Silly negro minister scares Microsoft
negro ministers, gays, who has more juice
Minister and Microsoft Executive Offer Wildly Different Versions of Meeting
by Sandeep Kaushik
© 2005 The Stranger
The Microsoft Corporation, under sustained fire from gay rights activists, employees, bloggers, and the national media after The Stranger reported last week that the company had withdrawn its support for a state gay rights bill under pressure from a Christian pastor, is disputing fresh claims by the minister that the company shifted its position on the bill in response to his demands.
The Stranger informed the company late Monday afternoon, April 25, that the minister at the center of the controversy, Dr. Ken Hutcherson of the Antioch Bible Church in Redmond, had provided the paper with his recollections of two conversations with Microsoft Senior Vice President and General Counsel Bradford L. Smith during an hour-long interview at the church office that afternoon.
Over the course of the interview, Hutcherson sharply contradicted the company’s public stance in recent days that it had decided to take a neutral stance on the bill prior to meeting with him.
Microsoft, however, continues to stress that this was the case. On Tuesday, April 26, Smith, who is traveling in Europe on company business, contacted The Stranger to offer his own account of what took place. He restated the company’s contention that Microsoft had taken a neutral stand on the bill before ever meeting with the minister, and said that the bulk of the meeting was devoted to clearing up confusion about whether the company officially backed the bill. Smith reiterated that Microsoft had not supported the bill this year, and said the decision to remain neutral on the bill was made last December, well before his initial meeting with the pastor.
“They’re lying,” Hutcherson said flatly when asked about Microsoft’s assertion that its position on the bill was not revised because of the pressure he brought to bear on the company. Hutcherson asserted that the company withdrew its support only after he threatened to organize a national boycott of Microsoft products.
Hutcherson expressed disappointment with Ballmer’s statement—“Steve Ballmer, I believe, is a liar”—and said in no uncertain terms that Microsoft was not being forthright about the substance of the conversations company executives had with him, and about the timing of the company’s decision. “The company lied, and ‘the Black Man’ is not going to lie down and say ‘okay,’” he said, referencing his nickname around the church office. He added, “Evidently they don’t know that I won’t keep my mouth shut about unrighteousness.”
Hutcherson said that he asked for a meeting with Microsoft after becoming upset that two company employees had testified in favor of the bill on February 1. He first met with Smith and three other lower-ranking executives on February 23.
At that meeting, Smith made it clear to the pastor that the company supported the bill, Hutcherson said. Smith told him, he said, that the company had recently been asked by GLEAM, the gay and lesbian employees group at Microsoft, to come out in favor of same-sex marriage, but the company had said no. Smith went on to say that Microsoft did support the anti-discrimination legislation, and he described it as a “civil rights issue”—a red flag for Hutcherson, who is African American—Hutcherson said. The pastor recalled asking Smith a question: “You won’t stand up for two men or two women getting married, but you will put your power behind a guy who wants to dress up in a dress and come to work?”
Smith replied, according to Hutcherson’s recollection, “That’s our policy. We thought this is a good bill to stand behind.” Hutcherson then said he told Smith he would organize a national boycott of the company if it did not withdraw its support for the bill. “You’re not going to like me in your world. I am going to give you something to fear Christians about,” he said he told Smith. “I told him, ‘You have a week,’” to decide, Hutcherson said.
Hutcherson acknowledged that he had suggested that if he were in charge at Microsoft, he would have fired the employees, not for their testimony, but for misrepresenting the company. When Smith told him, at their second meeting in mid-March, that the employees would not be fired, Hutcherson emphasized that he said he told Smith he was fine with that decision, and thought firing them would have been too harsh a punishment.
“He told me that he thought that we should fire the employees,” Smith said. He added, “It didn’t strike me as a situation where it was appropriate to fire people.” He did agree with Hutcherson that the testimony “created the impression that the company was supporting a bill when the company wasn’t involved,” he said, adding, “In my mind, that was what the meeting was about.” Smith also added that Hutcherson had requested that the company issue a letter stating that it was neutral on the bill, or that the bill was unnecessary, but that he declined.
When Smith met with Hutcherson a second time in March, he told the minister that he would not fire the employees, and said he had realized Microsoft need to “tighten up” its government-affairs processes. He told Hutcherson that he had asked the two employees to write a letter to the chair of the House committee that heard their testimony in favor of the bill in which they clarified that they had spoken there as individuals.
Hutcherson said he did not hear back from Smith within a week. He offered a “shot across the bow” by talking about Microsoft’s support for the bill in his church and on the KTTH 770 radio show that he hosts. Some Microsoft employees who worship at his church contacted Smith to let him know that the pastor was being serious, Hutcherson said. He said that eventually Smith agreed to meet with him again sometime in mid-March.
Now Hutcherson is upset with Microsoft, saying company executives are not returning his calls and are trying to back away from their meetings with him. “I’ve called them so many times, more times than Van Camp’s has got pork and beans,” he said. “I want to get Brad [Smith], Steve [Ballmer], and [Bill] Gates to sit down in a room with me so we can get this cleared up real quick.”
Asked if he regrets meeting with Hutcherson, Smith was circumspect. “I think it’s unfortunate the way this whole issue has evolved,” he said. He offered a strong endorsement of the company’s heavy emphasis on diversity. “I regret the company is being depicted by some as a company not committed to those principles.”
Now this is clear as a bell.
First of all, I know why Microsoft dealt so delicately with him. Because he was black. Microsoft has tried very hard to work with black groups to increase computer use, making alliances with Tom Joyner and Tavis Smiley. So when he came stomping in, they were very sensitive to his concerns. But then , like white people, they missed one major fucking point: Hutcherson IS BLACK. Any call for a boycott would have exposed him to widespread ridicule in the black community for being a Republican tool. If their governmental affairs people had more blacks in it, they would have shut his ass down within days. Other Seattle-area pastors could have been rallied to support the company. Because any pastor so worried about gay marriage is a wingnut.
Maybe some white churches would have gone along, but given the endemic racism of most of them, they would have either ignored him or tried to bigfoot him.
The idea that people take him seriously is well, ridiculous. He's a black minister in Seattle. Which isn't exactly the heart of black culture in America. Come on. I get why MS was trying to deal with him, but the smart move would have been to dare him to call his boycott and send an Apple store rep to meet with him. Because this man has no power to organize shit. He may be a big deal in Seattle, but that doesn't carry much weight anywhere outside of Puget Sound. I think they were fooled into thinking this guy had much more juice than he did.
Now, MS is handling him right, ignoring him. They don't need to straighten shit out with him. They need to ignore him, and get some pastors on their side, which should be as easy as funding some computer rooms in their churches.
I understand why gays flipped out, and helped that process along. But if I had known the good reverend was black, I would have had a different response. Because I would have realized that his threat had no teeth. Give black people a choice of computers or homophobia, they're gonna choose computers every time. If he had dared to organize a national boycott, the black media would have ridiculed him as an idiot. He would have been hammered on shows like Tom Joyner for his idiocy. Wasting time on such a tangential issue would have been seen as playing into the hands of the GOP. Instead of causing Microsoft pain, it might have split his church instead.
The only reason they even listened to this crackpot was because he was black. Now, they realize his mega church is just a church and gays can cause them infinitely more pain.
posted by Steve @ 8:40:00 AM