Hope Sullivan-Masters, the CEO of the notoriously controversial Leon Sullivan Foundation, found herself in yet another public relations disaster in a desperate attempt to justify the foundation’s upcoming collaboration with the dictatorial and highly corrupt President of Equatorial Guinea, Teodoro Obiang.
On Tuesday morning, Masters was on Washington D.C- based WPFW 89.3 “Metro Watch” radio show with veteran radio journalist Gloria Minott. Presumably, Masters was on the show to defend her foundation’s controversial decision to hold a lavish and tainted “Africa Rising Summit” between August 20 and 24 in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, one of the world’s poorest nation state ruled by one of the most corrupt and abusive oligarchies in the world.
The Sullivan Foundation has come under intense international pressure by human rights groups, policy experts and African communities to cancel the summit, accusing the Sullivan Foundation of using money from the Obiang regime to help to burnish its soiled image.
However, after only just one minute into the interview with Minott, Masters became combative, interrupting Minott constantly and refusing blatantly to answer many substantive questions regarding abuse and corruption in Equatorial Guinea. Masters would not listen to Minott’s references to recent allegations of corruption against Obiang and his family.
When asked why the Sullivan Summit was being hosted in a luxurious compound in Sipopo complete with 5-Star hotels, golf courses, and a spa—while the rest of the Equatorial Guinean population lives with little access to water and electricity, Masters claimed the situation was not so different in the United States. On the subject of the lavishness of the summit arrangements, Masters bragged later in the interview that the Sullivan Foundation ordered not one, but two jumbo jets to fly Summit guests out to Equatorial Guinea.
In response to questioning about the well-documented oppressiveness of the Obiang regime, Masters said, “It is absolutely, categorically, not an accurate depiction of this country.”
When asked about active corruption investigations in France and the United States against President Obiang’s son Teodorin Obiang Mangue, who is the second vice president of Equatorial Guinea and also a minister, Masters dismissed the cases as “extraneous”, and as a distraction.
Full Transcript Below: Gloria Minott (Host): Hope Sullivan Masters is my guest. This morning we are talking about the Leon Sullivan Foundation Summit to be held in Equatorial Guinea. Good morning, and welcome to the program.
Hope Sullivan Masters: Good Morning, How are you? Can you hear me?
Gloria Minott (Host): I can hear you. And we will make this work. Well, let me start off by saying that there have been a number of calls from human rights groups and others for you to cancel the summit. The Washington Post reported last week that the Sullivan Foundation has organized an August 20-24 gathering in a lavish complex that includes an 18 hole golf course, a five star hotel, and a spa in a West African country where many lack access to electricity and running water. Let’s talk about the location and your choice of that location. What went into the decision, that is, to choose Equatorial Guinea?
Hope Sullivan Masters: Well, uh, the Leon H. Sullivan Foundation, we use the standard of countries that are members of the African Union. And the way you described Equatorial Guinea just then is interesting, because that reminds me of the United States. You know, um, Equatorial Guinea is a country that has been independent for about 40 years. The United States has been independent over 200 years. The Leon Sullivan Summit is a celebration of all of Africa. We switch venues every few years. It is not a celebration of the country where we are gathering–however, the president of this country was also the President of the African Union, elected by the leaders of Africa, to be the president of the African Union. And so from my perspective, when Africans support a president, and when Africans support a nation, its not right to judge, or for anyone else to judge that country. But Equatorial Guinea is a country in good standing, a member of the African Union, which is the only criteria which is important for the Leon H. Sullivan Summit. And again, we are about an entire continent. And we- this is our 9th summit, with a different country every year.
Gloria Minott (Host):
Alright, you know, I’m going to give you as much time as we can so you can respond to all the things I’m saying because we have been hearing so much. “The Sullivan Foundation is destroying the legacy of its namesake by”–
Hope Sullivan Masters: –No, no no.
Gloria Minott (Host): –Wait, let me finish–
Hope Sullivan Masters: No, no, I’ve heard all of that–
Gloria Minott (Host): –Let me finish…
Hope Sullivan Masters: –And I have to tell you, it’s a distraction–
Gloria Minott (Host): Let me finish.
Hope Sullivan Masters: –Because none of that is true. Because people who know who the Leon Sullivan Foundation is, and people who know who Leon Sullivan is, should be ashamed to say something like that. This was a man who went into South Africa, when the rest of the world refused to go to South Africa, because he knew that by ignoring the country, you ignore the people in the country. There are people who live in this country. There are people who need help in this country. And for people to offer up a snapshot of the country ten years ago, not taking into account why (inaudible) not ever having set foot on this country after I have lived here for over two months. It is irresponsible, and its, its all destructive, the dialogue of helping Africa move forward to fight things like that.
Gloria Minott (Host): Alright. Let me continue, because I’m just, saying what others are saying, and they don’t have a chance to ask you directly–
Hope Sullivan Masters: –Yeah, that’s okay, that’s free speech. And they have never been here.
Gloria Minott (Host): Alright. Let me continue. Critics say its one of the most repressive, exploitative regimes in Africa’s history—
Hope Sullivan Masters: No, absolutely not. You should come here.
