Earlier today, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Kenya’s Wangari Maathai, an environmentalist and women’s rights activist who is best known for heading an organization that plants trees in Africa. On the New York Times web site, there are only wire service accounts of the ceremony, like this one titled “First African Woman Awarded Nobel Prize.”
No longer available on the Times’ site is the paper’s own story from its print edition this morning, titled “Nobel Laureate Seeks to Explain AIDS Remarks,” and subtitled, with exquisite delicacy, “Peace Prize winner’s reference to a theory stirs controversy.” While the AP story linked above refers to the controversy briefly, the print version has a more detailed account. No need to explain, of course, what “theory” caused the “controversy”:
Just a day before she is scheduled to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, the Kenyan environmentalist Wangari Maathai tried…to defuse a controversy over reports that she said “evil-minded scientists” in the developed world intentionally created AIDS to decimate the African population.
Here are the quotes attributed to Maathai by the East African Standard:
Do not be naive. AIDS is not a curse from God to Africans or the black people. It is a tool to control them designed by some evil-minded scientists.
I may not be able to say who developed the virus, but it was meant to wipe out the black race.
Ms. Maathai now says her words were taken out of context. If so, it must have been quite a context. The reporter who quoted her says, “I will not back off even a single word. What I wrote was the truth.”
Some have questioned the logic of awarding a Nobel Peace Prize to an environmentalist. But isn’t a more basic criticism in order? For a member of one race to accuse another race of deliberately creating one of the modern world’s most deadly diseases as a weapon of mass murder, if not genocide, is hardly the act of a peacemaker.
Maybe it’s time for the Nobel organization to hang it up.