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Dr. James Dobson on the Battle Over Stem Cell Research

This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," August 8, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

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ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: The battle over stem-cell research is getting down and dirty after Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist dramatically switched positions on the issue a week and a half ago. Supporters and opponents have once again made themselves more vocal.

And that includes the founder of Focus on the Family, Dr. James Dobson, who found himself in the crosshairs last week after saying in one of his radio addresses that the Nazis also experimented on human beings during World War II. Dr. Dobson joins us, now, in his first television interview since the controversy erupted last week.

Dr. Dobson, thank you for being on the show.

DR. JAMES DOBSON, FOUNDER, FOCUS ON THE FAMILY: Alan, good to talk to you again, and welcome back.

COLMES: Thank you, sir. What happened?

DOBSON: What happened with what?

COLMES: Well, why this controversy? You said on your radio show something about comparing stem cells to Nazis. And you said that you imagined if you had wanted to take the time to read about it, there would have been some discoveries there that benefited mankind. And can you understand why there might be some people upset about that analogy?

DOBSON: Well, I think they'd probably be less upset if they knew what I really said. — And what you just said is not what I said. — What I was talking about is that embryonic stem cells inevitably leads to the death of an embryo, which starts, by the way, with a blastocyst, which has already about 100 cells.

And then it will eventually die. And that leads inevitably — I mean, inevitably — to cloning. And cloning is of interest around the world for a lot of reasons, one of which is to be able to harvest the body parts for use in science and for transplantation. And that, I said, was Nazi-esque. That's what I said.

I didn't equate stem-cell research, embryonic stem-cell research, with what the Nazis did in the concentration camps, which was horrible. The suffering, the agony, the surgeries without the benefit of anesthetics and so on. It's obviously very different than killing a cell, a single cell, or 100 of them. But it's still — the philosophy behind it was to kill a human being for utilitarian purposes. And that's wrong. That's wrong.

COLMES: Do you understand why there are people like David Saperstein with The Reform Action Committee, for reformed Judaism, there are people at the Anti-Defamation League (search) who are very, very upset with trying to compare those who want to use stem cells for the betterment of mankind versus those who kill Jews in concentration camps because of an agenda and pseudo-science?

DOBSON: Well, I was talking about the philosophy behind the two. Admittedly, you know — I've done a lot of studying of the concentration camps (search), and I just — it boggles the mind to see what happened there. And there's no way that that was being minimized by what I talked about.

But what I was saying is that life is life, and you can't begin killing human beings at any age for a utilitarian purpose in order to use them for science or for other people. Once you start that, there's no place to stop.

I think it was wrong. It crossed an ethical line. And I don't back off a bit from saying that.

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: Dr. Dobson, welcome back. Sean Hannity here. I am Pro-Life. You are Pro-Life. We believe that life is precious, that it is God-given, that life begins at conception, correct?

DOBSON: Oh, without question. That's right. That's why this issue is so important to us.

HANNITY: And that's why — you know, if we talk about this, we talk about it come from that vantage point. Because I read your comments. As a matter of fact, I read them a few times. I wanted to make sure we got it right, here.

But you were talking about ethics and morality. And science must be guided by that. You said if any ethics or morality is removed, then you have Nazi Germany. You were very clear. You weren't making a comparison.

DOBSON: Sean, it was only one paragraph that people have overreacted to and distorted, by the way. But the point is that you just cannot kill people in order — let me put it this way: Science has always been guided by ethics and morality. There have always been things that we could have done and we didn't do because it was wrong to do them.

HANNITY: Right.

DOBSON: That's always been true, except in Nazi Germany. That was the exception, and that's where there was no morality and there were no ethics. And so to that degree, there is a relationship.

HANNITY: We've been friends a long time. And those people that have tried to hit you from the vantage point that you're insensitive to people of the Jewish faith. I've known you for years. You have been a huge supporter of Israel and the Jewish community.