Gloria Minott (Host): Alright, let me–
Hope Sullivan Masters: This is the same person–this is like a cut and paste of the same article. I’ve heard it a thousand times. It is absolutely, categorically, not an accurate depiction of this country.
Gloria Minott (Host): Alright, let–
Hope Sullivan Masters: It is irresponsible for people to continue to pass around misstatements of fact without having set foot here, and without having spent any time here.
Gloria Minott (Host) Alright, there are reports that—
Hope Sullivan Masters: And it’s unfair to Africa. It’s unfair to Africa. It really is, its unfair to Africa because people are judging Africa by the same standards that they want to judge what we call “developed nations”.
Gloria Minott (Host): Alright– Hope Sullivan Masters: –A forty year old nation, a forty year old country. When the president here became president, there was one doctor and five nurses, not one school, not one hospital. That’s what the Spanish left here.
Gloria Minott (Host): Uh, Miss, Miss—
Hope Sullivan Masters: For forty years.
Gloria Minott (Host): Ms. Sullivan, I said at the outset that I’m gonna give you a chance to make your case, but you’re going to have to give me a chance to say something, okay? Let me continue. In France, they are looking for the son of the leader of this country, here in the United States—
Hope Sullivan Masters: Again, this is not about Equatorial Guinea. The Summit is about the continent–
Gloria Minott (Host): Are you going to let me talk at all?
Hope Sullivan Masters: No, because what you’re doing is irresponsible–
Gloria Minott (Host): But you’re going to have to let me talk!—
Hope Sullivan Masters: If you’re going to report on the Summit, you have to report on the Summit. You’re going to talk about issues that are extraneous to the summit, then I’m not the person. Let’s talk about the Summit. Lets talk about the continent, not about the President’s son. You’re an irresponsible journalist!
Gloria Minott (Host): So, what do you want me to do, do a PR snapshot of what’s happening there?–
Hope Sullivan Masters: Let’s just talk about the summit–
Gloria Minott (Host) As opposed to what—
Hope Sullivan Masters: –To understand what the Leon Sullivan Summit is, you understand about the continent. Not the country in which they hold the conference. That’s basic.
Gloria Minott (Host): You know, usually, I’m not a person to back off from a discussion, but you’re making it quite difficult for me to even get a word in. I am–
Hope Sullivan Masters: –I’m disappointed that you’re not reporting factual information. I think its the responsibility to your listeners–
Gloria Minott (Host): I am just saying what others have said–Excuse me?
Hope Sullivan Masters: I think it is a responsibility to your listeners.
Gloria Minott (Host): And what responsibilities do I have outside of bringing them—
Hope Sullivan Masters: To report truthful information. What you’re reporting is inaccurate. You’re reporting yellow journalism, and you’re reporting details that are fallacious and untrue.
Hope Sullivan Masters: The Leon Sullivan Summit holds its summit in a different country every time, that are members of the African Union. The Sullivan Summit is not celebrating Equatorial Guinea, ma’am. We celebrate Africa.
Gloria Minott (Host): I—
Gloria Minott (Host): And you would wish–
Hope Sullivan Masters: –We have forty countries represented–
Gloria Minott (Host): And you would wish that I have the discussion this morning without saying what the criticisms are against the leader of that country?
Hope Sullivan Masters: No, I–
Gloria Minott (Host) But, that’s what you’re doing!
Hope Sullivan Masters: –if you try to educate your listeners–
Gloria Minott (Host): –that is what you’re doing!–
Hope Sullivan Masters: –You should be responsible enough to educate them with truthful statements. And not passing around continually more and more statements that are not true about these countries.
Gloria Minott (Host): I am not a PR—. I am not trying to do good PR for them. I’m trying to get the story out as to what exactly is happening–
Hope Sullivan Masters: –You should be doing this PR for Africa and Africans.
Gloria Minott (Host): And if that means not talking about a dictator?—
Hope Sullivan Masters: –you should not pass around negative information that you have not verified because I doubt you have ever been here, and pass on negative information which is damaging to African people!
Gloria Minott (Host): You have not used this time well. Not at all. I was hoping that you would be more cooperative, and at least you would allow me to get a word in. But you are bent on having, on silencing me, and now, I’m not having that. I was gracious enough to have you come on this morning and talk about what’s happening there, but you couldn’t expect me to have this conversation–
Hope Sullivan Masters: No ma’am, I —
Gloria Minott (Host): You cannot expect me–
Hope Sullivan Masters: –I didn’t think you were engaging in a dialogue about Equatorial Guinea.
Gloria Minott (Host): You didn’t want me to talk about that? You didn’t want me to talk about that at all.
Hope Sullivan Masters: No! We are talking about the Summit! This is not a celebration of Equatorial Guinea! This is about the entire continent!
Gloria Minott (Host): How can you remove the criticisms about the government from this discussion? How can you do that?
Hope Sullivan Masters: Sorry?
Gloria Minott (Host): How could you remove the discussion about the dictatorship in Equatorial Guinea and talk about the Summit as if nothing is wrong?
