This is totally unacceptable behavior for a major media outlet. From Gawker:
On today's edition of nationally syndicated Public Radio International program To The Point, host Warren Olney chose to tackle the Penn State child rape scandal by devoting an entire show to the subject of whether or not gays and lesbian couples would make fit foster and adoptive parents.
What's the connection? The fact that Jerry Sandusky had "adopted many children and took in foster children" over the years. (Listen to it here.)
Completely and totally unacceptable news hook.
I posted this story last night. I pulled it over some concerns about the contact information. Olney has since issued a statement (not even a non-apology apology). background, update after the fold.
The LGBT community braced for the bigotry brigade to come out in full force when the Penn State coach was arrested on child molestation charges. It's a little surprising to find that public radio was the outlet that gave them their platform.
But, let's be clear on a few things.
Jerry Sandusky is not a gay man. He is married to a woman. I don't know, maybe he's gay and maybe Marcus Bachmann helped him pray his gay away and this is how those stories end up. But he is not a member of the LGBT community that Olney is demonizing with this story. Like most pedophiles, Sandusky was heterosexual.
What Jerry Sandusky did has nothing to do with love and sexuality and has everything to do with rape and abuse of power.
Pedophiles are sick people who prey on the vulnerable.
Wouldn't a better topic for the show have been, "Should people in heterosexual marriages be allowed to adopt?"
This is bad enough that Olney has decided to link the Sandusky story to the LGBT community's struggle for equal family rights.
But it gets worse.
To discuss this story Olney invited Jerry Cox, president of Arkansas' Family Council to opine on gay people's fitness to parent. Cox wasted no time equating child rapists with loving couples that wish to raise children:
"I find it interesting that we talk about the Penn State situation, and then when we talk about people who claim to have these rights to adopt or foster; in both cases, the children's rights get put in second place. If you give the rights to the adults, the children will be compromised."
Cox's opinions on LGBT people are as worthless as John Boehner's assurances he'll bargain in good faith with the Democrats.
In May of this year, Cox explained that California recognizing Harvey Milk Day would "require" school children to participate in "homosexual weddings and cross-dressing:
Children will be required to participate in exercises that honor Milk, which could include mock homosexual "weddings" and cross-dressing contests, as well as writing or reading activities. The pro-family leader decides that public schools are failing to promote good role models for students.
Kids forced to cross-dress in school to celebrate civil rights hero Harvey Milk? It's nonsense. Pure 100% bullshit that Cox pulled out of his ass. It's fear-mongering, hate and lies.
Cox and his organization were behind the ballot measure passed in 2008 that restricted adoption rights in the State of Arkansas. It was a very thinly veiled attempt to leave LGBT families with no legal adoption options. The Arkansas Supreme Court correctly found the law "infringes upon the fundamental right to privacy guaranteed to all citizens of Arkansas,” and struck it down in April of this year.
As GLAAD reminds us, the facts are entirely clear on LGBT people's fitness to parent:
According to the American Psychological Association Policy Statement on Sexual Orientation, Parents & Children, "there is no reliable evidence that homosexual orientation per se impairs psychological functioning. Second, beliefs that lesbian and gay adults are not fit parents have no empirical foundation."
This is not ok for public radio personalities to feature bigots who spew lies about LGBT people and unjustly equate the LGBT community to pedophiles.
Yesterday, I briefly posted this story, and suggested folks call NPR. This program is actually produced by Public Radio International, some of PRI's better known shows include This American Life with Ira Glass and The Tavis Smiley Show. NPR-managed stations do run Olney's shows, so NPR may well be an appropriate target to lodge complaints, but not perhaps the best focus.
The story was moving quickly and today, GLAAD has reached out and secured the promise of an on air apology for Monday. Olney also issued a statement on the KCRW website, which still includes the headline After Penn State: Foster Care and Who Makes a Good Parent? It was also posted moments ago to PRI's Faceboook Page. People can leave comments on that page. One can leave comments to To The Point at KCRW's page.
There seems to be a lot of misunderstanding of today’s “To the Point.” We had no intention of confusing the issues of child abuse and same-sex adoption. We apologize to anyone who drew that conclusion.