DOBSON: Listen, Sean, I have on my radio program, "Focus on the Family," talked about the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps and the Holocaust at least 20 times through the years. If you go back and listen to those things, there is agony for what those people went through.

It cannot be understated, underestimated. So for people to take this single paragraph out of context, it just shows you how desperate they are to try to hang something on people that they call the "religious right," in my case. It's just not what I said.

HANNITY: I want to move on, Dr. Dobson, and talk a little bit about John Roberts and his nomination to the court. Early on, you have been supportive of the president's choice. The president had promised a justice like a Thomas, like a Scalia, and then issue came out in the Los Angeles Times, last week, about his pro bono work on the Romer case.

The Romer case is not just a case. It is a key case, along with the Lawrence case, that many believe, scholars believe, that would pave the way to put homosexual marriage on par with heterosexual marriage. Are you concerned, having learned that?

DOBSON: I am concerned about it. It was very troubling. The Romer case was perhaps one of the most egregious decisions ever handed down by the Supreme Court. What Kennedy, Justice Kennedy, did, was to say to the majority of the people of Colorado, that they were, essentially, bigots for not wanting to give special rights to homosexuals. Not the same rights, but special rights. And to have Judge Roberts be part of that in any way was troubling.

But we've looked into it, and the only redeeming aspect of it is that that was pro bono work done at the request of his law firm. In the corporate structure of the legal work, the individual, as a condition of his employment, does this kind of pro bono work when asked. And he was not the lead of it. He had a very minor role.

HANNITY: But he did involve himself. And I don't know what to think of it, because everything else I've read about him, I've actually been very happy with.

And I think he seemed to fit, prior to that, the mold of a Scalia or a Thomas. And I've been given assurances by people that I like a lot, like Ed Meese, and I know Ted Olson is a big fan, and some others, people I respect an awful lot. But it's...

DOBSON: Sean, can I comment on your own radio program?

HANNITY: Yes, sir.

DOBSON: I've been listening to it, and you've got the right fix on it. You have been saying that, while the Democrats are going to try to find out what this man's judicial philosophy is, the Republicans have an obligation to do the same thing.

We don't want to give him a pass here. I believe he's a good man. I believe the president has made the right choice. But the Republican senators need to vet him also, and I hope they will.

COLMES: Dr. Dobson, NARAL (search) is putting out an ad. They have an ad out on the Roberts issue. They're an abortion rights action league. And we're going to take a look at it, and we'll decide whether or not you think it goes too far. Let's take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FEMALE ANNOUNCER: Seven years ago, a bomb destroyed a woman's health clinic in Birmingham, Alabama.

EMILY LYONS, BOMB VICTIM: The bomb ripped through my clinic, I almost lost my life. I will never be the same.

FEMALE ANNOUNCER: Supreme Court nominee John Roberts filed court briefs supporting violent fringe groups and a convicted clinic bomber.

LYONS: I'm determined to stop this violence so I'm speaking out.

ANNOUNCER: Call your senators. Tell them to oppose John Roberts. America can't afford a justice whose ideology leads him to excuse violence against other Americans.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLMES: Dr. Dobson, this is a woman in an abortion clinic in Birmingham when it was bombed. She was injured. Judge Roberts defended Operation Rescue, Randall Terry headed the group, stood outside an abortion doctor's office and prayed for his execution. Can you understand why this kind of an ad might, in context, make some sense?

DOBSON: Well, I can sure understand why it is offensive. That information hit my desk about 4:00 this afternoon. I haven't had a chance to look into it.

But if NARAL's ads — or at least, in this case, if they're consistent with what they've done in the past, it will be manipulated and distorted greatly. And I just don't believe that what that says represents Judge Roberts. I haven't seen it from anybody else. I don't believe it.

COLMES: Well, do you have a problem with Operation Rescue (search), who he defended, and Randall Terry, who prayed for the death of Dr. Hern, and said this is a person who should either be saved or executed? And is that a proper way — and this was at a time when people were being killed in abortion clinics.

