The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation released a report last week that shed light on the myriad personalities who used the media to spread antigay sentiments last year.
GLAAD, which works with media outlets and LGBT and ally organizations around the country to alleviate anti-LGBT media portrayals, pinpointed 11 individuals and organizations as the worst Antigay Voices of 2008.
GLAAD spokesperson Rich Ferraro said the organization reviewed its list of Calls to Action, which urge the community to speak out against specific instances of media homophobia, and its monthly publication “Best & Worst of National News” to formulate a compilation of individuals whose antigay comments were the most damaging for both LGBT and heterosexual viewers, listeners and readers.
The 2008 list was populated by a variety of representatives of the FOX News Channel, widely recognized as having one of the more conservative voices in the news-reporting industry.
GLAAD singled out FOX’s Bill O’Reilly, host of “The O’Reilly Factor;” Greg Gutfeld, host of “Red Eye;” and John Gibson, host of the FOX radio program “The John Gibson Show.”
The report described that O’Reilly promulgated numerous antigay proclamations on air throughout the year. On May 15, the host led a discussion about same-sex marriage with another FOX representative, Megyn Kelly, who compared such unions to polygamy and incest. This summer, O’Reilly spoke out against a Heinz commercial that depicted two gay men and postured that Americans didn’t want to witness a brief kiss between Whoopi Goldberg and Katy Perry on “The View,” which he argued showed “homosexual behavior legitimized.”
Gutfeld made several on-air discriminatory comments against transgender people and urged Ellen DeGeneres to “shut the hell up” about her impending nuptials to her partner, Portia de Rossi.
GLAAD first targeted Gibson last spring after he made antigay jokes about then-recently deceased Heath Ledger in connection with the actor’s role in “Brokeback Mountain.” Gibson apologized for his comments but, in May, poked fun at MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, who is an open lesbian.
Other personalities include the Rev. Rick Warren and Focus on the Family’s James Dobson, both of whom spoke with numerous media outlets leading up to and following the Proposition 8 vote in California, spreading inconsistencies and inaccuracies about the same-sex marriage ban approved by voters in November.
GLAAD also targeted the entire Yes on 8 campaign, which it asserted utilized advertisements that “relied on scare tactics and spread inflammatory lies” and “used misinformation to shape public opinion and helped sway voters to pass the discriminatory ban.”
Oklahoma state Rep. Sally Kern also received a mention on the list; the Republican lawmaker told supporters in March that “the homosexual agenda is destroying our nation” and argued that the LGBT community poses a larger threat than terrorism. Following these comments and the media firestorm that ensued, GLAAD provided media training to LGBT leaders in Oklahoma and facilitated communication between LGBT advocates and media outlets in the state.
GLAAD president Neil G. Giuliano noted that despite the numerous instances of homophobia that were broadcast on American airwaves last year, 2008 was a landmark year for the LGBT community in the media.
“In 2008, our community saw our issues and lives receive unprecedented visibility and discussion,” Giuliano said. “We saw more LGBT characters on broadcast TV than ever before; movie audiences saw our lives in a new way through films like ‘Milk;’ and we saw fair and accurate images in the media of loving couples getting married in California and Connecticut, even as we experienced setbacks in California, Arizona, Arkansas and Florida on Election Day.”
Even though these advancements were integral steps in the right direction in terms of LGBT media portrayals, Giuliano said each antigay comment that reached the public was a step backward, which he proffered can only be corrected by continued education.
“Unfortunately, antigay activists and media pundits continued to make outrageous claims about our community, and many media outlets persisted in using problematic and defamatory language that affects the way that people view the LGBT community,” he said. “That’s why now, more than ever, we need to capitalize on our community’s momentum, make our voices heard and work towards more fair, accurate and inclusive representations of our lives.”
In the past year, GLAAD has provided media training to nearly 2,500 LGBT leaders, conducted more than 1,600 educational meetings with LGBT advocates and organizations, and met with nearly 4,000 media representatives of such outlets as The Associated Press, FOX News Channel, NBC and The New York Times.
To access the complete list of Antigay Voices of 2008, visit www.glaad.org.
Jen Colletta can be reached at [email protected].