Hope Sullivan Masters: Okay, lets talk about this dictatorship. Okay? Let me– let me hear your information about this dictatorship, as you call it, and the government.
Gloria Minott (Host): That the son is–
Hope Sullivan Masters:
–And I’ve been here for two months.
Gloria Minott (Host):
That the son lives a lavish lifestyle in both Paris and this country–
Hope Sullivan Masters:
But that’s the son. The Queen of England’s grandson just got $21 million dollars for his 21st birthday. That’s his son. That’s not the president. Let’s focus on the president. Let’s focus on education, and healthcare. Let’s focus on the initiatives in the country. Lets not focus on the distraction of his son. Gloria Minott (Host):
That’s a distraction when you built the country of $70 billion dollars out of a lavish playboy lifestyle outside of your country? While people there live on less than a comfortable situation? From an oil rich nation? I should not have this discussion at all?
Hope Sullivan Masters:
You know, I’m sorry, I just believe that you’re not understanding the purpose of this. I am not here to defend Equatorial Guinea. The government, that is their job. I am here to talk about the Leon H. Sullivan Foundation and the Leon H. Sullivan Summit. I am here to talk about the fact that I am here to represent the people and the nations of Africa. It is a venue. We are not celebrating Equatorial Guinea. It is strange to me that so many people do not understand, this is about Africa. This is about people using any kind of argument to try to distract people from Africa, from supporting Africa. I will not leave, I will not move. And the interesting is in the last two months, we have had to add a plane because of people who are that interested, and that compelled about the fact that this is about Africa. I’m not willing to bow to these distractive things that you–you-choose to bring up. This is about Africa.
Gloria Minott (Host): Do you want to say right now, who is coming? You invited a lot of people. Who is coming?
Hope Sullivan Masters: We have two planes. There will be about 4,000–
Gloria Minott (Host): Give me some names, give me some names we would recognize. Who is coming?-
Hope Sullivan Masters: I am not going to do that– because after the Summit is over you will see the press–I’m not–
Gloria Minott (Host): A lot of people have decided not to come, who is coming?
Hope Sullivan Masters: I am not going to give more people an opportunity to harrass people who are coming to this nation.
Gloria Minott (Host): So you are not telling us who is coming?
Hope Sullivan Masters: What about the people–I’m sorry?
Gloria Minott (Host): So you are not telling us who is coming? In the past, Bill Clinton, you know, top brass from Bush Administration–
Hope Sullivan Masters: Yes–He [Clinton] is on the board– he’s on our board.
Gloria Minott (Host): –And all those people have come, so who is coming this time? Who’s coming?
Hope Sullivan Masters: We never release that information beforehand either. Those details are really (inaudible).
Gloria Minott (Host): I’d hoped that we’d have a better conversation, but you can’t have me have a discussion with you this morning, about a country that people there live in almost—
Hope Sullivan Masters: –Have you been here ma’am? Have you been here?–
Gloria Minott (Host): —Almost abject penury–
Hope Sullivan Masters: –Have you ever been here–have you–
Gloria Minott (Host): —while the leaders lead lavish lifestyles, and you don’t want to have a discussion about it.
Hope Sullivan Masters: Have you been here?
Gloria Minott (Host): No, I haven’t.
Hope Sullivan Masters: Have you ever been to this country?
Gloria Minott (Host): No, I haven’t been to Equatorial Guinea.
Hope Sullivan Masters: You’ve never been here?
Gloria Minott (Host) No.
Hope Sullivan Masters: Why don’t you come? And see for yourself? Respect Africa enough not to believe what others say about this continent. Come and see for yourself. And I assure you you will be as upset as I am at how people continue to denigrate, destroy, and bring this continent down based on word of mouth.
Gloria Minott (Host): I don’t think everybody is doing that for Africa on a whole, there are good countries that do great things. Equatorial Guinea just doesn’t seem to be one of them.
Hope Sullivan Masters: There are fabulous countries in Africa. Fabulous countries in Africa! I’ve been all over this continent. I urge you to come and visit some of the countries, and share that information with your listeners.
Gloria Minott (Host): Actually, I have been to Africa. Not Equatorial Guinea, but I’ve been to Africa. I’ve been to a country in Africa. And I hope to visit many more.
Hope Sullivan Masters: You’ve been to a country in Africa?
Gloria Minott (Host): Yes.
Hope Sullivan Masters: You should come to this country! It’s a beautiful country.
Gloria Minott (Host): Alright—
Hope Sullivan Masters: Unfairly targeted by many people who have never been here.
Gloria Minott (Host): Alright, we have to end this conversation here, because clearly, you’re more upset than willing to have a civil and rational conversation about the place you choose to have this Summit.
Hope Sullivan Masters: I urge you to visit Equatorial Guinea. I urge you to come to the Summit.
Gloria Minott (Host): I don’t think so.
Hope Sullivan Masters: We will not be moved.
Gloria Minott (Host) Uh-huh. Okay.
Hope Sullivan Masters: This is the spirit of who we are.
Hope Sullivan Masters: Alright, thank you so much. Have a good day.
Gloria Minott (Host) Thank you. You too.