cabell reporting on this debate from the Georgia State Senate.

Brian, thanks very much - the state capital in Atlanta.

Well, back here in Washington, question, how much does the Bush administration want to win in the battle over tax cuts?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are three very important reasons to pass all elements of the plan. And the first one is jobs, and the second one is jobs and the third one is jobs.

WOODRUFF: I'll talk with Commerce Secretary Don Evans about the President's expectations for the economy and the political battle in Congress.

The Democratic presidential candidates are seeing dollar signs and stars in their eyes. We'll find out who is cashing in on their Hollywood connections.

And there will not be any hooters girls in the show. We'll tell you why. That is a political story. Stay with us.


WOODRUFF: The news perhaps comes as no surprise, but the Reverend Al Sharpton today announced plans to file a statement of candidacy with the Federal Election Commission. The move makes him an official candidate for the White House. Sharpton is the last of the nine Democratic hopefuls so far to file with the FEC.

But Sharpton is not the only Democrat making news today. Coming up, the latest from the campaign trail. Will former presidential candidate Gary Hart once again jump into the race for the White House?

We're back in 90 seconds.


WOODRUFF: President Bush today endorsed Alan Greenspan for another four-year term as chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank. Greenspan, who is 77, was scheduled to undergo prostate surgery today. He is expected back at work soon. Greenspan has served as fed chairman since 1987.

Well, Alan Greenspan was criticized by some Republicans this year when he downplayed the need for new tax cuts to stimulate the economy. Earlier, I spoke with Commerce Secretary Don Evans about the president's tax cut plans, since it looks as if the president won't get the entire $726 billion tax cut package he first proposed. I asked the secretary which is more of a priority, cutting dividend taxes or lowering individual tax rates?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) DON EVANS, SECRETARY OF COMMERCE: Judy, I'm going to continue to fight for the entire plan. You are accurate in saying it looks like it's unlikely that he'll get the full plan inside the budget resolution process. But, as you know, I mean, we can request additional tax cuts outside the budget resolution process. So you are getting kind of down in the technicalities of this. But I'm going to continue to fight for the president's full plan.

WOODRUFF: Well, let me ask you about cutting the dividend tax rate encourages savings and investment. But cutting individual tax rates encourages spending. Aren't those two things at cross purposes?

EVANS: Well, you know, Judy, as you know, when people spend more money, that means consumption. In order to take care of that consumption requires more investment, which leads to more jobs. And so it's just the cycle of consumption leads to investment, which leads to the creation of more jobs. And so all elements of the package really contribute to creating the environment for creating more jobs in America.

WOODRUFF: Where now ...

EVANS: I was just going to say, we're now reading the president is considering phasing this in.

WOODRUFF: But if you do that, aren't you losing the stimulative effect that was the original purpose of this plan?

EVANS: Well, we're going to continue to fight for getting all of it as soon as possible. As you know, the president had asked for the acceleration of the marginal rates to be retroactive to 2003. And we're going to continue to fight for that, continue to fight for the elimination of double taxation on dividends. You know, the war is obviously moving behind us. That's going to create more certainty for people in this economy, more confidence, I think, more consumer confidence, more investment confidence, more business confidence. But, you know, I think all elements of this plan are very, very important, not only for short-term stimulus, but for medium and long- term stimulus as well.

WOODRUFF: You say you're going to push for the whole thing. But you've got two -- at least two moderate Republican senators, Senators Voinovich and Snowe, who say they are not going to go anywhere higher than $350 billion. How do you get them to budge without cutting spending in ways that they're not going to go along with?

EVANS: Well, listen, we're going to continue to talk to the American people. And certainly, Judy, as I've traveled America over the last 3 1/2 months or so, I must tell you, as I talk to workers on the shop floors, as I talk to small business owners, as I talk to families, as I talk to other business leaders, the American people want all elements of this president's plan approved and passed. And so, you know, we're going to continue to fight for all of it, and continue to work with those senators who haven't quite been persuaded yet. WOODRUFF: Did senators Grassley and Nichols, who were certainly allies of the president, did they let the president down, though, by going along with what Senators Voinovich, and Snowe and the others wanted, who were really passionate about this tax cut?

EVANS: No, Judy, listen. Again, you're talking about what's going on inside the budget resolution reconciliation process. And they had their responsibilities in the Senate. Senator Nichols is the chairman of the Budget Committee, and Senator Grassley is the chairman of the Finance Committee. And so, they must continue to work the process as hard as they can. But this is all within the budget resolution reconciliation process.

WOODRUFF: So all is forgiven?

EVANS: There is work that can be done outside of that.

WOODRUFF: So all is forgiven?

