Mother Teresa's Lawyers Say GOP Candidate Can't Run On Having Met Her One Time
For the last few weeks, Dr. Chuck Dietzen, a Republican running to represent Indiana's Fifth Congressional District, has been running an advertisement in which he brags on having worked at Mother Teresa's orphanage, and which shows a picture of him working on a patient as she stands there watching.
The campaign ad begins with Dietzen, in voiceover, saying, "When I worked in Mother Teresa's orphanage, she told us, 'never abandon your patients.' I've lived by those words ever since."
This sounds totally made up and also like a thing we'd all hope doctors would be able to figure out without needing to go hang with Mother Teresa in Calcutta, but since Mother Teresa — who was actually pretty chill about people dying — has been dead for over 20 years, we can't really be sure.
But, true or not, Mother Teresa's estate is not too happy about her appearing in this campaign ad at all. Dietzen has received a letter from the deceased nun's lawyers demanding that he stop running ads featuring her image and likeness and mentioning having worked with her, because that was not the kind of thing she was into, ever.
Florida attorney Jim Towey sent a cease and desist request to Dietzen, saying Mother Teresa's image should not be linked to a political cause, the Indy Star reported. The video has not yet been removed, as of April 27.
"During her lifetime, Mother Teresa strictly prohibited any political use of her name, image or likeness, or any other representations that sought to associate her with any political cause or campaign," his letter read.
"Your YouTube campaign ad, which begins with footage of Mother Teresa is in direct violation of her wishes, as well as the wishes of the Missionaries of Charity who exclusively control the commercial use of her name, image and likeness."
In Dietzen's defense, he is also in that picture and is not claiming that Dead Mother Teresa has personally endorsed him or anything, he's just saying that he met her and liked a thing she said to him. He's a jerk who should not be in Congress, sure, but he's not using her image to sell Wonkette T-shirts. He's in the picture. It's a picture of a thing that happened in his life. That's so incredibly fair use, we don't have the words to explain how fair use that is. Team ... Republican candidate?
Also in Dietzen's defense, Mother Teresa actually did frequently associate herself with political causes and campaigns. Like that time she endorsed Indira Gandhi's 1975 crackdown on civil liberties by saying "People are happier. There are more jobs. There are no strikes." Also her friendship with Enver Hoxha of Albania, who was not so great about those things himself (super great about putting people into labor camps, though).
I mean, we've all read The Missionary Position. Or at least been part of a conversation about Christopher Hitchens, wherein everyone talks about his general neo-con terribleness towards the end of his life and his sexism, and then someone inevitably goes "And yet, his work on Mother Teresa was good" (legally, this is every conversation about Christopher Hitchens, ever). [Our Hitchens conversations were about that but then opposite: "And who spends his life taking down MOTHER TERESA." — Editrix]
But I digress!
As you can see, the campaign ad is still up and Dietzen has not yet officially responded to the cease and desist letter.
According to a statement made earlier this year, part of what inspired Dietzen, the former chief of Pediatric Rehabilitation Medicine at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health, to run for office was his opposition to "socialized medicine."
"Some important and far-reaching issues will be decided in Washington in the near future," Dietzen, of Zionsville, said in a statement.
"I want to make sure we make healthcare work for patients, and socialized medicine does not work. I want to ensure our families and communities thrive—to do that we must protect our constitutional freedoms."
So I guess the words he actually lives by are "Never abandon your patients, so long as their insurance will cover it." Replace that last bit with "so that then when they're about to die, you can baptize them as Catholics" and that would actually sound like a thing Saint Teresa of Calcutta might have endorsed.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse