Why did Michele Bachmann hire an accused terrorist and ex-spy who pals around with a central figure in the Ugandan effort to make homosexuality a crime punishable by death?
Peter Waldron is a Christian pastor and on-the-ground organizer for the Bachmann campaign in Iowa. He is also, as The Atlantic's Garance Franke-Ruta reported this week, an accused terrorist who spent 37 days in a Ugandan prison after officials there found him with a cache of assault rifles and ammunition in 2006.
Weird, huh? He's also a self-promoting globe-trotting raconteur who actively encourages the perception that he is a U.S. intelligence operative. And, as reporter Andrew Rice—who met Waldron in Uganda in 2004—notes, he is pals with a Ugandan minister named Martin Ssempa: "The Sunday I attended Ssempa's church, after he finished his sermon, the pastor told his audience that he had a special guest to introduce, a visitor from the United States. All eyes fixed on a stocky white man with a thick moustache, who wore a gray safari suit. He introduced himself as Dr. Peter Waldron, of Wyoming."
Ssempa is one of the chief proponents of Uganda's so-called "Kill the Gays" bill, which would criminalize homosexuality and introduce the death penalty in certain cases (it's currently tabled in the Ugandan parliament). He preaches that gay people "eat poop" and shows gay pornography in his church to disgust and inflame his followers. He's no stranger to American evangelicals—Rick Warren has hosted Ssempa many times at his Saddleback Church in Southern California. As MSNBC's Rachel Maddow has repeatedly demonstrated, Uganda is sort of a playground for right-wing American Christianist politicians, who view it as a laboratory of sorts for theocratic policy initiatives. Sen. James Inhofe is a frequent visitor.
On her Meet the Press appearance last weekend, Bachmann tried to play down her gay hatred, claiming that she "doesn't judge" people and believes that gay people deserve to be treated with "honor and dignity." But she's sticking by Waldron, who hangs around with people who think gay people ought to be killed by the state on account of what they do with their private parts. Don't Tread on Me!
[Photo of Bachmann via Getty Images. Photo of Waldron via AP]