The man running outreach to faith-based communities for Republican Michele Bachmann's presidential nomination campaign has been tied to the key backer of the "Kill the Gays" bill in Uganda.
The Atlanticreports that Peter E. Waldron had tried to be coy about his identity when confronted, at first refusing to provide his name, but journalist Garance Franke-Ruta discovered that the evangelical pastor was once imprisoned in Uganda for a supposed terrorism plot.
A film about Waldron's experience is apparently in the works, titled The Ultimate Price: The Peter E. Waldron Story. While Waldron was in Uganda from 2002 to 2006, the Republican political activist was reportedly arrested with a small weapons cache. The details are murky, but he spent more than a month in prison.
The surfacing of this name, tied to Uganda, got people wondering. And it turns out Waldron was spotted by happenstance while visiting the church of staunchly antigay, and dangerous, pastor Martin Ssempa. A journalist with The New Republic, Andrew Rice, bumped into them together while researching an article on evangelicals in the country.
Ssempa is well known for inflaming violence against gay people in Uganda, even screening gay porn to incite backlash. While no one is reporting that Waldron actively helped push for the "Kill the Gays" bill that is even now still being considered by the country's parliament, Rice says that Waldron regaled Ssempa's congregation with stories and seemed like a minor celebrity. Waldron spoke about his time in the military (which Waldron strongly implied was CIA-related), his visit to the White House, and he bragged about being cozy with the Ugandan president.
"My impression of Waldron at the time was that he was quite a vivid storyteller," wrote Rice on Wednesday. "The world is full of evangelists who confess to all sorts of heinous past sins; a nonbeliever might say that exaggeration makes their testimony about subsequent redemption all that much more powerful. But I wasn't exactly surprised, either, when I got a call from a St. Petersburg Times reporter a couple of years later, telling me the minister had been thrown in jail."
Bachmann has a clear history of antigay rhetoric, and her husband's Christian counseling clinics were found to practice so-called reparative therapy, documented by a hidden-camera investigation by a gay rights group. But The Advocate couldn't find comments on the Ugandan bill. As recently as this weekend, during an interview on Meet the Press, Bachmann claimed not to judge gay people and said they have "honor and dignity." While not asked directly about Waldron's association with the "Kill the Gays" church, the Minnesota congresswoman's press secretary told The Atlantic in a statement in response to his time in prison that Bachmann is sticking by Waldron.
"Michele's faith is an important part of her life and Peter did a tremendous job with our faith outreach in Iowa," Alice Stewart wrote in an email. "We are fortunate to have him on our team and look forward to having him expanding his efforts in several states."