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TV Show Might Foster Bigotry

Published in “Dallas Morning News”

July 22, 2000

Recent outrage from the gay community and our supporters concerning Paramount’s upcoming Laura Schlessinger television show has been met by cries from her defenders about Schlessinger’s First Amendment rights. Schlessinger has the right to say what she wants, where she wants and whenever she wants. She doesn’t have the right to a television talk show.

On May 20th, the ACLU’s Peter Eliasberg said on ABC’s “World News Tonight” that asking Paramount to not produce Schlessinger’s TV show wasn’t a legal infringement of her First Amendment rights. The ACLU is the nation’s top First Amendment advocate.

Our concern involves Paramount producing, television stations airing and advertisers making money from a show whose host makes hateful statements towards gays, bogus statements of opinion (positioned as fact) and offers dangerous advice in support of her bigotry. Paramount would never produce a show staring a host that called any other minority “biological errors,” “deviants” and accused the majority of them of being “pedophiles.”

David Lee (co-creator and executive producer of Paramount’s “Fraiser” and co-producer and writer of Paramount’s “Cheer”s" and “Wings”) met with Paramount Chairman, Kerry McCluggage to complain. Lee asked McCluggage, “Would you produce a show that was anti-Semitic or anti-Black?” McCluggage replied, “That’s apples and oranges.” The gay community will no longer be treated as oranges.

StopDrLaura.com, the gay command center concerning Schlessinger, has received well over 30 million hits and millions of unique visitors since its launch on March 1st. The response is hardly that of a few gay activists as Schlessinger asserts.

As to Schlessinger’s strong Orthodox Jewish beliefs, the Anti-Defamation League of B’Nai Brith (Judaism’s hate watch group) sent Schlessinger a letter on March 24th stating, “We believe that a tone of demonization and needless hostility characterizes your remarks on these issues... we are concerned that others might use such statements to justify acts of violence or discriminate against gays and lesbians.”

Orthodox Rabbi Shmuley Boteach wrote in “The Jewish Week”: “Dr. Laura’s pronouncements of homosexuality as ‘deviant’ and derivative of ‘biological error’ are unjust... Dr. Laura’s comments are misguided precisely because they reinforce an erroneous view of homosexuality in the Bible and reflect more of her personal opinion on this issue than that of traditional religion in whose voice she claims to speak.”

Organizations representing 477,000 health and mental health professionals have stated that being gay is not abnormal and hence there is no need to “cure” gays. Yet, Schlessinger tells listeners that gays can be cured through reparative therapy. The American Psychiatric Association, The American Psychological Association and the National Association of Social Workers all oppose Schlessinger’s recommended reparative therapy stating that such therapy may result in serious damage including increased depression, even suicide.

On May 9th the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council, broadcast media’s voluntary monitor, found Schlessinger’s comments “constituted abusively discriminatory of those persons on the basis of their sexual orientation.” They added, “Her characterization of herself as Dr. Schlessinger when the degree which she has earned has no relevance to the opinions which she expresses.”

The CBSC concluded, “While she does not herself advocate any of the homophobic hostility or, worse, brutality, which can be found in criminal corners of society, the cumulative effect of Schlessinger’s positions on gay and lesbian issues from her powerfully influential platform behind a very popular microphone, ! may well fertilize the ground for other less well-balanced elements, by her cumulative position, to take such aggressive steps.”

Schlessinger claims that her opponents have taken her comments out of context. The CBSC reviewed entire shows where her comments were in question and they recommended that her show not be carried in Canada.

NBC’s Chicago station recently offered Jerry Springer a commentator position on their evening news. Both news anchors resigned. The station withdrew its offer to Springer. Nobody screamed about Springer’s First Amendment rights. They complemented the station for exercising sound judgment.

Several religious organizations including Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council met with Procter and Gamble in June concerning P&G’s decision to pull sponsorship from Schlessinger’s radio and TV shows. During their meeting they convinced P&G to cease sponsoring two shows airing on MTV because of objectionable content.

When right wing religious groups ask for television shows to be pulled it is called “Family Values.” However, when gays protest a show featuring a host who maligns us, provides inaccurate information and recommends dangerous and unnecessary therapy, it’s called “interfering with First Amendment rights.” Any other minority would be applauded for standing up against such bigotry.

John R. Selig is the Dallas Protester Organizer and a National Steering Committee member with StopDrLaura.com. He is also a freelance writer and photojournalist.