(This post was originally published at GLAAD Blog.)
On April 26, 2011, KRIV-26, the FOX affiliate 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 the American Family Association took this as an opportunity to make horribly offensive comparisons about gay and lesbian families and called Glee “propaganda.”
- 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 to broadcast his anti-gay rhetoric in the nation’s fourth largest city and the 10th largest media market. 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 held 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.
Last week, GLAAD President Jarrett Barrios spoke out in support of Glee after an anti-gay activist said that McKinley High School was “a high school most parents would not want to send their kids to.” Glee received the GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Comedy Series last year and this year received the GLAAD Media Award again, tying with ABC’s Modern Family.