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Who's Really Screwing America

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#92: Lonnie "Bo" Pilgrim: Pride, Poultry, Preaching, Prejudice and 31 Billion Pounds of Chicken Shit

About the Author

Jack Huberman
Jack Huberman is the author of The Bush-Hater's Handbook. He lives in New York City.

The septuagenarian chairman and principal owner of Pilgrims Pride Corp. of Pittsburgh, Texas, America's second-largest poultry producer, is a Texas legend. The legend was described in a Philanthropy World profile in 2003: "Lonnie Pilgrim stands for something profoundly grand. Bo...is a gentleman of impeccable character, a generous spirit, and a crusader for Christ.... Along the path of taking a small farm supply store to a $2.5 billion company, Bo...kept honesty and integrity at the forefront.... [H]e takes an interest in [employees'] needs--ensuring that troubled employees receive counseling and an opportunity to know Jesus.... 'He is respected by all who know him because of his high ethical standards'.... But Bo's greatest joy comes from witnessing and introducing the plan of salvation to as many people as he possibly can."

That refers to a pamphlet Bo published, which he hands out everywhere he goes, inviting readers to receive Jesus as their Savior. "Inside the back cover is a crisp $20 bill, which he says encourages people to hold on to it." That kind of generosity seems to be a Bo habit. In 1989, he handed out $10,000 checks on the Texas Senate floor during a debate on a bill he supported to gut state workers' compensation laws. (Meatpacking is one of the most dangerous jobs.) Bo left the "payee" line of the checks blank for lawmakers to fill in themselves, presumably to avoid any appearance of, like, bribery or anything like that. The episode prompted the next legislative session to pass ethics reforms. Getting Texas politicians to pass ethics reforms is the stuff legends are made of.

From 1980 to 1995, Pilgrims Pride paid Texas's notoriously lax environmental regulators a record $825,000 in fines for pollution, improper wastewater discharges and "nuisance odors." We're talking chicken carcasses and vast amounts of shit, which contains arsenic and bacteria such as salmonella and E. coli, which make their way into surrounding streams and wells. Exceptionally high rates of bacterial meningitis and other diseases caused by fecal contamination were found in areas surrounding poultry plants in East Texas and Arkansas, and had claimed at least thirteen lives, according to a 1996 exposé by Mark O'Connor in Touchstone magazine.

#84: Franklin "Not of the Same God" Graham

Maybe it's too much to ask, but it would be nice if people engaged in the genuinely holy work of saving people's lives by feeding and caring for their bodies would allow them to keep possession of their souls--their own beliefs and heritage. And try not to embarrass and endanger America by enhancing its image as a land of ignorant, Bible-thumping, Muslim-hating redneck louts.

Reverend Franklin Graham is no ordinary, two-bit, sleazeball evangelical huckster. He's the eldest son of Billy Graham, and, as president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, heir to his evangelical empire. He's also a friend and confidante of George W. Bush, who has credited Billy Graham with having turned him from booze to the opiate of the people.

Graham the Younger gave the prayer at Bush the Younger's first inaugural. As head of the Christian relief agency Samaritan's Purse, Graham "has earned international respect for supplying food, water, shelter, and medical care to regions where other angels fear to tread."

But why does he have to go and spoil it all by saying something stupid (on NBC Nightly News, right after 9/11) like Islam is a "very wicked and evil religion," "wicked, violent, and not of the same God"; writing that Christianity and Islam are "as different as lightness and darkness"; and declaring, "The true God [#77] is the God of the Bible, not the Koran"? And was it wise, or good for America, for Graham to state at the Pentagon's Good Friday service in April 2003, just a month into the war in Iraq, that "There's no other way to God except through Christ"? Or to announce that Samaritan's Purse, which mixes its humanitarian aid with a liberal dose of proselytizing, was heading to Iraq "to save [Iraqis]...in the name of Jesus Christ"--this at the very moment when America most needed to assure Iraqis and the Muslim world that we were not there on a religious crusade? (What ever gave them that idea--the fact that a Samaritan's Purse director said, "We are first a Christian organization and second an aid organization"? That Graham "asserts that the two religions are locked in an eternal struggle that will only end with the triumphant return of Christ"?)

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