White House Communications Director Anita Dunn (AP Photo)
(CNSNews.com) – White House Communications Director Anita Dunn told high school students in May 2009 that one of her favorite political philosophers was Mao Tse Tung, the Communist dictator responsible for the death of millions of people, and she explained why his philosophy was important for achieving personal and political goals.
When questioned last week after a video of her speech surfaced, however, Dunn said she was using “irony” in reference to Mao. A leading expert on China told CNSNews.com that Dunn’s remarks were “pathetic,” given the human rights atrocities committed under Mao’s reign.
As first shown on Fox News Channel’s “Glenn Beck” show on Thursday, Oct. 15,
in the video Dunn told graduating high school students that Mao and Mother Teresa, the Catholic nun known for aiding the poor, were examples of people who did not give up, and did their own thing to make a difference in the world.
Though Dunn acknowledged that Chairman Mao and Mother Teresa are “not often coupled together,” she did not preface or qualify her remarks about Mao at all. In the video, Dunn said: “[T]he third lesson and tip actually comes from two of my favorite political philosophers: Mao Tse Tung and Mother Teresa – not often coupled with each other -- but the two people that I turn to most to basically deliver a simple point, which is you’re going to make choices, you’re going to challenge, you’re going to say why not. You’re going to figure out how to do things that have never been done before. But here’s the deal: These are your choices, they are no one else’s.”
Dunn continued: “In 1947, when Mao Tse Tung was being challenged within his own party on his plan to basically take China over, Chiang Kai Shek and the nationalist Chinese held the cities that had the army. They had the airport. They had everything on their side, and people said, ‘How can you win? How can you do this? How can you do this, against all the odds against you?’ And Mao Tse Tung said, ‘You know, you fight your war, and I'll fight mine.’”
“And think about that for a second,” Dunn told the students. “You don't have to accept the definition of how to do things, and you don't have to follow other people's choices and paths, Okay? It is about your choices and your path. You fight your own war. You lay out your own path. You figure out what's right for you. You don't let external definitions define how good you are internally. You fight your war. You let them fight theirs. Everybody has their own path.”

Mao Tse Tung, former Communist dictator of China.
Policies implemented under Mao Tse Tung, including the civil war, the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution, and persecution in Tibet, among other policies, led to death of an estimated 65 million people, according to The Black Book of Communism (Harvard University Press), which is considered by scholars as one of the best sources on communist atrocities.
Mao also outlawed religion and sent at least 2.5 million people to “re-education camps,” called “laogai,” which were similar to the slave-labor camps in the Gulag of the Soviet Union. An estimated 1,000 laogai reportedly are still in operation today.
While Dunn now says she was using “irony” when she called Mao one of her favorite political philosophers, an expert on Mao’s three-decade rule in China thinks the remarks she made in May 2009 to the students were “pathetic.”
William Ratliff, an expert on China with the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, said he found Dunn’s comments astonishing regardless of her larger point, and wondered whether Dunn is aware of the Great Leap Forward or the Cultural Revolution, or if Dunn was trying to look at Mao’s positive accomplishments.
“He did unify the country. He did implement some policies in the very early years that were constructive,” Ratliff told CNSNews.com. “But his policies, basically, were terribly, terribly destructive and I think that just makes it impossible for any serious person in the Western world, and I think an awful lot of serious people in China, to regard him as one of the great political philosophers.”
“It’s outrageous and pathetic that a person, anyone in this country frankly, would still believe that,” said Ratliff.
In the 1930s, Mao led the Chinese Communists to overthrow the Chinese Nationalists and unify the country. From 1930 through 1949, the Communists killed about 4 million people, mostly “rich” peasants and the bourgeoisie, according to The Black Book of Communism.
Further, the book reports, Mao had executed 1 million “counter revolutionaries” by 1951. The “democratic terror” led to about 700,000 suicides, while 2.5 million were sent to re-education (labor) camps, and a campaign against “hidden counter-revolutionaries” launched in 1955 led to 770,000 deaths. The state policies that caused widespread famine, along with the labor camps and direct killing of political opponents, among other Communist actions, led to the death of approximately 65 million people in China, according to The Black Book of Communism.
That number exceeds the estimate of people directly killed for political or racial reasons by the Nazis, as well as the estimated number of people killed by the Soviet Communists under Lenin and Stalin. The genocidal policies of Hitler are estimated to have
killed 21 million people, which included at least 1 million children under the age of 18. In the Soviet Union, an estimated 25 million died as a result of policies implemented under Lenin and Stalin.
In a statement to The New York Times on Friday, Dunn said former Republican political consultant Lee Atwater inspired the Mao comment.
“My source for the Mao quote was actually the late Lee Atwater, either in an article or bio I read after the 1988 election. Now that I’ve revealed this, I hope I don’t get Keith Olbermann angry with me,” Dunn told The Times. “Let it be noted that I also quoted Mother Teresa, but no one is accusing me of being a saint.”
In a separate statement to CNN, Dunn said, “The Mao quote is one I picked up from the late Republican strategist Lee Atwater from something I read in the late 1980s, so I hope I don't get my progressive friends mad at me. The use of the phrase ‘favorite political philosophers’ was intended as irony, but clearly the effort fell flat -- at least with a certain Fox commentator whose sense of irony may be missing.”
Meanwhile, responding to a question aboard Air Force One Friday, White House spokesman Bill Burton was dismissive.
“I caught some of that from the ‘Glenn Beck’ show yesterday, but I don't think anybody takes it, takes his attacks very seriously,” Burton said. “We're just, you know, we go day to day in this White House trying to ensure that people know the truth about the policies and programs and positions that the president holds, and we're going to continue to do that.”
Hans von Spakovsky, a senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation’s Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, commented on Dunn’s remarks about Mao on the National Review blog site, “the corner.” On Oct. 16, he wrote: “Imagine what would happen if a White House communications director cited Adolf Hitler as one of her favorite political philosophers. Not only would it be an above-the-fold, front-page story in every major newspaper in the country, but there would also be outraged howls in the editorial pages."
“Mao killed more people than Hitler – they were two of the three worst mass murderers in the 20th century (the third being Joseph Stalin),” wrote Spakovsky. “However, the revelation of Dunn’s comments will probably be greeted by the mainstream media with a big collective yawn.”