The Rachel Maddow Show | September 23, 2011
MADDOW: Joining us tonight for the "Interview" is Todd Stave. He's the Maryland entrepreneur who was targeted at his child's middle school by antiabortion protesters and who devised a way of, if not counter- protesting, at least responding to them. Mr. Stave , thank you very much for being here tonight. I appreciate the chance to talk to you about this.
TODD STAVE, TARGET OF ANTI-ABORTION PROTESTS: Thank you for having me.
MADDOW: What made you decide to take this step? And how did you decide the right way to respond to these protesters?
STAVE: Well, I've actually been a victim of this sort of thing my entire life. My father was an abortion provider. I remember when I was a junior in high school back in the early '80s, my father's clinic was fire bombed. So, I was -- I've around this sort of thing for my entire life. And I sat very quietly while people around me, people in the middle of the argument have done whatever it is they do or not do whatever it is they do. And up until -- and I just found this out this week -- up until recently, nobody has ever really done anything to counter-protest or counter-respond or fight back. Their philosophy has always been, well, if we ignore them, they'll go away. And they just picked on the wrong guy this time. I mean, I'm not doing anything except renting space to this clinic. And to go in front of my daughter's middle school and attempt to humiliate me and attempt to humiliate my daughter, I need to fight back.
MADDOW: How did you decide that this would be the appropriate way to fight back? What did you consider your options to be?
STAVE: Well, OK, first of all, I want to tell you that law enforcement in Maryland is really on my side here. They have -- they contacted me immediately. They contacted me before I actually went to the school and they said, "We're going to do whatever they can to help you." And they have. I'm not going to get into details. They asked me not to. But the people who have called and e-mailed me are doing so in an attempt to intimidate and harass and bully me into doing something that I'm not going to do. And I figured -- well, these tactics are going to work or attempt to work -- if they think they're going to work for them, I'm going to do them back. And that's exactly what happened. We responded -- we meaning there was me and about 20 people in my immediate circle of friends and neighbors -- got together, through e-mail, we didn't sit around a table, through e-mail made a list of the people who called and e-mailed me and said, all right, we're going to call these people back and just as politely as they've contacted me, we're going to go back to them and say, thank you for your thoughts, we thank you for your prayers, we heard your pleas, and, no, we're not going to do anything about it. Those 20 people in my circle of friends have circles of their own. And within a matter of, I'd say two days, 5,000 people had contacted me from all over the world . I got calls from Europe , I got calls from Canada , I got calls from all over the country from people begging, please, let me help you fight back. Let me help you in your effort to stop this harassment, stop this intimidation, stop the bullying. And most of the people that we responded to have in the days after that sent me another e-mail saying, please take me off your list. Please stop calling me . And I have no control over it at this point. I mean, it's in the blogosphere. It's on the Internet . I don't have a Web site with these people's names or phone numbers or anything like that. And the people that are calling them now are doing so on their own accord. I don't want to discourage them from doing that. I want to encourage them to keep going. But one of the things that I responded with when I sent their e-mails back to them, when I responded to their pleas to stop calling or e-mailing is, I can't belief how hypocritical you are. Don't you want unsolicited opinions from strangers? They felt it was just fine to give me theirs.
MADDOW: Do you think that there is a way to, I guess to -- you founded this group, Voice for Choice . Does that mean --
STAVE: Voice of choice.
MADDOW: Voice of Choice . Excuse me. I'm sorry. Voice of Choice . Do you think there's a way to sort of, I guess, I don't mean to say systematize, but to use this technique that you have used in this instance of you being harassed in a broader way to respond to the antiabortion movement?
STAVE: I'm not going to get into the details because I've been asked not to. It's working really, really well. I'm going to tell you that 80 percent of people aren't going to do this anymore. Twenty percent of the people will always be there. I mean, they're going to have their opinions. They have the right to have their opinions. I just don't want them harassing or bullying or trying to intimidate people like me. Eighty percent of the people are going to go away. Once you reveal who they are, once they're no longer anonymous, once they realize there's going to be a reaction to their action, they're not going to do it anymore. And they're targeting not just abortion providers and clinic owners, they're going after the vendors. The people who collect Dr. Carhart 's medical waste , for instance, have been targeted by these groups and their buildings have been protested, don't collect Dr. Carhart 's medical waste . I've heard instances from around the country where the groups are going after the people who sell paper towels, just basic office supplies to these clinics. Not to do business with these clinics or they're going under the threat of boycott and they go out to their offices, to their children's schools, to their neighborhoods, their churches. And I 'm not alone. This is not an isolated incident. This is their tactic. This is what they try to do. And, yes, I think this is going to work very, very well.
MADDOW: Todd Stave , Maryland entrepreneur, founder of Voice of Choice -- and the only person I've ever had the opportunity to I had the opportunity to talk to is not speaking directly from inside the reproductive rights movement who's talking about these techniques in a tactical way actually, sir.
STAVE: We need -- we need everybody's help. We need volunteers, more volunteer if we can do it . And we also need donations. The Web site is vochoice.org.
MADDOW: Vochoice.org , we'll post information about that on our web site .
STAVE: Appreciate it.
MADDOW: Todd Stave , thank you very much .
STAVE: Thank you for having me.
MADDOW: Long-awaited "Moment of Geek " is coming up.