Here’s how I introduced the program:
“Allegations of child sex abuse have destroyed the carefully cultivated image of Penn State’s football team and brought down the university’s administration.
They’ve also exposed once more the vulnerability of children—when a sexual predator can hide behind the façade of an institution bent on protecting its reputation.
Foster children were assigned to former coach Jerry Sandusky’s care--even though charges against him were investigated for years.
With 500,000 children desperate for loving homes, we’ll look at efforts to widen the pool of available parents. Should gays and lesbians qualify? “
Regardless of some characterizations, here’s what the program contained:
An update on the Penn State child abuse scandal, including the head of Philadelphia’s Support Center for Child Advocates, who deplored the fact that a well known figure, backed by a popular institution, was able to receive foster children even when it was known that child-abuse allegations were being made against him;
A gay man in a same-sex marriage with an adopted daughter who pointed out that couples such as his, who can provide loving families that troubled children need, are in many places denied that opportunity because of discrimination based on gender;
The President of Arkansas’ Family Council, who argued that foster or adopted children are better off in traditional families with one male and one female parent;
A Los Angeles County official involved in Foster Care and Adoptions who said same-sex couples are often better able to parent troubled children because of the challenges they have faced in their own lives.
We also reported that US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York, has introduced the “Every Child Deserves a Family Act,” which would deny public funding to agencies that discriminate against LGBT parents. It is opposed by the Arkansas Family Council.
The mission of “To the Point” is to conduct frank and timely discussions of controversial issues.
This is an unacceptable response. We just "misunderstood" his journalistic brilliance. His statement of explanation is arrogant, shows no acknowledgment of the journalistic malpractice he has committed and not a trace of contrition.
This does not even qualify for non-apology apology. He doesn't even throw in the obligatory "I'm sorry if someone was offended."
In fact we misunderstood nothing. The Penn State scandal is a completely inappropriate news hook to use as a segue to discuss LGBT adoption rights. We understood exactly what he was doing: he attempted to present LGBT people in the worst possible prejudicial light, as child rapists, and then lead the conversation to what legal rights LGBT people should have.
He clearly does not see the error he made and is not the least sorry.
It is the equivalent of doing this:
"Today we learned Susan Smith drown her two adorable small children in a lake. Which again raises the question, should all heterosexual people be sterilized? Let's discuss both sides of this controversy."
"Attempting to link these two completely unrelated issues isn't just bad journalism, it's dangerous,” said Mike Thompson, Acting President of GLAAD. “The perpetuation of these myths damages the hundreds of thousands of healthy children being raised by loving gay and lesbian couples today."
On Monday's show, Olney should use the opportunity to not only apologize but to tell his viewers the unequivocal truth about gay and lesbian families.
Further, Olney should explain why anti-gay guest Jerry Cox was given a platform to spread hurtful and untrue misinformation if the show’s intention was to shine light on gay and lesbian couples being denied the opportunity to adopt.
Given the defamatory content, KRCW and PRI should also pull this episode from the show's website.
One can reach PRI at their webpage here
, which includes this information:
We value your feedback!
If you'd like to submit a comment about something you've heard, do it on our Facebook page.
I think our community should take them up on that. A flood of Facebook complaints might get them to take this more seriously, and motivate them to do more than issue a non-apology apology.
PRI is on Twitter as well: @pri.
Olney's primary employer, KCRW can be contacted here.
Update 1: Hank Plante,
a Bay Area reporter for years at the CBS affilate left these harsh words on KCRW's To The Point Facebook wall:
As someone who has spent 30 years as a TV reporter in San Francisco and Los Angeles, I can't tell you how offended I was to hear someone I respect as much as Warren link a discussion of pedophilia at Penn State to the subject of LGBT adoption. No matter how thinly you slice the rationale for associating those two subjects, the message went out to listeners that they go together. His "family values" guest was only too happy to perpetuate the link which KCRW initiated. It is the kind of discussion that Fox News has become famous for: creating a false premise -- a false connection between subjects -- and then getting "both sides" so as to appear Fair And Balanced.
It's not far from the days when reporters would do a story on African-American civil rights and being sure to include "the other side" from the Ku Klux Klan.
I'm afraid my favorite radio station played to the cheap seats on this one.