On April 26, 2011, KRIV Fox 26 in Houston, Texas, gave voice to one of the country’s most vocal anti-gay activists during a "debate" on its news program entitled, "Is TV Too Gay?" The focus was that night’s episode of the show Glee which featured a theme of self-acceptance and celebration of diversity inspired by the Lady Gaga hit song "Born This Way."
Fox Houston Calls Gay Characters "Product Placement"
The segment on Fox in Focus began on the wrong foot, by even suggesting that television programs with positive portrayals of gay characters could negatively impact teens. As the show progressed, it only got worse:
· Instead of inviting experts on young adult development or youth themselves, the show framed the question as "gay" versus "anti-gay."
· Guest Bryan Fischer from American Family Association took this as an opportunity to make horribly offensive comparisons about gay and lesbian families and called Glee "propaganda."
· Fischer said that being gay "is conduct that bears enormous psychological and physical risk to those that engage in it" and that "homosexual behavior is just as risky and just as dangerous as injection drug use."
· Fox host Damali Keith compared the gay characters on Glee to "product placement" by soda companies in movies, where "everyone in the theater is thirsty for that particular brand."
Bryan Fischer is an extremist with no qualifications to offer the discussion apart from his bigotry. This a man whose disdain for diversity is evident in his track record of making statements such as calling Muslim student associations "parasites" and a "toxic cancer." Fox Houston gave Fischer a platform in the nation’s fourth largest city, and one of its top ten media markets, to broadcast his anti-gay rhetoric. And rather than challenge him, the host, Damali Keith, contributed her own uninformed and anti-gay commentary.
After receiving complaints about this Fox Houston program, GLAAD contacted the station to demand that they issue an apology. Broadcasting anti-gay speech is dangerously irresponsible, and the station must be accountable. In conversations with GLAAD, a representative of the station implied that an apology was in order and should be expected. However, no apology has been issued, and in an abrupt reversal, representatives of the station now maintain that they stand behind this content.
This is all the more disturbing given the positive and affirming messages and stance against bullying that were part of the theme of the particular episode of Glee in question. Currently, equality groups are advocating for the passage of a comprehensive anti-bullying bill in the Texas legislature - which has already passed the State Senate 29-2. But any parents or students who stuck around for the news after last week’s Glee got a very different, and potentially damaging, message from Fox Houston about LGBT young people.
Please take a moment to defend last week's Glee and the young people who identify with the show's characters. Take a stand in favor of diversity and inclusiveness, and against bullying and harmful anti-gay rhetoric. Tell Fox Houston to issue an apology now for the words of their host and their guest.
The title of last week’s segment was irresponsible from the outset. Given that bullying has been established as a problem in Texas and throughout the nation, the mere suggestion that television programs featuring positive portrayals of gay characters could negatively impact teens only adds to the problem. The episode of Glee to which your segment referred was a celebration of diversity meant to encourage self-acceptance among the show’s characters – and hopefully its audience. If we are to reduce bullying in our nation’s schools, messages of self-acceptance are something young people will need to see more of, not less of.
Instead of inviting experts to discuss the influence of media on young adult development, or even young people themselves, last Tuesday night’s Fox in Focus segment missed an opportunity to foster an important and thoughtful conversation by framing the issue as "gay" vs. "anti-gay." Guest Bryan Fischer from American Family Association took this as an opportunity to make horribly offensive comparisons about gay and lesbian families and called Glee "propaganda." Bryan Fischer is an extremist with no qualifications to offer the discussion apart from his bigotry. Fox Houston gave Fischer a platform in the nation’s fourth largest city, and one of its top ten media markets, to broadcast his anti-gay rhetoric. Rather than challenging him, your host, Damali Keith, contributed her own uninformed and anti-gay commentary. She compared the gay characters on Glee to "product placement" by soda companies in movies, where "everyone in the theater is thirsty for that particular brand."
Journalists have a responsibility to educate their audiences by reporting stories in a fair, accurate and inclusive manner. Going forward, I also ask that you be more thoughtful. I urge you to not let any more time pass before issuing a public apology, so that viewers know that we can trust that KRIV is committed to responsible journalism and to not causing harm to your audience.