Austin Petersen has been touring the conservative radio circuit recently talking up his pro-life bonafides. His appearances on the Dana Show have gone well but that wasn’t the case this time. Petersen’s main selling point for his candidacy is that he can bring conservatives in because he is the only pro-life candidate left in the race. That’s the message Petersen took on the Steve Deace Show but it was not a successful venture – at all. After Petersen introduced himself, the famously pro-life host immediately went to abortion and it all went downhill from there. Steve Deace wasn’t impressed with Austin Petersen’s pro-life stance or his answer on the 14th Amendment.
It all starts about one third of the way through the embedded clip above. Petersen initially explain that he’s pro-life and wants to repeal Roe v Wade so abortion could be a state issue. He would also support legislation making birth control over the counter. This would reduce unwanted pregnancies, thereby reducing the demand for abortion.
One of the show’s producers wasn’t satisfied with Petersen’s initial answer on abortion and his belief that it shouldn’t be Federally legislated. He pressed Petersen and that’s where the interview started heating up. Petersen mocked conservatives by implying that the pro-lifers would require pregnant women to wear a “tracking bracelet”. He suggested that in order to enforce abortion laws it would require a totalitarian state akin to “East Germany”. That certainly wasn’t the right way to go about it. Before Deace could respond Austin was saved by the commercial break.
When they got back Deace went right back into it though. To match Petersen’s tone, Deace condescendingly asked him “how is someone alive in one state but dead in another?”. In other words, how could abortion possibly be legal in one state but illegal in another. Petersen explained that he favored Rand Paul’s ‘Personhood’ bill but that didn’t seem to satisfy Deace. They moved on to other issues after that. It got better from there and Petersen explained many of his other positions. They should have stayed in mutually agreeable territory but it wasn’t meant to be.
Steve Deace dug up one of Austin Petersen’s old podcasts wherein he declared his support for the Supreme Court ruling gay marriage legal nationwide. Deace played a clip where Austin professed his support of the 14th Amendment as applying to gay marriage and that he didn’t “have hate in [his] heart”. That last line is where Deace pressed him asking “I think marriage is an institution Austin, ordained by God, do I have hate in my heart?” and following up asking “do the people in my audience who feel that way… have hate in their hearts?”. Instead of instantly replying “No!”, Petersen said that he would “have to ask them individually”. Insulting the host and his audience was another big mistake.
Petersen followed that up by bringing in the Westboro Baptist Church as an example which only further annoyed Deace. Then there was the icing on the cake. Deace repeated that he asked Petersen whether or not Deace personally has hate in his heart. To which, Petersen replied “I don’t know, I don’t know you”. Instead of apologizing, he doubled down that conservatives might have hate in their heart for supporting traditional marriage. Petersen might not have been trying to insult conservatives with his defense but it certainly came off that way.
It didn’t get any better after that point. The two then went into the 14th Amendment and Ron Paul fan’s varying opinions on it. While libertarians appreciate the 14th they certainly don’t appreciate the way that it has been applied. While it was written to apply specifically to Constitutional rights, it has often been used as the justification for federalizing other issues that should be left to the states. Deace and Petersen disagree there once more.
Finally, Steve Deace couldn’t take it anymore and told Austin Petersen straight up that he’s “trying to figure out is if somebody’s asking for my vote who thinks I’m a hate monger”. Deflecting again, Petersen said that he thought there are some people who are hate mongers and he has a free speech right to say so. At that point the interview had devolved so far that Deace offered Petersen a way out but he didn’t take it. Unfortunately, Austin Petersen stuck around and just kept digging the hole deeper and deeper.
When the show returned from commercial break things continued to get worse. Deace jumped right back into abortion with another question for Petersen about the 14th Amendment. A listener wanted to know how the Supreme Court could make gay marriage legal nationwide but not outlaw abortion nationwide. This time, Petersen implied that abortion being illegal would create an “authoritarian state like Venezuela”. That pig didn’t fly either. Deace immediately shot back asking if the 13th Amendment created such a state. To which Petersen asked whether or not conservatives wanted to “have a civil war over abortion”.
Petersen tried to explain that there’s a difference between processes and outcomes but Deace took that as meaning Petersen was trying to use the means to justify the ends like a progressive. Finally, the interview reached it’s climax when Petersen again declared he wouldn’t put a “tracking bracelet” on a pregnant woman. Deace was as flabbergasted as his audience must have been because he’s never heard that argument in his life. A statement that Petersen added insult to injury to by questioning.
The low point came when Steve Deace insultingly asked “why can’t we use the same tools to let people smoke weed, and to let people sodomize each other and call it a relationship, why can’t we use those same tools to save babies?”. You read that right, he actually said that. Petersen replied he didn’t know what the hell Deace was talking about and the interview was pretty much over after that point.
Shortly after the interview Deace took to his Facebook page to explain what went wrong. In response to that statement and the interview, Austin Petersen took to his own Facebook page to write:
Many conservatives are upset that I will not create an authoritarian government to stop abortions, and that I do not agree with their position on gay marriage. That’s disappointing, but to be expected as I am not conservative in any way other than fiscally. We’ll build a coalition of people who want adherence to free markets, limited government, and the constitution. However, I will not preach a message of hate, exclusion, or discrimination. I won’t use the government to stop you from doing so. I may disagree with what you have to say, but I defend to the death your right to say it. I’m pro-life, pro-guns, pro-drug legalization, pro-gay marriage, and pro freedom. Libertarian. Not conservative.
It’s a real shame that this interview had to turn out that way. As the only pro-life candidate, Austin Petersen had a great case to make to social conservatives. But, for lack of a better term, Austin Petersen’s interview with Steve Deace was a train wreck. It was a train wreck that went off the rails at the top of a mountain and rolled all the way down into oblivion. Instead of trying to steer the interview away from abortion and gay marriage towards mutually agreeable ground, they mud wrestled over those irreconcilable issues.
Neither side convinced the other on anything and it was openly hostile between the two at several points. If anything, conservatives are less likely to look at libertarians after hearing this. Unfortunately, and it is truly unfortunate, Austin Petersen accomplished the opposite of his goal. Perhaps he’ll be able to make a better case in the future if he can learn from the mistakes made here. Libertarians do need to reach out to conservatives and this should not be the end of that road.