EVANS: Well, we're going to continue to work with them. Listen, they are our friends. They are our allies. They have been great supporters of the president. They really were strong advocates for the president's 2001 tax cut. And part of this plan, all we're talking about doing is accelerating the tax cuts that were approved two years ago.


WOODRUFF: That was Commerce Secretary Don Evans talking to us today from Pennsylvania.

Still ahead, which Democrats are saying hooray for Hollywood? Which stars have leading roles in the presidential money race?


WOODRUFF: Checking the headlines in our "Campaign News Daily." Former Senator Gary Hart is still weighing another run for the White House, and if he joins the race, he expects a lot of help. Hart told an audience in New Mexico last night that Republicans should not underestimate him. In his words, I think if I run, we will have 50,000 volunteers by July.

Senator John Kerry is using this Earth Day to warn against pollution in low-income urban areas. Kerry proposed the creation of the new environmental justice position at the EPA, as well as a system to track child asthma and other diseases with environmental links.

Former Democratic Senator Bob Torricelli recently used cash remaining in his own campaign fund to back one of the Democratic presidential hopefuls. FEC records show Torricelli recently gave $2,000 to the White House campaign of Congressman Dick Gephardt. The records show Torricelli has not donated to any of his former Democratic Senate colleagues who are now running for president.

Well, getting campaign cash from Bob Torricelli may be helpful. But in the eyes of many Democrats, getting donations from Hollywood celebrities is priceless. Our senior political correspondent Candy Crowley has more on the stars and their feature roles in the money race.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): All told, the nine Democratic presidential hopefuls raised almost $24 million in the first quarter of this year. It came in checks of $2,000 or less from about 22,000 Americans. And, therein, lie the footnotes of fund-raising. For instance, what do you suppose the real-life dinner conversations are like at the home of Malcolm's mom, who is really married to President Bartlet's deputy chief of staff. He gave $2,000 to real candidate Dick Gephardt. She did the same for also real Howard Dean.

Dean emerges as a Hollywood fave. What meathead you ask would donate to Dean? This one. No calls, please. Rob Reiner did play a character called meathead, a liberal in the conservative home of Archie Bunker. He doesn't really live with Archie, but he really is a liberal. Also on the Dean bandwagon, Nash and band buddy Crosby. Stills was mum in the first quarter. But here's a hint. When John Kerry ran unopposed for his Senate seat last year, Stills was a contributor. Dean also picked up two grand from Michael Douglas who can afford it now. He has another little tax deduction.

John Edwards who raised more money in the first quarter than any other candidate got a thousand of it from half of Hollywood's version of regular people - actress Rita Wilson, who is married to Tom Hanks. And Joe Lieberman who once told Hollywood to clean up his act, picked up $2,000 from "Will and Grace" star Debra Messing. And Monty Hall gave Lieberman $250, but maybe Lieberman will also get whatever is behind curtain two.

A final oddity, of donors who gave over $200 to any campaign, how many do you suppose were from Iowa, home of the presidential season's first contest? Of nearly 22,000 people who gave money, 45 were from Iowa. One hundred and thirty one wrote checks out of New Hampshire. But candidates don't look for money in Iowa and New Hampshire. They look for buzz and momentum, which they use to go raise money where it is, California. Nearly every major candidate had more donors and raised more money in California than anywhere else. New York was a close second.


CROWLEY: Even more important to campaigns than the people who give $2,000 are the people who get a lot of other people to give $2,000. The campaign of Senator John Kerry says it has regular conference calls to keep its key supporters up to date on campaign plans and developments. There are also weekly e-mails and face-to- face meetings. The next one for the Kerry money team is, in fact, next week here in Washington -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: And we want to have you back to find out if anyone in Hollywood is giving to the president. Something else for us to work on. Candy Crowley, thanks very much.

Up next, find out who is flying high, courtesy of the company behind Hooters.


WOODRUFF: Well, it certainly looks like things are starting to get back to normal here in Washington. Limited tours of the White House started back up today. They had been on hold since the September 11 terrorist attacks. School, military and veterans groups can once again book tours. However, public tours remain suspended and there's no word yet on when they will resume.

INSIDE POLITICS continues in one minute.



WOODRUFF: And this final story: retired Senator Strom Thurmond has never made a secret about his fondness for young, pretty women. So some think Thurmond's travel plans in South Carolina next month are rather fitting.

He'll fly to his first public appearance since returning to his home state aboard the private jet of a Hooters Air executive. Hooters Air is a spin-off of a restaurant chain known for its scantily clad waitresses. But a local Republican official insists there will not be any Hooters girls onboard with the 100-year-old Thurmond. Smiles.

That's it for INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Judy Woodruff. Thanks for joining us.


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