Traditional media still skittish about reporting hypocrisy of closeted anti-gay leaders
Blog ››› ››› KARL FRISCH
About a year ago, I wrote about the media's skittishness to report on the hypocrisy of right-wing anti-gay leaders/politicians who live secret gay lives:
In early May, National Public Radio, a supposed bastion of liberal media bias, found itself in the crosshairs of the lesbian and gay community over an online review of Outrage, a documentary chronicling the hypocrisy of prominent, purportedly closeted politicians with staunchly anti-gay voting records.
What sparked the controversy was not the documentary itself, but the fact that NPR's review failed to name names. In fact, while Nathan Lee, the review's initial author, had included the identities of those fingered in the film, NPR editors took it upon themselves to censor the review prior to publication.
Would a review of a film exposing the hypocrisy of politicians on any other subject fail to identify the politicians in question? Not likely.
Sadly, it looks as though the same deferential treatment given to hypocritical closeted gay politicians by the media is at play with a recently outed anti-gay minister.
The story once again centers on whether or not he should have been outed at all and the way in which he was outed, rather than on his hypocritical anti-gay political agenda or the large number of cases we've seen play out like this with anti-gay leaders.
Check out this piece from Elizabeth Jensen from the New York Times Media Decoder blog:
The reaction was swift when Lavender Magazine, a biweekly for Minneapolis's gay and lesbian community, reported in its current issue that an outspokenly anti-homosexual local pastor attended a support group for people who want to remain chaste despite same-sex attraction.
The pastor, Tom Brock, was put on leave from North Minneapolis' Hope Lutheran, pending an investigation. The magazine, meanwhile is embroiled in a journalism ethics debate for sending its reporter undercover into the confidential support group.
Many Lavender Web site commentators applauded the story. But among the critics was an unidentified advertiser who wrote she would pull her ads, because "12 step programs, regardless of what is at issue or who attends, are sacred." National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association board member Michael R. Triplett blogged that the ethics of the reporting were "suspect."
In a particularly controversial YouTube video, since pulled, Mr. Brock, Hope Lutheran's senior pastor and a cable and radio commentator, suggested that a 2009 Minneapolis tornado was a sign of God's displeasure because it struck as a Lutheran Church body was voting to approve the ordination of practicing homosexuals in committed relationships.
After getting the tip, Mr. Rocheford said that Lavender for seven months "worked on this step by legal step," eventually sending freelance reporter John Townsend undercover. "Reporters do that all the time," he said. "He didn't do anything unethical." He added: "I consulted with our libel attorney and because this man is a public figure it's a legitimate news story."
Mr. Rocheford said the magazine, with about 130,000 readers, has a policy against "outing" homosexuals. "One exception to the rule is a public figure who makes public pronouncements against the gay community and is in fact a homosexual," he said, noting that this is the only time he invoked that exception.
Reporters do stories on hypocrites all the time. Politicians. Business leaders. Community leaders. You name it. It seems the only issue that sparks concern is when the subjects at hand are closeted, anti-gay leaders who are outed.
As for the "12 step" issue here, I have to side with Rocheford:
[Rocheford] said he debated whether to use information from the support group, but decided that "I don't consider it a legitimate 12-step group. Those are there to help people with addictions and since when is homosexuality an addiction?"
The story, he added, "was legitimate, it was legal, and we did it punctiliously with ethical and legal considerations."