GLAAD is calling on CNN to "Keep Away From the Anti-Gay Industry," asking supporters to sign a petition to get the network to stop hosting extreme anti-gay activists that spread false and incendiary claims to provide "balance" in discussions that impact the LGBT community. The GLAAD petition highlighted a recent December 21 John King segment which prompted their action:
During that John King segment on the pending repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and its implementation, King featured openly gay former service member Alex Nicholson, alongside [Peter] Sprigg, who is a "senior fellow for policy studies" at the Family Research Council.
Nicholson's qualifications were clear. As an openly gay, former Army intelligence officer, he gave firsthand accounts of how the policy played out in the day-to-day lives of gay and lesbian service members.Sprigg's qualifications, however, came exclusively from his job at the Family Research Council. There, Sprigg has worked to advance some of the most hurtful, dangerous, and demonstrably false notions about the lives of LGBT people that our country has seen in recent years. And yet, by pairing him with Nicholson in this segment, CNN told its millions of viewers that both of these men should be seen as equally valuable to this discussion.
Is it important for the media to take these groups on? Of course it is. But that's not what CNN and other media organizations are doing when it invites these groups to take part in otherwise reasonable discussions. The media is elevating their hurtful messages and attitudes to the level of rational discourse. The media is saying that people like Alexander Nicholson, who can speak to real-life experience and firsthand facts, need to be "balanced" by people like Peter Sprigg, whose claim to fame is arguing that being gay should be outlawed. If CNN wants to interview a gay person who believes being straight should be outlawed, THEN Peter Sprigg would be an acceptable "balance."
CNN and the rest of the media are doing nothing but exposing their viewers to dangerous anti-gay rhetoric when they invite members of these anti-gay groups onto their programming. Starting in 2011, this needs to stop.
GLAAD is not the first group to highlight CNN's habit of hosting anti-gay groups as a balance to discussions of LGBT issues. Media Matters' Jamison Foser also highlighted Sprigg's appearence on CNN and asked why the network would host Sprigg, in light of is previous comments:
Peter Sprigg wants "gay behavior" outlawed and has said he would "much prefer to export homosexuals from the United States than to import them into the United States because we believe that homosexuality is destructive to society." Sprigg's comments played a role in the Southern Poverty Law Center's decision to identify FRC as a "hate group." (Sprigg subsequently apologized for the comment about exporting gays, saying he was guilty of "speaking in a way that did not reflect the standards which the Family Research Council and I embrace" -- but he did not retract the substance of the comment.)
Additionally, columnist Dan Savage appeared on the November 23 edition of CNN Newsroom and criticized the network for hosting activists from the Family Research Council (FRC) like Sprigg, noting that Southern Policy Law Center had just named the FRC a "hate group."