When tens of thousands of pro-life advocates peacefully marched in Washington D.C., CNN gave the rally two brief mentions. Contrast that with seven naked protesters who stripped in House Speaker Boehner's office on Tuesday, who received an almost five minute-long interview on Wednesday's Starting Point.
"So how did you get naked into the Speaker's office?" host Soledad O'Brien obliged the group with an ice-breaker for her first question. Yes, those who engage in public indecency in a House office building and demean the dignity of Congress will get quality air-time on CNN, apparently.
"So what's the connection between being naked and this important issue?" O'Brien allowed them to get their message out about AIDS funding and the budget cuts. "I think it's important to remember that people with AIDS have been stripped naked by budget cuts for really a decade, actually decades," said one protester.
O'Brien asked one "tough" question during the interview: "These budget cuts – potential looming budget cuts – have a lot of hands on them, not just Republican fingers on them. So why just target Speaker Boehner, who is in the GOP, as opposed to targeting the Democrats, who I think many people would say are equally responsible for the sequestration and our slide off into the fiscal cliff?"
And O'Brien had a cheery farewell to her guests. "I really want to thank you for keeping your clothes on," she told them.
A transcript of the segment, which aired on November 28 on Starting Point at 7:51 a.m. EST, is as follows:
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: So that's what it looked like when a group of seven protesters showed up to House Speaker John Boehner's office in Washington, D.C. Yes, we have it blurred a little bit because they are naked. They are members of a Coalition of AIDS Rights advocacy groups fighting for federal funding to fight AIDS, and they wanted to take what they call the naked truth straight to the top.
So we are joined this morning by the naked seven in the flesh, so to speak. (...) I appreciate your time. So how did you get naked into the Speaker's office? Is that like -- that can't be easy to get access and then take off all your clothes and –
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, we are constituents. We're not from Ohio, but he is the Speaker of the House. So he is an important person. So we walked into his office and we just took off our clothes.
O'BRIEN: What was the reaction, because he was not there, but his people must have freaked out a little?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. They all ran into side offices and slammed the doors. And we were just left there for quite a while.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Quite a while.
O'BRIEN: You were protesting. You've been protesting the sequestration, which puts potentially huge cuts in a lot of the services and also the funding that goes to patients who have AIDS and in some cases would pay for their medications. So what's the connection between being naked and this important issue?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yeah, so I think that a lot of people may wonder why we got naked, but I think that the important number to remember is 62,000 people will die. People with AIDS will die if these budget cuts go through, calling it sequestration, calling it the fiscal cliff really shrouds – and I'm using that intentionally –
O'BRIEN: Clothes the issue.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: – the issue that what we're actually talking about is cutting life-saving services for people. So at $689 million to global health programs, it's $538 million to programs that serve people with AIDS here in the United States. And the thing to remember is that we actually know now -- this is new science, that we can end the AIDS pandemic in the next 30 years. How exciting is that?
O'BRIEN: But also, how depressing is it when you look at some of this information that comes from the CDC that says that more than half of the young people in the United States who are infected with HIV are not aware of it, people 13 to 24 – 13 to 24 – accounts for 26 percent of all the new HIV infections. I mean, those are the people who should know better. We've had 30 years of medical research on this.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yeah. But we actually can end AIDS by getting a small cohort of people around the world on to treatment. And we have a small window of time because what happens is in the past, for every new person we were getting on to treatment there were two new HIV infections. So the rate of HIV infections was always outpacing the number of people we could get on to treatment. When people are on treatment it's almost impossible for them to spread the HIV virus.
So with the tools that we have right now, with the distribution of condoms and HIV prevention efforts, and with getting people onto treatment, we can see the end of AIDS so that you don't have to repeat statistics like that in the next 30 years. But if these budget cuts go through, then unfortunately, we're going to be back here 30 years later and we're going to be talking about why are there these scary statistics that are coming from the CDC.
O'BRIEN: These budget cuts – potential looming budget cuts – have a lot of hands on them, not just Republican fingers on them. So why just target Speaker Boehner, who is in the GOP, as opposed to targeting the Democrats, who I think many people would say are equally responsible for the sequestration and our slide off into the fiscal cliff?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, for me, right now, I know since President Barack Obama has been in office he's had a uphill battle. And it's always been, seemed to be, right now, always been the Speaker of the House Boehner to try and get some of the problems straightened out. And –
O'BRIEN: You blame him personally?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I blame the Republicans.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's important to remember that yesterday we were naked inside so we got the attention, but there were hundreds of people with AIDS and advocates who were outside marching around and they actually started their march at the Democratic National Committee as a stand-in. We couldn't really march that far in the freezing cold rain, for people who are sick, from the White House over to Boehner's office.
But the Democratic National Committee is where we started the march. We absolutely know that it's very possible that Democrats will sell us out and they'll put through – they're talking right now about swapping out cuts to Medicaid. Medicaid has been struggling for so many years. I think it's important to remember that people with AIDS have been stripped naked by budget cuts for really a decade, actually decades. We're not talk – these are not new cuts. Medicaid in New York State has been struggling, borrowing from other states, borrowing from the federal government.
O'BRIEN: – really worried about what's going to happen as we go over this cliff. I want to thank you all for coming in. I really want to thank you for keeping your clothes on. I was a little concerned today if everybody did a strip for us –
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We thought about it.
O'BRIEN: Really? It's a cold studio, too. It could be prob – some people are saying, yeah, yeah. Thank you for being with us. I appreciate your time.