on MTV show, urges condom use to prevent AIDS
Chicago Tribune - February 15, 2002
Witt, Tribune senior correspondent
-- Fielding particularly sober questions from a youth audience
normally tuned in to watch the latest hip-hop videos,
Secretary of State Colin Powell explained the war on terrorism
to MTV viewers around the world Thursday and stressed the
supremacy of American democratic values.
also took a question about condoms and gave an unvarnished
answer distinctly at odds with the beliefs of many
conservative members of his Republican Party. He strongly
urged young people to use them.
believe condoms [are] part of the solution to the HIV/AIDS
crisis and I encourage their use by our young people who are
sexually active," Powell said, pausing at first before
answering a question from a 19-year-old woman in Milan, Italy,
who said she is Roman Catholic.
represented an apparent difference with President Bush, who
has emphasized the virtues of youth abstinence over condom use
and sexual activity. But then Powell went even further.
about taboos, forget about conservative ideas with respect to
what you should tell young people about," Powell
continued. "It's the lives of young people that are put
at risk by unsafe sex, and therefore, protect yourself."
last rock-star caliber politician to appear on MTV--President
Bill Clinton--made news with the infamous "boxers or
briefs" question. But Powell drew no such frivolous
queries from studio audiences gathered in Washington, London,
Cairo, Sao Paolo, Milan, Moscow and New Delhi.
90 minutes of questioning, no one even asked Powell about his
musical tastes, which are said to include reggae and ABBA.
earnest young men and women--some of them victims of war and
terrorism--pressed Powell on every significant international
issue faced by the Bush administration.
audience is going to fight the war, and they wanted to get
answers to what it's about," said Van Toffler, MTV
Norheim-Hagtun, 19, of Sweden
nearly knocked Powell on his heels with one question:
"How do you feel about representing a country commonly
perceived as the Satan of contemporary politics?"
as what? Satan?" Powell stuttered at first. "Oh.
Well, I reject the characterization."
U.S. a `protector'
went on to describe the United
States as "the great protector" and a
nation that fought world wars to save the world from fascism
when all those conflicts were over, what did we do? Did we
stay and conquer? Did we say, `OK, we defeated Germany,
now Germany belongs to us?' No . . . we built them up,"
young Palestinian woman asked about Powell's feelings about
the rights of Palestinians to one day return to homes they
were displaced from in Israel. Powell termed that
"one of the most difficult issues" to deal with in
the stalled Middle East peace process.
Israeli youth asked why she had to fear terrorist attacks when
she went out with friends. Powell said he wants "the kids
in Israel, the kids in Gaza and the West
Bank to live in a society where they can go out and
enjoy themselves" without fear.
a senior at Howard University, Natalie Cofield, asked Powell
about a statement he once made that "I ain't that
am as black as anybody whose skin could be 20 shades darker
than mine," Powell said. "I consider myself an
African-American, a black man, proud of it, proud to stand on
the shoulders of those who went before me . . . I've been
thrown out of places because I was just black enough not to be
served. So I have no illusions about who I am or what I
answer to the condom question, however, quickly proved
controversial among conservative Republicans who believe
abstinence is the safest way for young people to prevent
sexually transmitted diseases.
think it's tragic," said Peter Brandt, a spokesman for
Focus on the Family. "It reminds me a lot of Bill Clinton
going on MTV and trying to be cool."
Bauer, a conservative activist and former presidential
candidate, said: "Secretary Powell should sit down with
the president and get a briefing on the fact that he's in an
administration that is stressing abstinence rather than
House spokesman Ari Fleischer, however, downplayed differences
between Powell's comments and Bush's position, saying the
president's budget includes funding for both abstinence-based
programs and traditional sex education programs that could
include a discussion of condom use.
fact is no one is sure what the right answer is,"
Fleischer said. "This is something society has been
grappling with since the 60s. No one has any one answer."
national correspondent Bob Kemper contributed to this report