Local CBS Affiliate Angry about Hate Crime Bill
Well, it seems I'm in the thick of it once again.. here in East Texas. KYTX, the local CBS Television News affiliate, interviewed me as part of their coverage of Thursday's House passage of the Hate Crimes Bill, but the resulting story made a mockery of this small victory, creating fear among conservatives and, ironically encouraging yet more violence. I'm appending a DRAFT of my proposed email response here - to solicit advice from my dear friends here at Soulforce. I keep asking myself how Gandhi or MLK Jr might have responded, and this is where I am at the moment... after much soul-searching. What do you think?
Here's my proposed response:
I’m submitting this response to KYTX CBS 19 before advising PFLAG members against speaking with our local CBS affiliate… and holding out the hope I won’t need to. Their coverage of the recent passing of the Hate Crimes bill was reckless at best. In “researching” their subject matter, the news team focused exclusively on James Dobson’s (Focus on the Family) false notion that the bill would somehow impose “thought crime” legislation and curtail our own religious leaders from being able to preach bible-based contempt toward gays and lesbians. Ironically, at the time of the broadcast, the legislation had already passed the House by a wide majority, after receiving overwhelming support by law enforcement agencies and the American public.
There are, in fact, no provisions in this bill that curtail free speech, though Mr. Dobson’s rhetoric successfully diverted all eyes away from any substantive issues… and KYTX took the bait. In fairness, East Texas’ own Louie Gohmert, favoring Dobson’s absurd remarks over an actual reading of the bill, has also made the false claim that it contains such a ridiculous provision to arrest pastors for preaching hate. Because of Dobson’s apparent stature, however, the following official rebuttal was prepared:
“It [the Hate Crimes Bill] does not impinge on public speech or writing in any way,'' countered Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., pointing out that the bill explicitly reaffirms First Amendment and free-speech rights. (Jim Abrams, AP)* – Unfortunately, KYTX failed to discuss the actual bill during their report.
The report was submitted by KYTX “Eye at 5” anchor, Annalisa Petralia, who had been referred to me by our regional PFLAG president for an interview. I told Annalisa that the bill contained no such “thought-crime” provision… warning her specifically that James Dobson has a particularly notorious track record on the subject of hate speech against the GLBT community (see supporting material below). I also mentioned that one in every six hate crimes is committed because of the victims’ sexual orientation and gave specific examples of three murderers here in Tyler that had selected their victim because he was gay. But then, I said a lot of things that didn’t address Ms Petralia’s single-minded issue of pastoral liberty. “How could a preacher’s words cause violence against gays,” she asked me (paraphrased from memory).
“Well,” I answered, “let’s imagine you were a preacher talking about how gays aren’t really people, that they don’t deserve any consideration, because they’re evil. Now let’s imagine I was a congregant who was being told that the attack by gays on my family values was exactly like the attack on Pearl Harbor, as one of Dobson’s staff has said… well, I’m learning a type of bigotry that’s going to make it more likely for me to be violent toward that class of people.”
From this quote, and from my entire ten-minute interview, Annalisa played only the following video clip: “…well, I’m learning a type of bigotry that’s going to make it more likely for me to be violent toward that class of people …”
What a tragic misuse of journalistic ethics and trust.
KYTX had an opportunity, during this newscast, to help mend issues that deeply divide our community by simply reporting the facts. This opportunity was used, instead, to follow Dobson’s “red herring” away from any factual material whatsoever. Then to make matters worse, she tried to use my interview to say the exact opposite of what I actually said. Where I was pleading for peace, she chose to make my interview into a call for violence. How utterly irresponsible!
I find KYTX’s use of the airways to reinforce that hatred and violence reprehensible. Shame on them!
As if the damage caused by KYTX to our community was not great enough, Ms Petralia may have actually put lives in danger by turning a call for peace into a studio-manufactured call to violence.
I’m very disappointed in Annalisa, and in KYTX. As it stands now, I’m inclined to believe our community should be forewarned before speaking with this news station in the future. I will wait a few days before distributing this opinion further, however, in the hopes you may be interested in moving forward in a more positive light.
I have provided source material and further illuminating data below.
Jim Abrams (AP) article: http://www.gay.com/news/article.html...s/news/&page=1
Violence against the GLBT Community:
On July 1, 1999, Gary Matson and his partner of 16 years, Winfield Mowder, were found shot dead in their bed in their home. Police arrested Matthew Williams and his brother James Tyler Williams. The Williams brothers, rightwing fundamental radicals, believed that God ordered them to commit these murders, based on hate rhetoric from Christian fundamentalists. Source: http://www.planetout.com/news/article.html?1999/07/12/2 and www.soulfource.org. You can watch a video of a personal friend of the victims of this crime talk about the role hate speech played in his friends’ deaths (just before being arrested outside James Dobson’s headquarters for “trespassing”) here: http://www.soulforce.org/article/1257
Think about the murders of Gary and Winfield as you read the following quote from “Marriage Under Fire: the State of Our Union,” on Dobson’s “Focus on the Family” website:
“Just as the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 by the Empire of Japan served to energize and mobilize the armed forces of America, it would appear that the vicious assault on marriage and the church in recent months has begun to re-invigorate people of faith. I see indications that the church is mobilizing its forces to meet the challenge. Evil has a way of overreaching, and that appears to have happened regarding the blatant, lawless attack on marriage and biblical morality.”
How many more must die because of what Dr. Dobson teaches before he stops it?
James Dobson (Focus on the Family) Hate Speech: http://www.family.org/
“Solid, irrefutable evidence proves there are lethal consequences to engaging in the defining features of male homosexuality.” – James Dobson
“Lesbian relationships are equally unhealthy and just as life-threatening as gay male relationships.” – James Dobson
“Moms and dads… are you listening? This [homosexual] movement is the greatest threat to your children.” – James Dobson
“They want to destroy marriage and family as we know it.” – James Dobson
“Traditional marriage between one man and one woman cannot coexist with homosexual marriage. It will destroy the family.” – James Dobson
“What do we know about this [homosexual] disorder? Well, first it is a disorder, despite the denials of the American Psychiatric Association.” – James Dobson
The Facts about the Hate Crimes Bill:
For those who are interested, factual information about the Hate Crimes Bill can be found on the Human Rights Campaign website (hrc.org): http://www.hrc.org/Template.cfm?Sect...entDisplay.cfm
Support for this legislation is overwhelming. The bill is endorsed by notable individuals and more than 210 law enforcement, civil rights, civic and religious organizations, including: President George H.W. Bush’s attorney general, Dick Thornburgh; National Sheriffs’ Association; International Association of Chiefs of Police; U.S. Conference of Mayors; Presbyterian Church; Episcopal Church; and the Parent’s Network on Disabilities. Poll after poll continues to show that the American public supports hate crimes legislation inclusive of sexual orientation, including a Kaiser Family Foundation poll released in November 2001 showing 73 percent of Americans supporting hate crimes legislation that includes sexual orientation. Source: http://www.hrc.org/Content/Navigatio...ention_Act.htm
* Source: http://www.gay.com/news/article.html...s/news/&page=1
-- "You must be the change you wish to see in the world."
-- Mohandas Gandhi