DOBSON: Well, all I can tell you is that I took a very strong stand on the other side of that. You can't be pro-life and pro-death at the same time. And we strongly opposed the bombings or the people who were doing those kinds of illegal things.

And personally, I'm in favor of the death penalty. And if a person would kill a physician in cold blood in this way, I think he ought to face the maximum penalty.

COLMES: Well, there are some people who believe that Operation Rescue may have contributed to that kind of an atmosphere. Does it trouble that you Judge Roberts defended this group? And, you know, again, he defended a group that Sean mentioned, pro bono. I wonder if these are things that make you look twice at him as a potential Supreme Court associate justice?

DOBSON: Well, again, I have no evidence that what you just said is true. And I don't accept it until I see it for myself. But I can tell you that, as these kind of things begin to pop up, we will be very interested in the outcome.

You know, we got fooled badly with Justice Souter (search). We were told that this man was true-blue, that he believed everything conservatives believed, he was pro-life, all these things. And he's been a terrible embarrassment to President Bush 41 and a great disappointment to many of us in the conservative movement.

We don't want that to happen again. We will be watching carefully.

HANNITY: Dr. Dobson, I think that NARAL ad clearly signals that the left is preparing for an all-out "Borking," if you will, of John Roberts, if they get an opportunity. And let me give you a couple of other examples. They have been applying a religious litmus test, an abortion litmus test, even by senators, they are demanding that John Roberts answer questions that no other Supreme Court nominee has had to answer, turn over documents that no other nominee has had to turn over. Don't you think this is going to be a big fight?

DOBSON: It's going to be a horrible fight, because that's what Democrats do. You know, they have — they follow a different standard. They live by different rules. And you have the history of what they did to Robert Bork. They just destroyed the man.

And then along comes the nomination by Bill Clinton of Ruth Bader Ginsburg (search). And what did the Republicans do? They approved her, went along with the Democrats by a vote of 96-3. There's something wrong with that in the way we approach things. I think the Democrats are going to go right back to the Bork mode.

HANNITY: You know what's amazing about that? Here's the former general council of the ACLU, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Here's a woman that argued for legalizing prostitution, against separate prisons for men and women, and even argued and speculated there could be a constitutional right for polygamy!

Republicans allowed her not to answer any of the major questions. Why do Republicans allow the double standard to go on? I'm sitting there thinking, "Why don't you guys, you know, fight back with equal force here?"

DOBSON: Sean, I don't know. Republicans sometimes act like they're strong and that they believe that they have a standard that they live by. And other times they're just complete wimps.

I really don't know what causes that, but it frustrates a lot of us a great deal. And we're going to find out right now whether or not they've got the guts to stand up for what's correct.

HANNITY: They may be suffering from DC-itis of some kind.

The New York Times, doing this investigative work into the adoption of John Roberts' children, has got to be disconcerting to everybody here. I don't know what their goal is. Maybe their goal is to find the adoptive mother and interview her in a means of hurting him, I don't know. But it certainly seems questionable to me, in terms of their ethics.

DOBSON: I can't imagine how you can use children to hurt a nominee for the Supreme Court. I mean, what that tells you, again, is that the left is terrified of this man, which is probably one of the reasons that I'm still encouraged by him, because why are they so fearful of him?

And I think they're going to do everything they can. They're going to vilify him every way possible. And some of us out here in the country who feel differently are going to have to stand up for him.

HANNITY: Yes. I agree with you. You know, were you as surprised as I was that Ted Kennedy was once Pro-Life just prior to Roe v. Wade?

DOBSON: So was Bill Clinton. So was Al Gore, Dick Durbin. Most of them were, until it became politically correct for them to be otherwise, and then they flip-flopped.

COLMES: Wasn't George W. Bush Pro-Choice at one time and then became pro-life when he became the running mate for Ronald Reagan?

HANNITY: Wow. You got him, Alan. Dr. Dobson...

(CROSSTALK)

COLMES: ... people change positions, don't they?

DOBSON: That's a good one.

COLMES: Thank you very much, Dr. Dobson.

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